Big Game Drawing Questions
by Wyoming Game & Fish
June 25, 2006
The lottery for Wyoming elk, deer and antelope licenses will be held soon. But what happens between the time the application is signed and a hunter receives a license or refund check? It's a little different than the process of buying a lottery ticket and watching some news guy pull ping-pong balls out of huge popcorn popper.
Jean Cole, the person in charge of Wyoming's big game license lottery, answers some of the frequently asked questions about the license drawing.
I know the drawing is done by computer, but how does the computer decide what application to pick?
By a random number.
After all the applications are entered and the drawing is ready to run, a computer program assigns each application a random number. Then the drawing takes place, which is actually another computer program picking applications by number. The computer ranks applications by random number from lowest to highest. Then the computer selects each application beginning with the lowest random number, until every application is processed. The drawing is conducted by the Administration and Information division of the State of Wyoming.
If your random number is picked before the quota is gone, you're hunting this year. If not, you'll get a refund check.
I want to draw a Red Desert antelope license. So I'll list a Red Desert hunt area like 57 on my first choice, area 58 second and area 61 third, and I'm guaranteed of drawing one of the choices. Right?
Sorry, that isn't the case. Many people think that when the computer draws their license, it processes their first choice, and if all the licenses are already taken for their first choice, then the computer immediately processes the second and third choice. That is the way it is done in some states but not here.
In Wyoming, the computer processes the first choice on your license. Before it processes the second choice, it processes the first choice of the hunter in Upton. Then the guy in Encampment. Then the woman in Basin and the youngster in Pine Bluffs and on down the line until the computer has checked the first choice of every antelope applicant.
Then, in the same order, the computer processes the second choice of every applicant who didn't draw a tag on their first choice. Then it starts over again in the same order and processes the third choice of every applicant who didn't draw a license on their first or second choice.
So the upshot is: To draw your hunt area on a second choice, the quota has to be 'under subscribed' on the first choice. In other words, some of the tags must be left over after all the first choices are checked to have any chance of getting one on the second choice. A second choice cannot 'pull rank' or get processed before anyone else's first choice.
When you hear a license has a 24-percent chance of drawing, that means 24 percent on the first round. So like I've told many hunters, for hard to draw licenses, you are sinking or swimming on your first choice.
What gives a hunter better odds to draw a license: a party application or individual application?
They have equal odds.
With an individual application, you have one number in the drawing. A party application also only has one number in the drawing. So no matter how many applicants are in your party -- from two to six -- the party application has only one number "in the hat" just like an individual application. The computer looks at a party application the same way it looks at an individual application.
So a party application has no higher probability of being drawn than an individual application.
If my party application is the last application drawn, will it be thrown out because it makes the system go over the quota?
No it won't. With the party application species -- elk, deer and antelope -- the quotas are not so critical that the Game and Fish cannot exceed the limit by a maximum of five if a party application is chosen near the end.
Moose and bighorn are a different story. That is why party applications are not offered for these species.
I applied on the last day of the application period. I've heard that lowers my chances of drawing. Right?
The day the application arrives neither hurts nor helps your chances of drawing. Just before the drawing is ready to happen, all applications are assigned a random number by the computer. The number your application gets has no respect to whether you turned it in May 1 or May 31 at 4:59 p.m.
But, there are reasons to apply early: if there is an error on your application or something that can't be read, it gives the Game and Fish more time to get a hold of you to correct the problem. If a mail truck crashes or accidentally delivers your application to Yakima, there will still be time to get the application routed back to Cheyenne before May 31.
Is it true if I put Dr. or Sen. in front of my name on the application, it guarantees me a license?
All it guarantees is that your refund check or your license will read Dr. or Sen. The computer pays no attention to titles, names, gender, height, city or any other thing listed on the application. All the computer looks at when it is drawing licenses is the number.
Does it increase my chance of drawing if I contribute to search and rescue or AccessYes?
No. But contributing to the program will help increase your chances of finding publicly accessible areas to hunt and fish.
Why do nonresidents get a greater percentage of the antelope quota in eastern Wyoming than western Wyoming?
That's because residents do not take much of their quota in eastern Wyoming. The resident drawing is held first, and the licenses left over from the resident drawing are rolled into the nonresident drawing. That increases the number of licenses available to nonresidents in their portion of the drawing.
Is the computer programmed to give preference to women, kids and minorities?
No. There is no preference for any group of people.
My application was only one day late. Why was it sent back to me? Don't you want the business?
We appreciate the business, but we have to have a cut-off date to get all applications entered and drawings completed on schedule. Later in July there will be another drawing for leftover licenses. With some antelope archery seasons opening Aug. 15, the schedule has to be met to get hunters their licenses before the season starts.
Looking at it another way, application deadlines are a regulation which carries the weight of law, just like a hunting season date or limit. If we would accept applications after the deadline, we would be violating a regulation just like if a hunter shot a deer after the season was closed.
The Game and Fish has hired extra staff and is working late hours wrapping up the final details in preparation of the drawing. The drawing is tentatively scheduled for July 3.
So it's lottery time in Wyoming. The prizes are precious, but even if you don't draw, here's an advantage over lotto: applicants get their money back, minus the application fee.