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Making sense of FWP license draws

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Posted at 5:32 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 19:32:55-05

HELENA — Sure, it would be nice to win the Montana Millionaire lottery drawing, but there is a very large group of Montanans that hang more hope on another state lottery, the special opportunity hunting tags.

“We have more hunters than we have opportunities, special opportunities available,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Licensing Bureau Chief Emily Cooper told MTN.

Montana’s limited-license drawing is held each year for some of the state’s most coveted hunting tags. Those tags include bighorns, mountain goats, moose and bison. Unlike with elk and deer who have very large populations, big game animals like bighorn sheep need to have their numbers managed more carefully.

“There is not a lot of opportunities of those that are available, so we have lots of folks looking to harvest one of those," said Cooper. "So to do an equitable exchange, and equitable distribution of these licenses we hold a random selection lottery.”

WEB EXTRA Explaining the math behind the draw

A lottery with very low odds in some cases.

According to FWP’s draw statistics for 2021, a lot of the more coveted units had a success rate of right around 1%. But that fluctuates every year based on how many hunters apply. Meaning you can get lucky, and there are some things you can do to increase your odds.

“When you purchase bonus points, it gives you additional entries into the drawing that allows you to have a greater chance of drawing a special permit license in the drawing," said Cooper.

Here is how that works. Every year you are unsuccessful in a drawing and you take part in the bonus point system, you are awarded a point. Over the years those points add up and are actually squared to help your odds. So if you buy 3 base bonus points and are unsuccessful, you’ll have 10 going into that next season’s drawing, the nine you get from bonus points and the one you receive for the year.

Just remember, that still doesn’t guarantee success though.

"It is a random selection lottery, so there is a random selection drawing, so there is a chance that somebody who has no bonus points is going to draw," said Cooper. "Or there is lots of instances where people with 20 bonus points don’t draw. It’s really just the odds of drawing. “