Looking Ahead

Everything you need to know when applying for 2004 big game tags.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Just because you've cleaned your rifle and stored your tree stand doesn't mean hunting season is over. Now it's time to chase some paper and apply for next fall's big-game hunts in another state. The best hunting opportunities in the West, for both trophy units and high-success antlerless hunts, are awarded in special drawings, and application deadlines are looming. Application fees are generally reasonable-even if non-resident license fees can be a little spendy-and if you draw some of these permits, you're invited to the adventure of a lifetime. If you don't get drawn, you can at least earn a preference point that gives you a boost in next year's lottery. Here's how to get started.

** ALASKA**
2004 Application Deadline: December 6 for spring hunts, May 31 for fall hunts
To Request Application Materials: 907-267-2137; www.admin.adfg.state.ak.us/license
Tentative 2004 Hunting License Fees: $25 for residents, $85 for non-residents
Preference Points: No

Hunting Outlook: There's widespread concern about numbers and size of moose in many units, and blame rests largely on bear predation. Hunters may benefit from increased brown/grizzly hunting opportunities.

What's New: Biggest changes will be detailed in permit supplements available in July, which also includes applications for registration hunts. There's perennial discussion about requiring guides for non-resident moose hunters, so beware any change in that direction.

Trophy Zones: Unit 8 (Kodiak Island) is legendary for big brown bear; the northern end of Unit 1 (Ketchikan) holds big grizzlies. Unit 20 is consistent for trophy dall sheep, but any of the Chugach units in the southeast hold good rams, though the 40-inch threshold is elusive.

Cool Hunts: Yukon River (Unit 18) is one the few areas open to non-resident muskox hunting and unit also has good bear hunting; Unit 19 moose in areas open to non-residents; Unit 20's Fortymile caribou herd and Wrangell Mountains dall sheep in units 11 and 12.

Inside Dope: Alaska manages most hunting either by drawing, harvest tag or registration. If you missed out on a draw permit, required in the most coveted units for the best trophies, you can get information on registration hunts, where tags are issued on a first-come basis. This is a good approach for moose in some overlooked units. Harvest-tag hunts are another good fall-back option if you're unsuccessful in the lottery.

Hunter Education: In some areas (parts of the Kenai Peninsula, the Palmer area and Unit 20), hunter education is required for hunters born after Jan. 1, 1986.

CWD Advisories/Restrictions: None

Guides: Licensed guides are required for brown/grizzly, dall sheep and mountain goat hunting. Get a list of guides on-line at www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/GuiUseReg.cfm or by calling 907-465-2543.

Wildlife Agency: Alaska Department of Fish and Game (907-267-2137, www.state.ak.us).

ARIZONA
2004 Application Deadline: **June 10
**To Request Application Materials:
866-462-0433; www.sci-nevada.com/webazlic/, www.arizona-hunt.com/apps/
Tentative 2004 Hunting License Fees: $25.50 for residents, $113.50 for non-residents
Preference Points: Yes
Hunting Outlook: Drought has played hell with fawn production, herd distributions and overall habitat conditions.

What's New: This year all left-over permits will be issued on a first-come basis, but only online at www.azgfd.com or by phone at 866-462-0433.

**Trophy Zones: **For deer hunters, the Kaibab in northeastern Arizona is one of the top areas in the nation. Arizona antelope routinely make the record books, especially pronghorns from east-central units and around Flagstaff. Desert bighorunit 13B will produce Booner rams.

Cool Hunts: Most years, Coues' whitetail deer tags remain, and some of the best opportunities are on military reservations. Call the Arizona National Guard's Camp Navajo (928-773-3274) or Fort Huachua (520-533-7083) for details. Or sign up for the bison depredation pool and help manage the buffalo herd that occasionally wanders from Raymond Ranch Wildlife Area. Apply for $5; if you're drawn, pay $755 (for residents) or $3,755 (non-residents) to hunt trophy bison.

Inside Dope: Leftover tags are routinely available, and while they may not be valid in the best units, they'll still allow you to go hunting. Check the department's web site in mid August for these first-come, first-served bonus opportunities.

Hunter Education: No requirement, but graduates of Arizona's program since 1980 get an automatic bonus point in the big-game draw.

CWD Advisories/Restrictions: Disease hasn't been detected in Arizona, and there are no formal restrictions at this time.

Guides/Outfitters: www.gf.state.az.us/h_f/sportsmen_services.html

Wildlife Agency: Arizona Department of Game and Fish (602-789-3702, www.gf.state.az.us).

CALIFORNIA
2004 Application Deadline: June 2
To Request Application Materials: California DFG, License and Revenue Section, P.O. Box 989035, Sacramento, CA 95798-9035; www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/index.html
Tentative 2004 Hunting License Fees: $31.25 for residents, $108.70 for non-residents
Preference Points: Yes. New modified preference point system awards 90 percent of tags in an individual zone on the basis of preference points. Remaining 10 percent are awarded in standard lottery.
Hunting Outlook: Blacktail deer populations are struggling through a long-term decline throughout the Coast Range. Elk populations are low but stable in interior Sierra units. Great Basin sheep herds are being impacted by drought, but most units have good trophies if you can overcome the 1-percent odds of drawing.

What's New: Preference points were awarded to unsuccessful deer applicants last year, so this will be the first fall that those added opportunities in the lottery will be a factor. Use the system and apply for hard-to-draw X-zone permits; you can still buy an over-the-counter tag for more mundane units if you're unsuccessful in the draw.

Trophy Zones: Look to the X zones for premium mule deer hunting. A new northeastern elk hunt features Rocky Mountain elk. Desert sheep hunting throughout southeastern California, particularly units 501 and 503, is among the best in the Southwest.

