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The number’s up for some hunters

Big-game hunters who enter Washington’s lottery drawings for 2010 special-hunt permits will have new twists to figure into their application strategies.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission last week approved a new drawing structure that allows hunters to apply for separate drawings in up to seven categories for a single species.

The change could be a boon to some hunters, especially the previously luckless nimrods who have accumulated a lot of bonus points. The losers are hunters who zeroed out their points last year.

The 2010-2011 regulations pamphlet will be available until next week. That leaves hunters plenty of time to give their new choices some thought before the May 26 application deadline for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose and cougar permits.

Deer hunts provide the most application categories: buck, antlerless, second-tag, quality hunt, youth, senior, disabled, and master hunter.

Elk categories are similar, but minus the second-tag hunt option.

Cougar has just two categories: hunts allowing hounds and no-hound hunts.

Hunters will still benefit by looking online at past year application statistics to get a bead on the odds for various hunts. But the new system presents a lot of unknowns for odds-players to explore, especially in this first year.

Each of the categories requires a separate application fee, but you can apply for as many categories as you wish, as long as you qualify.

Points accrued by hunters after applying and not being selected in previous-year drawings will be applied to each new permit category this year.

In other words, if you have seven points after last year’s elk permit drawings, you would be able to apply with seven points in this year’s drawings for the bull category as well as the antlerless, youth or any of the other categories.

If selected this year for a bull elk tag, you would go to zero for the bull category next year, but your points would carry over in categories for which you applied but were not selected. Sweet.

In this example, you would have eight points next year in all the other categories. That would give you higher odds for drawing, say, a quality hunt or cow tag in the years while you are trying to build up points again in the bull tag category.

If you were to draw both a bull and a cow permit for the same year, you could hunt both seasons, but you’d be allowed to take only one animal.

The exception: A deer hunter successfully applying in the buck and second-tag categories would be able to harvest two deer this fall.

Hunters such as myself, who cashed in all my elk points on a fourth-choice muzzleloader antlerless hunt last year, get the short end of the deal.

We start with zero points in every application category this year.

I’m not bitter about it. I’m man enough to accept my lot in this new system.

But I’m going to stretch the delicious meat of last season’s young cow as long as I can.

It tastes a lot better than the rejection slips most hunters got in the mail last year.

Meanwhile: Cheap cigarette prices might attract out-of-state smokers across the border into Idaho, but increases in nonresident hunting and fishing fees over the past few years are giving some sportsmen a reason to spend their money elsewhere.

For example, Idaho’s nonresident bighorn sheep permit application and fee is $2,116.50 compared with Washington fees totaling $1,155 for nonresidents.

A nonresident can fish for a season in Montana for $60 plus the $10 conservation license. In Idaho the cost is $98.25.

Montana’s big-game combo license includes deer and elk licenses as well as season fishing and upland bird hunting licenses for a total of $643.

The same nonresident sportsmen’s package in Idaho costs $1,056.25.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459 5508 or e-mail