Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore will allow all controlled hunt tags drawn on June 23 to be awarded, including youth hunters who were ineligible under former rules.
Hunting laws changed July 1 that allow youth ages 10 and 11 to hunt big game, but controlled hunt rules prior to July 1 stated a hunter must be age 12 when the hunt starts to apply for a controlled hunt. Because the controlled hunt application and drawing occurred before the new law took affect July 1, they fell under the old rules for minimum age.
Problems arose when it was discovered many youth under age 12 entered the controlled hunt drawing and were drawn in the lottery. Moore said rules were unclear, and the department had put out mixed information about eligibility for youth under 12.
"This was an honest mistake based on our failure to communicate," he said.
Moore said out of about 2,500 licensed youth hunters ages 10 and 11, around 1,000 applied for controlled hunts and 316 drew tags, which included youth hunts. He found no evidence people were trying to "game the system," they were just confused by unclear explanations about eligibility.
Some hunters complained because youth who were ineligible were drawn, which deprived eligible hunters. Others said more youth may have entered the drawing, but did not because they thought they were ineligible.
Moore said the harm of depriving young hunters who drew controlled hunt tags would have been worse than upholding the original rules.
“I stand by these kids, their parents and their excitement, in allowing them to proceed with their first hunting opportunity for big game using these permits,” Moore said. “I simply cannot bring myself to disappoint them given the confusion about this issue.”
F&G will further remedy the situation by releasing 283 additional tags to be drawn for deer, elk and pronghorn hunts to offset the number tags awarded to under-12 hunters. Thirty-three of those under-12 hunters drew youth hunt tags, and F&G will not add to tags to those drawings.
All existing applicants who were eligible prior to July 1 will be included in the special draw. Hunts where the additional tags apply can be seen here.
That drawing will take place as soon as possible, and the results will by available by July 10 on Fish and Game’s website.
Moore pointed out that with the exception of one youth hunt, fewer than 10 tags in any single controlled hunt went to under-12 youth, so adding a few extra tags to hunts is unlikely to have a negative effect on the game populations in those hunting units.
The 1,500 youth hunters who did not enter the first drawing will receive an apology letter from Moore and a gift certificate equivalent to the control hunt application fee, which they can use toward the second drawing in August.
Under the law now in effect, any hunter who will be at least 10 years old by the start of the controlled hunt will be eligible to apply. Applications for the second drawing will be accepted Aug. 5 through Aug. 15.
F&G’s apology letter and full explanation can be seen here.