The luck of the draw

Let’s say that you have a hankering to hunt where you stand a
reasonable chance of having an opportunity at a big bull elk a
mature 6×6 scoring 300 on up.

Realistically you have three choices. If you happen to have deep
pockets, you can plunk down somewhere around $10,000 and hunt one
of a handful of private ranches or Indian reservations where bulls
of such caliber are not uncommon. Two, for about $7,000 you can
“buy” a bull hemmed in behind a high fence, which, in my book is
not hunting, so, since this is my column, that is the last mention
of this option you will see here. Or three, you can save a bundle
and apply for hunts on public land.

But are your odds for a really big bull as good on a public land
draw hunt as they are on one of those expensive private ranch
hunts? In many cases, the answer to that is as good and even
better. During the past 10 years I have been fortunate enough to
draw three elk tags for prime big bull units. I hunted New Mexico
twice and Arizona once. On each hunt I saw monster bulls, had an
opportunity at a bull on each hunt and killed two, including the
largest bull I’ve ever taken.

Some of the biggest bulls taken each season are killed on public
land. The trick is to know which units in which states harbor the
biggest bulls and then to apply for as many of those hunts as
possible. If you have unlimited time to spend on the phone and the
Internet researching, and if you have reliable contacts who spend a
lot of time in elk country in all of the best regions of the west
and if you have an airplane so that you can fly over these areas
during the off season and get a birds-eye view of the quality and
quantity of elk available, then you should be able to make an
intelligent decision on where you want to apply for a tag.

Of course then you still have to remember to get the
applications sent in on time, with the proper fees and of course
everything down to the crossed T done perfectly, or your
application will be spit out by some computer that does not care a
lick that you have been waiting for this hunt for a lifetime.

Since I don’t happen to fit that description and do not know
anyone who does, I use and recommend to all my friends that they
use United States Outfitter’s Professional Licensing Services. The
Professional Licensing Service is the brain-child of George
Taulman, who with his wife, Jean, has built one of the best
outfitting businesses in the west.

United States Outfitters (USO) guides hunters on both private
land and on public land, but the public land USO hunts is not just
any public land. USO is well aware that trophy caliber elk, mule
deer and pronghorn antelope are rarely to be found on public land
open to general hunting, but rather are found primarily on those
units which require a special license, a license which can only be
obtained through a drawing.

The Professional Licensing Services end of USO was created so
that hunters using the service would be insured that not only were
they being entered for drawings in all of the best areas for the
species they want to hunt, but that those applications were
properly filled out and were submitted on time. USO’s fee for
handling all of the details is $125 per species. If you have spent
much time trying to research hunts, obtain the proper applications,
and then make sure that the applications are filled out properly
and sent in on time, I think you will agree that this is a
bargain.

Once you draw a tag, you can opt to hunt on your own or you can
hunt with USO, the choice is yours. I will tell you this. I’ve
hunted with USO twice in the past three years. Both hunts were
conducted from tent camps set up in the mountains the elk call
home. The tents and cots were comfortable and dry, the food was
good, the guides were top-notch and the elk were there. What more
can you ask for?

And even if you do not plan a Western big game hunt this season,
but know that you would like to take a hunt in the next few years,
contact USO now and get the ball rolling. Some states have a
preference points system, which basically means that each time you
apply and are not drawn, your odds of being selected the next year
go up. Do it now, because some of the applications must be in early
in the year.

For more information on USO’s Professional Licensing Services,
call (800) 845-9929.

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