The days are almost gone where you can buy a general big game hunting permit over the counter out West. Sadly, it is already a thing of the past in units with the best trophy-quality potential! The decreased chance of drawing a permit translates, for most of us, into another truth - we have to work harder, smarter, and be willing to invest more, if we want to hunt in the future. One investment that you can make is the time to thoroughly understand the systems for accumulating what are called preference or bonus points. In general, these programs enhance your odds of being drawn for a permit, but you need to be aware that their impact on your odds varies tremendously from state to state and unit to unit - and even from year to year depending on how many permits are made available for a given unit and how many people apply for them. I'll provide more details on both systems in a minute. First, though, it is worth noting that some general rules apply to both systems. For example, points are not normally transferable between applicants or species. Also, if you incorrectly apply (apply in a closed area, or make a mistake on the application) you will not earn a point. Finally, you only earn points based on your first-choice hunt selection. After that, each state has its own rules and you need to thoroughly understand them.
Preference Points: Now, let's review the basics of the preference point system. You earn a preference point by specie when you are unsuccessful in the drawings. There are two fundamental rules in this system. First, you don't have to buy a license and forfeit a refund to earn a preference point. Second, quotas are first filled from the applicants with the most preference points and, if there are still permits available, from applicants with fewer points. So, the first-time applicant normally has less chance of drawing a permit than an applicant with more points. As with all generalities, there are exceptions. For example, it can take three preference points to draw in a unit one........(continued)