Unlike general season hunts where anyone can buy a tag over-the-counter, controlled hunts are limited entry hunts that require you to apply in advance for the opportunity to draw a tag in a random computerized drawing. Much of Oregon’s rifle deer and elk hunting is limited entry—along with all antelope, sheep and goat hunting, and some game birds. The deadline to apply for a big game controlled hunt is May 15.
Most tags (75 percent) are awarded based on preference points. Every year you don’t draw your first-choice tag on deer, elk, pronghorn and spring bear hunts, you get a preference point, which increases your odds the following year. The remaining 25 percent of tags are awarded randomly amongst all remaining first-choice applicants, so you always have a chance to draw your first-choice hunt. Controlled hunts are divided into hunt series based on species, and then further divided into hunt numbers based on location. Hunters can apply once in each hunt series each year.
100 – Buck deer
200 – Elk
400 – Antelope
500 – Bighorn Sheep (no preference points awarded for sheep hunts)
600 – Antlerless deer
700 – Spring Black Bear
900 – Rocky Mountain Goat (no preference points awarded for goat hunts)
The ODFW controlled hunts online course will take you
through the controlled hunt process step-by-step.
Controlled hunts are broken down by species and location. All hunts are listed in the Oregon Big Game Regulations, and each hunt has a unique hunt number. You can choose up to five hunts per series (1st choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice, etc.), though most tags run out after the second-choice drawing is completed.
You can get an idea of your odds of drawing a hunt by looking at the Big Game Regulations, where you will see the number of tags and number of first-choice applicants from the previous year. The number of tags and applicants can change from year to year, but usually not by much. A point to consider, hunts that have more first-choice applicants than tags available will never be drawn as anything other than a first-choice hunt.
ODFW’s online Point Summary Reports can also help you figure out your odds. You can also purchase the Oregon Tag Guide book or visit the Oregon Tag Draw Percentages website. Neither of these resources are affiliated with ODFW.
Keep in mind that 25 percent of the tags for each draw are awarded randomly so every first-choice applicant has some chance to draw even the most coveted tag.
Many hunters choose to join together with family and friends and apply for a hunt as a party. This means that either everyone in the party will draw a tag or no one will. When applying as a party, individual preference points are combined and then averaged for the group. If you are new to hunting, it helps to go with more experienced family and friends. Keep in mind that if you are just joining a long-established hunting party, your low points could reduce their chances at drawing a tag. (Make it up to them by being a good addition at hunting camp!) Hunts also have party size limits: 18 for deer and elk, six for black bear, two for antelope, individual only for goat and sheep. Party members must submit their party leader’s Hunter/Angler ID# on their application.
To apply, you must first purchase an annual hunting license. You can purchase the hunting license at the same time you apply for a controlled hunt.
Once you have completed steps 1-3 above, you are ready to apply for your tag. You can apply online, at a license sales agent, or at ODFW offices that sell licenses. Use the Oregon Controlled Hunt Application Worksheet (pdf) to organize your information.
Get your application right - simple mistakes can derail your chances of drawing a tag. Triple-check your hunt number (and party leader’s number if applying with others) to make sure they are correct. Also, be sure to include a daytime telephone number and E-mail so our licensing staff can reach you if there is a problem. If you're applying at a license sales agent, check your application before you leave the store and get a receipt showing your hunt choices. Keep this receipt for proof of application.
Results are always available by June 20, but sometimes results are available before then online.
If you drew the tag, congratulations! But don’t forget to pick up your tag by the deadline, which is the day before the first hunt period begins. If you purchased a Sports Pac, you still need to pick up the tag for your particular hunt. If you didn’t get your first-choice hunt, you now have a preference point for that hunt series in next year’s draw. Points are affiliated with a hunt series, not a particular hunt number, so even if you change your mind and choose a different area to hunt next year, your point will count toward your new choice.
You can use the point summary reports for previous years to better determine how to use your point(s) next year. You may find the how to read a point summary report article helpful for understanding point summary reports.
Header photo by Jason Darrah
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