On Buying Dreams of Great Hunts

Among the well over 100,000 men, women and youth who hunt big game in Washington each year, a good many of us spend a few bucks in April or May to purchase very big fall dreams. Buying a dream is a simple and effective process, really. And this is the week we find out whose dreams come true.

At some point in April, the Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations booklet shows up online and at license outlets. That booklet lays out the “general” seasons within which any legal hunter might pursue big game. More to my point, however, it holds the details of the dreams we are about to enjoy; the dates and conditions under which most any of us might receive a “special hunt permit” to hunt a deer or elk or moose or goat or bighorn sheep or whatever in a place and time few others ever will. In that booklet there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of these “special” hunts. Listed for each hunt are the number of permits available and last year’s number of applications (this gives you an idea of the odds of being drawn for a permit, assuming you submit your permit application by the midnight May 22nd deadline).

Thus, during the weeks before that deadline, tens upon tens of thousands of us begin seriously considering possibilities. We think about hunting some critter we have long dreamed of pursuing, in some season or place we have long dreamed of experiencing. Of course, even with the “preference point” system, getting the permit for one of these hunts is like winning the lottery, and many of us have been chasing these permits across decades.

[One gets an additional preference point (essentially, and one more ticket in the drawing) for each year one is not drawn. The mathematics of the system can be cruel, however, and our Washington Fish and Wildlife pros are working very hard to keep the weighted draw (preference point) system fair. True, an applicant with many points has better odds of being drawn than one with few points, but the pool of points held by newer applicants is so much larger than the pool of points held by long-time applicants, that in many of the draws fewer of the available permits go to those of us with a large number of points than to those with only a few points. The system is legit, it just suffers increasingly from its popularity. This issue is being examined in a number of states, and some possible solutions lie ahead. Still, as it works today, each new preference point grows hope for NEXT year.]

To apply for a special hunt – to purchase a big dream – one buys an application, the cost of which varies with the perceived value of the hunt ($7.10 or $13.70 for residents, and $110.50 for nonresidents). One then submits that application for his/her dream special hunt by that 22 May date, says a series of prayers and/or performs traditional rituals, dreams wildly…and waits. The drawing results are promised by the drawing gods at the Department of Fish and Wildlife by this Friday (14 June), although they may be available as early as today.

Most of us, of course, are certain that this is the year we have enough points to finally win a permit for a great adventure hunting moose or bighorn sheep or a big bull elk or buck deer. Therefore, the time between submitting our applications and the drawing results (by this Friday!!) is time rich with hopes and satisfying dreams. All this faith is in spite of long odds. Allow me to share a  couple examples. This is my lucky year for a moose adventure – I just know it – even though last year 10,885 hunters applied for 12 permits in my dream unit, and my 20 points will do the trick. I also will draw a bighorn sheep permit with my 15 points, although last year 3,788 hunters applied for the 4 permits in my area. I have applied for several other special hunt permits, too, each with long odds. Still, I only need one permit in each of those hunts, and this is my year.

In rare states, there will be leftover licenses after the draw takes place. Each year, for example, we still purchase “leftover after the draw” licenses for our annual Wyoming deer and antelope safari. Such opportunities are becoming ever fewer and farther between, and Washington is typical of most states these days, where there are no leftover special permits. So, we buy applications – dreams – each year and get in line.

[By the way, if you are somehow overlooked again in the current draw, there is always the raffle. For somewhere between 6 and 23 bucks, you can buy another dream and a chance at an extra deer or elk permit, a goat, sheep or moose tag or a combination of several of them. Instructions start on page 10 of the 2019 Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations booklet. Purchase raffle tickets – and new dreams – by July 15, and you will be notified that you’re a winner in mid-August.]

The truth of the matter is this: what we really purchase, once we hit that “submit” button for each special permit application, is a dream and one more preference point for next year’s drawing. And, yes, these weeks of waiting for the drawing, imagining that long-awaited hunt experience, are worth every dime. Then, too, any day now – or one of these years – it’s going to happen…

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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