By Doug Leier
Where are the fish biting? How are the deer numbers? These are the two most often asked questions I get.
Along those same lines, the most popular licensing inquiry deals with the firearms deer lottery and bonus points.
Let’s establish from the start these are “bonus” points and not any kind of “preference” point as some may think. The words and functionality are not the same.
A preference would give more weight to each point. In the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s (NDG&F) lottery system, no point is more important than another. It’s just a bonus point. So don’t let anyone try to tell you any different.
Anyway, it’s a good place to start in understanding and explaining the deer lottery, which has a deadline of June 7.
Lottery and bonus points explained
Using deer as the example, though turkey works the same way, this is how lotteries work.
If you fail to draw your first license choice in any given year, you receive a bonus point. You do not have to apply in the same unit, or for the same deer type each year, to qualify. You get an additional bonus point each year you apply and do not receive your first license choice. You maintain your accumulated bonus points as long as you apply in the first drawing at least once every two years.
You receive additional chances in the drawing for each bonus point accumulated. For points one through three, you are entered in the drawing two times the number of points you have. So, if you have two points you would get four additional chances to be drawn, compared to a person who got his or her first choice the previous year. If you’re both competing for the same license, you have five chances, he or she has one.
When you accumulate four or more points, the number of additional chances is determined by cubing your bonus points. So, when you have four points, you will be in the drawing 64 additional times, 125 times if you have five points, and so on. Bonus points are accumulated as long as you do not draw your first license choice and apply in the first drawing at least every other year. You do not receive bonus points in years you do not apply.
Each drawing is still random, but the more bonus points you have, the better your odds. When you receive your first license choice, you lose your bonus points and start over. Bonus points can only be earned, or used, in the first drawing for each species in each year.
The license lottery consists of four separate drawings, one for each choice on the application. First, NDG&F holds a drawing for the first unit/first deer choice. When those are issued, we draw for the first unit/second deer choice, then the second unit/first deer choice, and finally the second unit/second deer choice.
The following are frequently asked questions on the lottery system:
If I receive a permit for my second choice license, do I lose my bonus points?
No, bonus points apply only to first choice in the first lottery.
Can I purchase a bonus point?
As per state law resident hunters, who do not want to receive a hunting license issued by lottery, may purchase one bonus point for a fee that is the same as the respective license.
If I have bonus points and apply with a party, how does this affect me?
On party applications the person with fewest points sets the level for the entire application. Applicants with more bonus points than others in the party have a better chance applying separately.
How do I find out how many bonus (preference) points I have?
Current bonus points can be found on the Department’s Online Services website.
How does the one-year grace period affect an applicant’s eligibility?
An applicant can miss applying for a year without losing points; however, the applicant loses bonus points by failing to apply for two consecutive years.
How do bonus points accrue in the weighted lottery?
An applicant unsuccessful in drawing his or her first choice permit in the first lottery this year receives a bonus point for next year’s lottery. Note that in years 2, 3 and 4, the points are doubled; and, for years 5 and beyond, they are cubed to increase the applicant’s chances of drawing a permit.
Leier is an outreach biologist with the NDG&F Dept.
Featured Photo: Understanding how the firearms deer lottery works can be as mystifying as tagging a deer. NDG&F Photo.