THE BIGGEST CHANGES
TO HUNTING OUT WEST

In the 2021-2022 hunting license rule-making year, we saw a near record number of attempts to diminish non-resident participation in the hunting traditions that we all hold near and dear. 

Not everything was negative, though. As a whole, responses were passionate from those non-residents who stood to be negatively impacted by the proposed rule-making changes. Not surprisingly, however, in the states where residents stood to gain from the proposed changes, most of them supported further restrictions on non-resident opportunities. We also saw some states implement rule changes to allow residents and non-residents the ability to obtain permits they would otherwise never draw, from sheep tags in Nevada on their new first-come, first-served process to deer permits in Colorado with their reinstated, reissued license purchase process. 

Alaska

In Alaska, the Federal Subsistence Board discussed the Temporary Wildlife Special Action Request submitted by the Northwest Arctic Subsistence Regional Advisory Council, asking to close federal public lands in units 23 and 26A to the harvest of caribou and moose by non-federally qualified users. The board deferred action on this request and will reconsider it prior to the 2022 hunting season. The board will further discuss and take action on this request in 2022, and the public will be informed in advance of the board’s meeting to take action.

Arizona

In Arizona, one of the biggest changes was to allow an online-only course for the extra education bonus point. Traditionally, the class was taken in person and referred to as a “bonus point field day.” Now the format for the ethical hunting Arizona bonus point will be an online course for individuals 18 or older. The cost is $300 for non-residents and $150 for residents. 

This year, Arizona offered a brand-new opportunity for extra late-season tags that basically started immediately after you drew the tag (December/January). They issued two tags each for elk, mule deer, and whitetail deer. These new big game hunting opportunities gave hunters a chance to draw an additional elk, mule deer, and whitetail deer permit-tag. There was one tag available for each hunt being offered. These opportunities should not be confused with the annual draws that are conducted by the department in February, June, and October. A limited-entry permit-tag application does not preclude a hunter from applying for any other hunts throughout the year or impact bonus points. Animals harvested during limited-entry permit-tag seasons are excluded from annual bag limits.

Another huge change for Arizona voted on in 2021 and going into effect as of January 2022 was the complete ban of trail cameras to aid in the take of wildlife. 

Colorado

Colorado voted to add days between seasons to allow a break for their wildlife. This allowed for season dates to push back as far as they have ever been for deer, having multiple seasons during the “rut.” The downside we will most likely see is a decrease in age class over the next few years with fewer older age class deer on the landscape. 

Colorado also voted to reintroduce wolves to the state no later than the end of 2023, but there is still no management plan put into place for wolves in Colorado. This will have a huge impact on the elk population in the coming years.

As we see more and more states making it harder for non-residents to pick up over-the-counter or easy to obtain permits, it is likely that in the future Colorado will follow suit as they are one of the few states left that has an unlimited number of over-the-counter permits. As it stands, archery, second rifle, and third rifle permits are still unlimited for the available units for elk. There is no cap on tags yet, but we have already lost the number of available units, such as archery hunting in the southwest corner of the state, and with increased demand, this trend may continue.

On the positive side, Colorado made an awesome change for their returned license process. On Tuesdays, they populate a “preview list” where you will see all the licenses that will be added to the leftover list the next day. On Wednesdays, all hunt codes that were on the “preview list” will be released for sale as close to 11:00 AM as the system will allow. These licenses don’t last long, so you will need to be quick on the draw. A few of us at Huntin’ Fool were able to get some deer licenses this year, and we know of many others who were successful as well. 

Idaho

In addition to Idaho’s non-resident fee increases, we have also watched demand go through the roof for their over-the-counter opportunities. A majority of this is a self-inflicted demand through panic buying. You are no longer picking up a permit in Idaho before your season begins. Instead, as you wrap up your hunting season in December, you better have a plan for what you’re doing next year. Another big change they made for non-residents is making you select which game management unit you will hunt for with your tag. You are eligible to hunt all general seasons within that unit, but you will no longer be allowed to hop from unit to unit throughout the state, unless you are a resident. 

Montana

Montana will increase their non-resident preference point fee from $50 to $100 starting with the 2022 season. While we talk about preference points, an option is proposed to purchase two preference points in 2022 if written affirmation is provided at the time of application indicating the name and license number of the outfitter with whom the person intends to hunt. If the non-resident obtains the license applied for with the preference points purchased, the non-resident may only use the license when accompanied by an outfitter or the outfitter’s designee licensed to provide guiding services.

