Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Preference Points Puzzle

Today is an important date in our household. No, not because it's tax day, but because in Oregon we have just 30 more days until the Controlled Hunt application deadlines. I can be assured that the next month will be spent scouring the Oregon Big Game Regulations, analyzing last year's harvest stats for the units we are considering applying for, and trying to determine our drawing odds based on our preference points.

Have I lost you yet? Controlled Hunts you ask. Big Game Regulations, Harvest Stats and Preference Points? What does this all mean? Glad you asked. Let me break it down for you.

In Oregon, there are generally two types of hunts; General and Controlled. General means that anyone with a hunting license can go down and buy a tag, as long as it's purchased before the hunt season starts (with the exception of a few hunts that allow you to buy the tag at any time during the season). Controlled means that you must draw a tag in order to hunt in that unit. Unit in layman's terms means area - a defined area with boundaries that you CANNOT cross when hunting. Ladies, Controlled Hunts will be to blame this June, when the man who did not shed a tear at your wedding, or when your offspring were birthed, will be standing at the mailbox clutching a little yellow postcard, with either tears of joy, or tears of frustration streaming down his face.

Not I though. I prefer to sneak online after he has gone to bed each night starting the middle of May, in hopes that the results will be posted online. Then I can cry in privacy in front of the computer, instead of at the curb, in front of the neighbors.

So, in order to draw a controlled tag, you must first apply for the tag before the deadline. This is the deadline that is causing the ruckus in our household. You see, in Oregon there is a Preference Point System. This basically means that each time you apply for a tag (lets say an Elk tag) and you do not draw that tag, you are given a preference point. The more points you accumulate, the more likely you are to draw that elk tag. The number of points needed to guarantee a tag changes with each unit, and can vary from year to year. Hence the analyzing that goes on trying to determine what unit we want to apply for. We generally put in for the same units every year, but we always consider other options based on the harvest stats, drawing odds, and other variables. And this year we are actually looking for a new controlled hunt unit for deer (as we have accumulated several preference points and want to use them this year) which makes the research we do in the next four weeks all that more critical to our success this fall.

To make things more confusing in the world of preference points, you can apply for the tag as a party, which takes each applicants preference points in that party and averages them out to determine the likelihood of drawing the tag. This can be a very good thing if you only have 1 point, but it takes 3 to be guaranteed the tag, and you have someone who is willing to "share" their points with you on a party application.

Most of the information you need for this research can be found in the Oregon Big Game Regulations (most, if not all states have a pamphlet of hunting regulations with the same sort of info). This is available anywhere you can purchase tags (most sporting goods stores) or online. Go ahead, grab a copy and take a look. They (meaning the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife) break it down for you by species in a nice orderly fashion. They include things like how many tags will be issued this year, how many were issued last year and how many applicants applied for that tag last year. Oh, and if the lady with the fantastic ram on the cover looks familiar to you, well that's because it's me! Shameless, I know. It's only there for a year though and I'm going to milk it while I can!

Now if you want a little more information about each unit, like the harvest stats (what percentage of tag holders were successful in previous years) and a breakdown of chances of drawing a tag based on your preference points, there's a handy book for sale called the Oregon Tag Guide and Big Game Hunting Almanac. Aside from the stats and preference point info, it's full of useful information like the average score on animals harvested in that unit (Scoring an animal will be covered in a later post) how many Boone & Crockett entries there have been from each unit (again, will be covered in a later post), unit maps, and even a section on binocular basics.

Well, I hope that makes the tag application process a little more clear for you. Now what are you waiting for? Go grab your regulations and start planning your next hunt!


  1. April - What a great blog you have here! It is always fun to find another female blogger out there writing about their hunting adventures. The Big Horn ram that you shot is amazing! And how cool is that to have your pic on the Oregon hunting Regulations! I would be milking that also.

    It is interesting to me how the regulations vary from state to state. We also have the group tag option here in Colorado and we usually utilize that option for our elk tags. However, they go by the lowest preference point here and don't average the points.

  2. April, way to go on your new blog. I can't wait to read more about all your adventures.

  3. Thanks Emily! I'm pretty proud of my ram! Being on the cover of this years regs is fun, I've got to meet so many people because of it. I'm constantly getting "hey, aren't you that lady with the ram...?" :)

    It is interesting how each state manages their tags and which ones use preference points, or not. My brother in-law and his family used to live in Colorado. Unfortunately, we never got to go hunting there. We're hoping to all make a trip back there for an elk hunt one of these years.