Since 2003, I’ve been completely immersed in the world of trying to draw the tag of a lifetime– limited-entry, high quality big game tags. I consider myself an expert in this field… probably the only thing I’ve ever really reached expert level at. I’m often asked by friends and clients something like this: “Eric, how is it possible that the biggest names in the outdoor industry always seem to draw the very best tags?” There always seems to be a touch of sarcasm in their tones, as if there is some conspiracy between these specific high-profile sportsmen and the Game & Fish Departments across the country.
I completely understand how these thoughts arise. In fact, in my younger years, I had these same ridiculous suspicions. Year after year, people are inundated with images of “the pros” sitting behind giant elk, record-book antelope, magnificent bighorn sheep and completely insane mule deer. Many of these trophy shots are the direct result of drawing some super tag, in a dreamland GMU, with almost impossible drawing odds.
As the Director of the TAGS division at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA TAGS) and handling the application portfolios for many of world’s most recognizable sportsmen, I can promise you without even the slightest shadow of a doubt – there is no backroom deal, conspiracy or intrigue going on.
HOW THEY DO IT
In late 2003, the executive management team of Cabela’s invited me to join their world-class organization to develop a big-game application service for their best customers. Then in January 2004, we released our first Cabela’s TAGS catalog (now WTA TAGS). I immediately signed up some of the biggest names in the industry. Long before I got to them, these devoted sportsmen already had multiple points in multiple states. When I write, “multiple points in multiple states,” I mean these guys have WTA TAGS application portfolios that span three pages or more. They apply for dozens of limited-entry tags. Most importantly, they renew their portfolios year in and year out. They never miss a year of trying to draw these primo tags. They are completely loyal to applying year after sometimes frustrating year. They do it exactly as it should be done—they follow the “helpful hints for drawing the tag of a lifetime,” below to a “T”.
In my early 30s, I made it a life goal to become a very serious North American big-game hunter. I decided to emulate the greats who came before me, so I ramped up my portfolio of Western big-game applications tenfold. Also, over these past 15 years, I have remained completely faithful to this process. I am “pointed up” in the majority of the Western states on multiple species. While I still have a long way to go in this wonderful world of North American big-game hunting, I definitely feel that I have a huge jump on my goal because of these critical decisions. If you have a similar life goal regarding big-game hunting in North America, I am positive that participating in the draws in the Western states and building valuable points will help, but you must get started now, and you must remain diligent. WTA TAGS would love to help you draw the tag of a lifetime.
HELPFUL HINTS FOR DRAWING THE TAG OF A LIFETIME:
1. SUBMIT AS MANY APPLICATIONS AS POSSIBLE
Don’t make the mistake of only applying for one tag. These quality tags are extremely difficult to draw. For example, let’s say there is a certain game management unit in Arizona, where your odds of drawing a rifle elk tag are 1 in 10. This means statistically, if you applied every year for 10 years, you should only draw a tag 1 time in this area – not very good. Now take a similar unit in New Mexico with the same 1 in 10 odds of drawing. If you applied for rifle elk in both Arizona and New Mexico, your odds of drawing one tag slightly improve. Not bad. Now add a mule deer Nevada application at 1 in 10, and your odds of drawing one tag improve yet again. It’s these slight draw odd improvements, gained by applying for multiple species in multiple states, which separate the people who get to go hunting in an awesome limited entry area from the hunters who have to tough it out in an overcrowded public land unit, where tags are sold over the counter. Some people fear that by applying for multiple species in multiple states, they will draw multiple tags in the same calendar year. This is a very unlikely. Using the scenario above, your probability of drawing two tags in the same calendar year would be 1 in 100. Your probability of drawing all three tags would be 1 in 1,000.
2. DON’T PROCRASTINATE AND BE PERSISTENT
Drawing a tag of a lifetime may take a while. The sooner you start applying, the sooner you’ll be hunting in a quality area. This is the most critical advice to follow. Also, don’t give up if you’re unsuccessful the first few years. I cannot stress this enough. Be persistent, and incredible tags should come your way.
3. ALWAYS USE THE PREFERENCE/BONUS POINT PROGRAMS AVAILABLE
Many states reward the people who have been waiting to draw a tag the longest. In other words, every year you are unsuccessful in drawing your tag of a lifetime, your odds improve for the next year. Some states charge for this advantage. It is well worth the investment. Under certain scenarios, this investment is essential to drawing the tag.
4. APPLY WITH THE MOST PRIMITIVE WEAPON YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE USING
Another way to increase your odds of drawing a tag of a lifetime is to apply muzzleloader or, better yet, bow. Muzzleloader and bow tags are typically easier to draw than rifle tags. If you feel comfortable hunting with a muzzleloader or bow, apply for that tag.
Applying for the most sought after, highest-quality tags in the country can definitely brighten your hunting career. Whether you decide to use a professional service like WTA TAGS or do the research and apply on your own, persistence is key. Building-up your bonus points is the name of the game, and good things come to those who wait. There is no better feeling than seeing the word SUCCESSFUL after your name the day a state posts its drawing results. I wish you all the best of luck in the draws and in the field. If you need any help with the application process, call our office in Sidney, Nebraska. We’re here to help! 1-800-755-TAGS (8247).
Written by Eric Pawlak, WTA TAGS – Director