Montana introduced a new traditional muzzleloader late season in 2021 for unused general tags in some areas. Season dates were December 11-19. The state also made a few proposals looking forward, such as a new elk and deer season structure with many unit and season date changes and changing the 900-20 archery elk permit into multiple smaller units to spread the hunting pressure out.

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Nebraska

Nebraska got on board with limiting their non-residents this past season as well. You used to be able to pick up an over-the-counter archery permit for antelope on an unlimited basis, but now, non-residents are only allowed to get 250 total permits. In 2021, the 250 permit quota sold out in a few hours. 

Nevada

Nevada made a huge change this past year and allowed tags that were turned back and not taken by alternates to show up on their first-come, first-served sales page. Traditionally, the permits that were surrendered within their two-week window before the hunt start date would not be reallocated. At Huntin’ Fool, we got a few tags, but they were not easy to come by. We heard stories of what is basically a “once-in-a-lifetime tag” for deer, elk, and antelope, and there were even a few lucky individuals who struck gold in the Silver State with a sheep permit.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, non-resident tag allocations have changed over the years. Currently, non-residents get 6% and the outfitter pool gets 10%. The state used to round up for non-resident and outfitter hunters, but that recently changed. Now, residents must receive a minimum of 84% of the tags. Due to this change, there must be a minimum of 13 tags in a unit before one will be issued in the non-resident pool and there must be a minimum of seven tags in a unit before one will be issued in the outfitter pool.

Oregon

A lot of changes are coming down the line in Oregon, starting with one that happened last year. In 2021, all of the archery deer tags on the eastern side of the state were changed from general to controlled archery deer hunting. In 2022, archery elk hunting in 13 units in eastern Oregon will change from general to controlled archery elk hunting. Muzzleloaders do not require an open ignition anymore. Mechanical broadheads and lighted nocks are now legal in Oregon.

Utah

Utah, buckle up. In the summer of 2021, after applicants had already applied, Utah passed legislation to remove the ability to hunt big game over bait. This change was met with both opposition and applause. In the upcoming years, we expect to see a skew in draw odds for archery hunts, especially for deer. To take these new restrictions even further, the Wildlife Board voted in January 2022 to restrict trail camera use on public and private lands from July 31 – December 31 each year. Cameras can not be used during this fall season to locate, attempt to locate, or aid a hunter in the take of big game. General elk permits seem to be a hot subject in regional advisory council and board meetings. Last year, the approval for an increased number of permits was passed. Archery is still unlimited. For the 2022 season the general rifle, muzzleloader, and multi-season permits will be sold over the counter until the quota has been filled.

Wyoming

Wyoming has a lot of potentially big changes coming up. The minimum age to hunt all species (except bison) changed for 2021. Youth hunters must now be 12 years old by the end of the calendar year that they are hunting. (It used to be 12 years old by the time they were hunting.)

 As far as proposals go, the Wyoming wildlife task force has been conducting meetings to aid the division in a direction to go. A huge topic is license allocations. There is a proposal to change to a 90/10 split for all permits besides deer, elk and antelope, which would all be 80/20. For elk, that is good news as non-residents currently only gather 16% of licenses. For sheep, moose, etc., this is not so good as it will virtually eliminate non-residents from many hunts. These proposals would not be effective until the 2023 draw. There is a far-out proposal that has some talk of changing how your points are used in the random draw. Currently, your points do not do you any good in the random draw (not preference) as all hunters go into the draw with essentially “one name in the hat.” If a new structure is put in place, it would bring their recent “optional” preference point fee back into play. 

For the most part, the legislation that has been introduced by politicians is full of special interests that will reduce opportunities for future generations of hunters. Unfortunately, many of the decisions that are coming from the state Game and Fish rule-making committees are doing the same thing, although admittedly, they have a very difficult task when it comes to balancing the desires of a burgeoning population and a limited resource. With that being said, if we don’t start becoming more proactive with ideas for how to manage and insist on some creativity, their default is going to continue to be a reduction of tags, an increase in prices, and more reasons than ever for us to bicker among each other. None of these outcomes are sustainable in the long run.

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