(Editor's Note: Each year about this time, Senior Western Correspondent Lance Stapleton gets on the phone to US booking agents who specialize in Western United States hunts, looking for choice opportunities that don't require that one be drawn for a permit. The reason's simple: Every year, more and more hunters are disappointed in their efforts to be drawn for quality permits, and about now is when the bad news is received. Stapleton's annual series on post-draw hunt openings is designed to shorten the hunt-shopping chore for as many of you in that boat as we can. Just be aware, no one - not even Lance Stapleton with all of his Western connections and his many years of Western hunting experience - can completely vouch for a hunt on offer by a booking agent. Yes, you can rest assured that any agent listed here has passed muster with Stapleton. And, yes, you can bet Stapleton has asked hard questions about each and every hunt listed. Still, use all of your usual hunt-shopping techniques to check out any hunt here that catches your eye, ok? Good luck!)
Those of you who have read my post-draw hunting reports in previous years already know I pore through literally scores of hunts every spring before I fasten on a relative handful of opportunities that I think offer unusual value. The value of a hunt, mind you, may be in the hunt experience itself, not in the quality of the trophies. It may also be in the price of a hunt - e.g., it may be a discounted opening that I know to be good. In some instances, the value of a hunt may reside in the fact that an outfitter, who I know is normally booked years ahead, suddenly has an opening. So, read this report carefully and bounce what you read off your own desires and expectations. Any given hunt may or may not be right for you.
The agent I spoke with was Cliff Graham of Associated Hunting Consultants, who gave me several recommendations for hunts. His first is for an elk........(continued)