Big Game Drawings Fuel Hunters’ Dreams

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Bighorn Sheep Hunt DrawingEach year the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) receives more than 100,000 applications for the big game hunting drawing. Hunters submit applications for premium deer, elk, antelope and sheep tags to the lottery-style drawing.

On June 2, several thousand applicants converged on the DFG main licensing office in Natomas to purchase or hand deliver their applications on the last day of the application period.

“Typically, we receive approximately 50 percent of all applications during the final week before the deadline,” said James Fong, Chief of DFG’s License and Revenue Branch. “We set up tables and a drop box out in front of the office and beef up the staff inside to provide extra help for hunters.”

In 2007 hunters submitted 111,010 applications for the big game drawing, which generated about $1.8 million. The cost for a single hunter to apply for an elk, antelope or bighorn sheep tag is $7.50. The cost of a deer tag is included when a deer tag application is purchased.

Each application is entered into the drawing database. A portion of the tags are assigned to hunters using a preference point system that rewards hunters who were unsuccessful in drawings for tags in previous years. The remaining portion of the tag quotas are distributed through a random drawing.

DFG has a limited time to process the large volume of applications, perform the drawing and print and mail tags to successful hunters. Deer tags and drawing notices are mailed as soon as possible after the drawing. Beginning June 25, applicants can look up the results on the DFG Web site at

Applications for all species have steadily increased over the years. In 1997, 38,533 deer tag applications were received for the annual big game drawing, and in 2007 deer tag applications jumped to 53,826. Elk hunts increased from 12,531 applications in 1997 to 26,585 in 2007 as more elk hunting opportunities became available. Coveted bighorn sheep tag applications increased from 4,493 in 1997 to 10,234 in 2007 for 20 tags.

These big game hunts are managed and planned for by the DFG Wildlife Branch. Each hunt and the number of animals projected to be harvested are part of an overall management plan.

For more information on DFG wildlife management or hunting and fishing licenses, please visit