We're still a week or so away from the day the North Dakota Game and Fish Department starts accepting 2018 deer gun season lottery applications, so it's a good time for a refresher on how the deer license lottery works.
But first, a couple of other reminders. One, the application period for gratis deer licenses is already open, so landowners can go to the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov at any time to get the process started.
And two, for gratis and lottery licenses, the Game and Fish Department has eliminated paper applications this year. Lottery applications are available over the Game and Fish Department website and by phone at (800) 406-6409. Landowners can submit gratis applications only through the Game and Fish website.
The deadline for both lottery and gratis applications is June 6.
The Game and Fish Department uses a system called a "weighted lottery" to distribute deer licenses. Basically, the system gives hunters who have not drawn their first choice of license for a year or more a better chance at drawing a license than someone who got their first choice last year.
In deer units that have more applicants than licenses available, there is never a guarantee with this system, but the odds significantly improve the more years someone goes without drawing a first choice.
Here's a little more analysis from a recent issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine:
If you fail to draw your first license choice in any given year, you receive a bonus point. You do not have to apply in the same unit or for the same deer type each year, to qualify. You get an additional bonus point each year you apply and do not receive your first license choice. You maintain your accumulated bonus points as long as you apply in the first drawing at least once every two years.
You receive additional chances in the drawing for each bonus point accumulated. For points one through three, you are entered in the drawing two times the number of points you have. So, if you have two points, you would get four additional chances in the drawing, compared with a person who got his or her first choice the previous year. If you're both competing for the same license, you have five chances; he or she has one.
When you accumulate four or more points, the number of additional chances is determined by cubing your bonus points. So, if you get to four points, you will have four additional chances in the drawing, 125 chances if you have five points, and so on.
Each drawing is still random, but the more bonus points you have, the better your odds.
Even with this system, in many deer units, it still takes several years, on average, for the odds to tip in a hunter's favor for drawing a high-demand buck license.
Game and Fish also uses the same system for distributing pronghorn, spring and fall turkey and swan licenses that are issued by lottery.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His blog is at dougleier.areavoices.com.