Toprut Talks About a Draw Odds Point of View

  1. Blog
  2. Research & Planning
  3. Toprut Talks About a Draw Odds Point of View

In a recent article, we suggested that dividing up your tag wishlist into three distinct time periods was a good starting point to your overall application strategy. To continue on the theme of maximizing your long term draw success, this week we’re going to offer some tips and observations about the core but often under-considered fundamental: draw odds.

Consider the following scenario: you’re choosing between two hunts, one with 2% draw odds and another with 4% odds. What’s the difference in terms of your likelihood to draw?

onx hunt elite—now with toprut
When you become an onX Hunt Elite Member, you get free access to Toprut’s indispensable tools for application season.

In the Western big game landscape, draw odds are most often listed as a percentage. If a particular hunt is listed as having 50% draw odds, applicants for that tag in the previous draw had a coin flip’s chance of successfully drawing (or 1 in 2). Technically, the “odds” for an event to occur are more often represented in the latter format (1 in 2). When listed as a percentage, the term “probability” is the more technically correct term. In our case this is semantics and not really an important distinction. It can, however, be very useful at times to think about the percentage draw “odds” for a hunt in terms of the other format (i.e. 1 in 2).

For purposes of illustration, we’ll use the analogy of a sack full of marbles. Red marbles are bad and green marbles are good. In our simple 50% example, there is one red marble and one green marble in the sack. Now blindly reach into the sack and pick a marble (“the draw”). There are two possible outcomes, and one of them is good (again, 1 in 2).

A tagged mule deer buck in a truck bed.

Of course we can convert any draw odds percentage to sacks of marbles—although the arithmetic isn’t always quite as simple. At 33%, there are three total marbles with one green, at 25% there are four total with one green, etc. As the draw odds percentage goes down, you get more total marbles in the sack and the number of green ones relative to red declines.

Sometimes if you think in terms of green to red, the comparative difference of “draw odds” becomes more clear. When you apply for a 10% odds hunt you’ve got one green in a sack of 10 marbles. But with a 20% hunt, there are only five total marbles in that sack. Big difference! Sometimes what is obvious (that you are twice as likely to draw a 20% hunt over a 10% hunt) can be obscured by how our mind perceives percentages as they grow smaller.

Which brings us back to the original question when we considered 2% vs 4%. The important difference isn’t 2% (four minus two), it’s that you are twice as likely to draw the 4% hunt (one in 25 vs. one in 50).

Some may counter by arguing that you are still VERY unlikely to draw either tag in any given year and because of that they are basically the same. But that’s the short view. If you are onboard with some version of a plan that includes a medium / long-term strategy, then you really need to think in terms of total tags drawn over a period of years. In a 10 year period, the chances you will draw a 4% tag at least once is almost exactly one in three, and for 2% it is worse than one in five. I know which I would choose if I was given some equivalent option in a draw that occurs only once every 10 years.

Three hunters on a rural gravel road lean against a truck and spot for game using binoculars.

There are, of course, real reasons to sometimes choose a harder to draw hunt over one with better odds. For example, you may feel like the overall quality of the lower odds hunt is just significantly better and that the reward would be worth it if successful. Or, if you apply for a lot of different tags across multiple states, you may choose a strategy that includes applying for a couple of dream tags each year. In the end, there are no hard and fast rules to this and it comes down to your own individual goals and tolerance for risk.

From the dream tag perspective, take advantage of the states that currently have an application system that considers more than just your first application choice before moving on to the next application (Nevada and New Mexico, for example). In these draw systems, you can apply for a really difficult to draw hunt as your first choice and still get the advantage of applying for other hunts with better odds with your later choices (spoiler alert: these draw systems actually work to lower everyone’s draw odds overall, but that’s a topic for another day).

As you apply for hunts this year and plan out your medium and long-term strategy, keep the red and green marbles in mind.

own your odds with onX hunt elite
Add Toprut, Huntin’ Fool, and HuntReminder to your application season toolkit with onX Hunt Elite.

onX and Toprut

We’ve teamed up with Toprut to offer our Elite Members a free Toprut membership as part of our Elite Benefits Program. Our preferred source for draw odds in eight key Western states (with more states on the way), Toprut covers all the information you need to make insightful, fact-driven tag applications each season. Now onX Elite Members can utilize Toprut’s tools for free. The onX Hunt App and Toprut together provide you the tools for a successful season.

The most accurate draw odds, harvest data, and application trends for hunters.

Toprut is designed to help hunters research, plan, and apply for hunts and tags every year.

  • View draw odds for all 10 western states.
  • Explore comprehensive information on elk, deer, antelope, moose, sheep, mountain goat, and bison.
  • Research using advanced filtering based on residency, species, weapon, and preference points.
  • View success rates, harvest data, and applicant numbers to monitor trends.

Not an onX Elite Member? Join today and gain access to Toprut.


Toprut is an online tool to help you research, plan, and apply for hunts and tags each year. The company provides information including hunt quotas, applicant totals, harvest information, and drawing odds. In addition, they offer unit profile information including public land boundaries, land ownership percentages, and terrain statistics to help you quickly evaluate your hunt options in a single, easy-to-use interface.