Seeing that it is May, I thought it would be a good time to do a column on Saskatchewan’s big game draw.
The province’s draw system dates back to 1958 when the province’s elk populations were under pressure. Today, we have draws for moose, elk, pronghorn and either sex and antlerless mule deer for Saskatchewan residents and white-tailed deer draws for Canadian residents.
As a result of more people applying, with only a limited number of tags available, it has been increasingly more difficult to be drawn. The number of applicants for the big game draw has experienced a steady increase over the last several years. In 2017, more than 51,000 hunters submitted more than 95,000 Saskatchewan resident applications for the big game draw compared to 42,500 applications in 2011. Moose was the most sought after species in 2017 with over 32,000 applications.
People often complain they know someone who was drawn no less than five years after being drawn for the same species in the same zone the last time and they have been waiting for eight years to be drawn. Remember, it is a lottery and it is just the luck of the draw. That’s no different than me complaining because I have not won Lotto Max in the last five years even though I play every Friday night. The computer system is not rigged, there is no favouritism and it is totally transparent and equitable.
For 2018, changes have been implemented to address concerns about the increase in applications, including the creation of two new priority pools.
The D Pool will be added to the bottom of the priority pool sequence. This addition will extend the amount of time it takes to get into Super A by one year. All successfully drawn applicants in 2018 will be placed in the new D pool for the 2019 draw.
The other added priority pool is the Legacy Pool. This pool is reserved for hunters who have applied and maintained Super A status for 10 consecutive years for the same species. It is designed to provide long-term applicants an increased opportunity to be drawn. This pool is now the highest priority pool a hunter can obtain, but remember the majority of licences will still be allocated to applicants in the Super A pool.
In addition to the creation of these new pools, hunters who are awarded three or more draw licences in a year will now have the option to decline licences and have pool status reinstated for that species. Applicants who are successful for three draw species may decline one, four draw species may decline up to two and five draw species may decline up to three.
Q: Why are landowners not given priority in the draw?
The simplest answer is that it would not be fair. This would mean if you lived in Zone 15 as a landowner and received additional opportunities, then the same would applied to those who live in zones with antelope, moose or elk in northern zones.
Soon it would become a system where only landowners could hunt only what is in and around where they live. The current draw system is the fairest one available to all hunters.
Q: I am 11 years old, but by the time the draw season opens I will be 12. Can I apply for the draw?
You have to be at least 12 years old on the day you apply for the big game draw.
Q: I am not that tech savvy with computers. Can I come into a field office and do the draw application on paper there?
No, all applications must be done online and all applicants must have a valid HAL number when applying. However, you are still able to stop at any field office and ministry staff can help you complete your application online.
Q: I was drawn and have to start a new job out-of-province. Can I forfeit my licence and maintain my pool status?
No, refunds and pool status reinstatements are given only for medical and emergency situations where the applicant cannot hunt. Regardless if you fail to purchase your draw licence, you will automatically be dropped down to D pool for the following year.
Remember the draw opens May 1 and closes at midnight May 25. No changes to your application can be made after this date. It costs $6 to apply and can be paid with a MasterCard or Visa.
Until next time, it may be a good idea to let a hunting partner review your big game draw application.
— Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 26 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.