Shooting the Breeze
Learning wisdom

Rod Carpenter

The May 15 deadline for the Oregon big game draw is fast approaching. As I talk to fellow hunters, I am constantly amazed at the number who have no idea how the draw works. They don’t know when, or if, they are going to draw, and have no idea how many points they have for each species. It makes me shake my head a little because in the grand scheme of drawing systems, Oregon is not that difficult. With a little planning, it isn’t hard to draw a deer and bull tag every other year. It’s pretty easy to draw a cow tag pretty much every year if you put some thought into it.

Let’s get the “trophy” species out of the way quickly. There is no point system for bighorn sheep or Rocky Mountain goat. They are a true random draw. Every year, everyone has the same chance of drawing, and the reality is that some folks who apply their whole life will not draw a tag. That being said, while your chance of drawing is small, if you don’t apply, your chance is zero. I think it is worth the price. Success in all units is pretty good, and draw odds in some are better than others, so take a close look before choosing a unit to apply for.

Draws for all other species are based on a preference point system: 25 percent of the tags go into a random draw. Don’t count on that in your strategy. Let it be a happy surprise if it happens. Seventy-five percent of tags are given to the folks with the most preference points for that species. Every year you apply and are unsuccessful, you get a preference point. It is a game you have to “pay to play,” but if you do it right, you can play a lot.

A down and dirty way to figure out how many points you need to draw a particular tag is to look in the regulations and divide the number of first choice applicants by the number of tags. For example, Murderers Creek deer had 3,122 applicants for 880 tags — 3122 divided by 880 equals 3.54, so you are going to need three, possibly four, points to draw it. An excellent website to check out is It is a free site that lists prior draw odds, predicted draw odds for this year and success rates. It is a virtual gold mine of information.

I almost hate to share this tidbit, but kids are the mother lode of building points if you have some. You can start building their points as soon as they turn 9. Also, they earn a point every year they are in the mentor program from 9 to 16 years old. And you may want to take a hard look at the first-time hunter program when developing your draw strategy.

That is all the pointers I can bear to share. You are going to have to do some strategizing on your own. Make a plan, and make it happen.

We welcome your thoughts and ideas at

Rod Carpenter is a husband,

father and hunting fool.


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