The 2022 western hunt application season is upon us! With a new year comes renewed enthusiasm and a chance to reset your "draw luck". So dust yourself off if you've been gut kicked by the draws in the past - it's time to get back after it!
As I step back and review what happened in the 2021 draws, the thing that I am struck by the most is the acceleration of demand. At this point most everyone familiar with hunting the west expects that applications will increase and that draw odds will get worse year over year. Especially for the nonresidents. And as someone who has looked at these numbers in great detail since about 2014, I usually feel like my own mental projections of the trends are reasonable. But the rate at which things changed in the 2021 draws surprised me.
I started applying in the west around 2005, and living in the midwest I'm obviously a nonresident in every western state. When it comes to drawing tags in the west, I've always had one simple goal: DRAW at least ONE nonresident tag annually. Drawing more than one tag is a bonus, or perhaps a curse depending on the year, but I need ONE tag to work with. It doesn't have to be in a super high-end trophy unit, or even a unit that's considered "trophy" at all. But I do hope that the tag is in an area with enough animals to know that I'll find them, and with enough square miles per hunter to know I won't be wandering around like a member of some desperate tour group searching for Bigfoot.
Over the years I've been fortunate that my draw one tag strategy has managed to work - and that I really haven't burnt up a pile of points in the process. The most preference/bonus points I've used on a single tag is 5. But given where things seem to be headed now, I'm starting to feel like my simple strategy is headed toward collapse under the weight of a burning heap of $400 backpacks stuffed to the brim with disk drives full of YouTube video.
Nonetheless, I'm clinging on to my draw strategy for dear life. I think it's feasible for a few more years although admittedly having some bonus/preference points banked here and there will certainly help. So some deliberate choices I made 2 - 4 years ago will help sustain some draw success in the next few draws. Now more than ever a multi-state, multi-year approach will be a key to consistent annual draw success for the nonresident.
For the 2022 application season, Toprut will publish a series of written content that will provide additional data, observations and some opinions about optimizing your application strategy in today's hypergrowth, hunt the west environment. It will not contain specific unit or tag recommendations as that's never been our thing, and as written content we'll try to keep it short, sweet and to the point (about 750 words per entry; you've read about 500 so far in this article). Be sure to check back in each Wednesday to see what's new.
In addition, we'll be adding more states in 2022 including California and Oregon. There are also some other changes coming by January 1 including a price increase. But if you are an existing Toprut member your annual subscription fee will remain the same for any renewals you do in 2022.
If you are an onX Elite member, your annual subscription is free!
All of the information from the 2021 draws has been updated and is now live for logged in PEAK members. A reminder that you research for 2022 applications using the information from the last draws that occurred (ie 2021) . We are still tidying up a few things and trying to make sense of some source data that doesn't add up (we're looking at you AZ), but you can dive in today and get a jump on your 2022 research.
Happy holidays to you and your family and best of luck in the 2022 draws!