Are you looking for a unique hunt or a special place to bowhunt this year? Those opportunities might be closer than you think. Check out the possibilities on your state wildlife agency’s website.
Many wildlife agencies and military bases conduct hunts each fall on state or federally owned lands that are normally closed to hunting or public access. These special hunts often include quota hunts, lottery hunts, cull hunts or hunts restricted to youths, military veterans or people with disabilities.
These hunts usually allow a set number of hunters to participate, usually with a goal to remove specific numbers of deer, bears or other game. Biologists set quotas to protect a specific species from overharvest, or to reduce a species’ population to protect the habitat. Either way, the hunts provide high-quality experiences in safe environments.
Tammy Sapp, a communications and marketing specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said quotas are based on game populations, hunter preferences, and the area’s size and habitat.
Most states require online applications for quota hunts, and use a computer-generated system to randomly select participants. Those not picked for the hunt often receive credit for applying. For example, the FFWCC awards “preference points” and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency issues “priority points.” In both programs the points accumulate to give participants increasingly greater chances in future drawings.
Hunts geared toward youths, veterans or people with disabilities usually require a more strategic selection process. Jason Harmon, the TWRA’s digital media specialist, said those applications must be mailed in for manual review. Some hunts are restricted to new hunters, while other hunts might designate mentors to select the participants.
Harmon said some programs provide opportunities to hunt seldom-traveled areas and the potential to harvest trophies of a lifetime. Some of these sites are protected lands set aside for wildlife conservation and recreational activities. Public lands owned by state agencies include parks, state forests and wildlife management areas; while federal lands could include military installations, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management properties.
Each WMA or wildlife refuge is managed differently. Some allow hunting year-round, some open occasionally in fall, and others open solely for special hunts. Agency staff at most locations help maintain roads, create food plots, conduct prescribed burns, and monitor the habitat to ensure its health and productivity.
All that work benefits hunters, wildlife and the habitat. Limited hunter access and habitat-management plans ensure some wildlife species like bison or bighorn sheep flourish without disturbance or overhunting. More often, though, a special hunt ensures species like elk or white-tailed deer are kept in check so they don’t overbrowse the habitat.
Either way, the odds of success for those chosen to hunt these lands often increases because wildlife is abundant. Plus, with hunter numbers closely controlled, the animals often reach maturity and grow large bodies, horns or antlers.
The application process for special hunts usually occurs months in advance. For example, the FFWCC begins taking applications May 15 for special-opportunity fall hunts. Likewise, the TWRA begins taking applications in June for Tennessee’s elk and big-game quota hunts.
Rules, restrictions and opportunities vary by state and management area. Explore your state agency’s website to apply for these unique opportunities.