Cool Hunts: If deer Zone D13 is open in 2004, it could be a sleeper for big blacktails. The unit was closed because of fire danger in 2002 and bigger bucks survived to get even bigger. Any of the Nelson's bighorn sheep units offer spectacular hunting, though you probably would have had a better chance being elected California's governor as drawing one of these tags.

Inside Dope: Leftover tags, including those for the coveted X zone, are available beginning June 2. But you can only get them by mail or in person at DFG's License and Revenue Branch in Sacramento.

Hunter Education: Required of all first-time California hunters, regardless of age; equivalency course offered at DFG offices

CWD Advisories/Restrictions: No disease detected in the state, but DFG restricts importation of unprocessed game or game parts from CWD-infected areas.

Guides: Go online to www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/pdffiles/licenseguideslist.pdf

Wildlife Agency: California Department of Fish and Game (916-227-2245 www.dfg.ca.gov).

COLORADO
2004 Application Deadline: April 1
To Request Application Materials: Colorado DOW, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216, 800-244-5613; www.wildlife.state.co.us/total_licensing/
Tentative 2004 Hunting License Fees: Cost included in big-game tag prices.
Preference Points: Yes

Hunting Outlook: Look for another year of liberal elk hunting, with opportunities to take a second antlerless elk in some units and a longer fourth season. Expect non-residents to again be able to buy bargain antlerless elk tags, for around $250. Last year the department issued a record 146,000 limited elk tags to control growth of the herd estimated at more than 300,000 head. Deer herd, at some 565,000 animals, is lower than objective of 631,000.

What's New: Starting this spring, all limited-entry hunt applications will be taken over the internet. When 2004 hunting regulations are approved in May, commission is likely to repeat 2003's decision to replace many antlered-bull elk tags with either-sex tags in order to increase the cow harvest.

Trophy Zones: Late elk in Unit 441 east of Craig and in 85 west of Walsenburg; mountain goats in Unit G-16; antelope in 130- and 140-series units of the southeastern corner; mule deer in units 40, 60 and 61.

Cool Hunts: Colorado has some of the most liberal archery elk hunting in the nation. Bowhunters can buy an over-the-counter antlerless elk tag, valid in most of the state, and also possess an either-sex tag. Also, muzzleloader hunts for antlerless elk are routinely undersubscribed in the lottery. There is great elk hunting on Grand Mesa, in the White River drainage and on National Forest land around Glenwood Springs.

Inside Dope: Some great hunting is available on licenses that aren't taken in the spring draw. These are available starting September 1 and this year they can be purchased from license agents in the field. Another way to play, if you can't draw a coveted tag, is to bid or buy an auction or raffle hunt. Colorado awards a pair each of moose, sheep and goat tags to organizations, but also 4 each antelope, elk and deer. Check the DOW's web site for auction/raffle details.

Hunter Education: Required of all hunters born after January 1, 1949

**CWD Advisories/Restrictions: **Disease has been present in northeastern Colorado for decades, but it's moving westward and DOW manages for high harvest in CWD units. The state restricts import of carcasses from infected areas of other states.

Guides/Outfitters: www.colorado-outfitters.com/ or www.colo-outfitters-guides.com/

**Wildlife Agency: **Colorado Division of Wildlife (303-297-1192, http://wildlife.state.co.us/).

HAWAII
2004 Application Deadline: Rotating. For most permit hunts, lotteries are held one month before the opener. Applications are plication Materials:** Colorado DOW, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216, 800-244-5613; www.wildlife.state.co.us/total_licensing/
Tentative 2004 Hunting License Fees: Cost included in big-game tag prices.
Preference Points: Yes

Hunting Outlook: Look for another year of liberal elk hunting, with opportunities to take a second antlerless elk in some units and a longer fourth season. Expect non-residents to again be able to buy bargain antlerless elk tags, for around $250. Last year the department issued a record 146,000 limited elk tags to control growth of the herd estimated at more than 300,000 head. Deer herd, at some 565,000 animals, is lower than objective of 631,000.

What's New: Starting this spring, all limited-entry hunt applications will be taken over the internet. When 2004 hunting regulations are approved in May, commission is likely to repeat 2003's decision to replace many antlered-bull elk tags with either-sex tags in order to increase the cow harvest.

Trophy Zones: Late elk in Unit 441 east of Craig and in 85 west of Walsenburg; mountain goats in Unit G-16; antelope in 130- and 140-series units of the southeastern corner; mule deer in units 40, 60 and 61.

Cool Hunts: Colorado has some of the most liberal archery elk hunting in the nation. Bowhunters can buy an over-the-counter antlerless elk tag, valid in most of the state, and also possess an either-sex tag. Also, muzzleloader hunts for antlerless elk are routinely undersubscribed in the lottery. There is great elk hunting on Grand Mesa, in the White River drainage and on National Forest land around Glenwood Springs.

Inside Dope: Some great hunting is available on licenses that aren't taken in the spring draw. These are available starting September 1 and this year they can be purchased from license agents in the field. Another way to play, if you can't draw a coveted tag, is to bid or buy an auction or raffle hunt. Colorado awards a pair each of moose, sheep and goat tags to organizations, but also 4 each antelope, elk and deer. Check the DOW's web site for auction/raffle details.

Hunter Education: Required of all hunters born after January 1, 1949

**CWD Advisories/Restrictions: **Disease has been present in northeastern Colorado for decades, but it's moving westward and DOW manages for high harvest in CWD units. The state restricts import of carcasses from infected areas of other states.

Guides/Outfitters: www.colorado-outfitters.com/ or www.colo-outfitters-guides.com/

**Wildlife Agency: **Colorado Division of Wildlife (303-297-1192, http://wildlife.state.co.us/).

HAWAII
2004 Application Deadline: Rotating. For most permit hunts, lotteries are held one month before the opener. Applications are