Some folks recoil (myself included until recently) at the thought of a state requiring a potential big game draw applicant to already have purchased a hunting license for the state–New Mexico is one such state. NM also throws in the added wrinkle of a straight lottery draw – no bonus or preference system at all. You feeling lucky? Anyways, it seems overbearing and certainly a waste of my hard-earned money to have to buy a hunting license knowing full well I probably won’t draw a tag for a given year and the hunting license will rot in the gun cabinet…BUT I gladly fork over $50, $40, and $30 each year for an elk, mule deer, and antelope preference point in Wyoming. Hypocrite anyone?!?!

What do the economics say?

Now, let’s say it takes me 4 years’ worth of PPs to draw my desired pronghorn tag ($272) in Wyoming, 7 years for mule deer ($312), and 9 years for elk ($577). Calculating that full cost of accumulated preference points and license fees once successful, the cash register rings up to $2,011. [[License fees calculated from the Normal Draw; Special Draw would cost substantially more]].

Now let’s consider a state like New Mexico. Every year I know I am going to chip in the $65 for a hunting license + $13 non-refundable application fee for 3 species (antelope, deer, and elk). Eventually (hopefully) my name gets drawn for an antelope, deer, and elk unit with 25%, 14%, and 11% odds, respectively (corresponds to a 4, 7, and 9 year wait as in our Wyoming example). Alright, let’s do math. $13*4 years + $13*7 years + $13*9 years + $65*9 years + antelope tag ($283) + high demand deer tag ($368) + high demand elk tag ($773) = $2,269. [[High Demand is a special designation and higher costing license for units and hunts deemed to have the greatest demand within the state; Normal would cost substantially less]]. Considering New Mexico is a straight draw and you MIGHT draw that once-in-a-decade tag the very first time you apply, consider the extra $258 your opportunity to gamble and you might actually save money if you’re lucky.

I haven’t had any problem at all racking up preference points in Wyoming for years but I’ve always been gun shy to play New Mexico’s game. Until now. The math is the math, and the numbers reveal that the two states – which are truly quite different in terms of draw system and what sorts of hunts can be drawn in terms of trophy quality – are essentially equivalent in terms of the dollars and cents. Make sense?