California Big Game Hunting: Understanding the California Big Game Draw
California Big Game Draw Overview
Tags for all big game species are managed through the California Big Game Draw. This includes Mule Deer, Columbian Blacktail Deer, Elk (Tule, Roosevelt), Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, and Black Bear. Applications can be submitted online through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A note to non-resident applicants
Stated simply, unless you are planning to apply for a deer permit, it is not worth applying in the draw for most other species. Nonresident quotas are extremely limited for elk, pronhorn, and sheep, as detailed below.
When is the 2023 California Big Game Draw?
The draw opens annually on April 15th, and closes on June 2nd. Results are typically posted 10 business days after the draw closes.
|Online Application Opens||April 15, 2023|
|Deadline to Apply||June 2, 2023|
|Draw Results Expected||10 Business Days after draw closing|
How the California Big Game draw works
The California Big Game Draw uses a modified preference points system, detailed in the California Overview page. Different draw processes are applied based on the species applied for.
General Process (all species)
Once the application deadline has passed and all the applicant information has been entered, the computer assigns a unique random number to each person or party who has applied. If hunters have applied as a party, they will receive the same random number as the party leader.
Just before the drawing takes place, the computer sorts all the applications based on the first tag choice, preference point totals, and random number. Then, the computer begins to award the first tag choices to the applicants who have the most preference points, in random number order, starting from the lowest random number to the highest random number.
Once the preference point round is complete, the unsuccessful applications are resorted by hunt choice and random number order, starting from the lowest random number to the highest random number. Then, the computer starts awarding tags based on the applicant’s first-choice without considering their accumulated points until all draw-by-choice tag quotas are filled or until all the applications have been processed.
Bighorn sheep, elk, and antelope tags
Applicants make a single unit choice in their application. The draw works as above. The split between preference pool and drawn-by-choice pool is as follows.
When there is a quota of one, the tag will be awarded through a Draw-By-Choice drawing. In the case of a quota of two, one tag will be awarded through a Preference Point drawing, and the other tag will be awarded through a Draw-By-Choice drawing. For a quota of three, two tags will be awarded through a Preference Point drawing, and one tag will be awarded through a Draw-By-Choice drawing. However, if the quota is four or more, 75% of the quota will be awarded through a Preference Point drawing, while the remaining portion of the quota will be awarded through a Draw-By-Choice drawing.
Premium Deer Tags
Applicants choose three units. All first choices are considered before any second choices, and all second before third choices. Because of this, points are only used on first choices and not deducted if you draw a tag on a second or third choice. The split between preference pool and drawn-by-choice pool is as follows.
For the individual zone or hunt tag quota, 90% of the quota will be awarded through a Preference Point drawing, while the remaining 10% will be awarded through a Draw-by-Choice drawing.
In the case of zones or hunts with quotas less than 10 tags, only one tag will be awarded through a Draw-by-Choice drawing.
How to build points
Points are awarded upon an unsuccessful draw application. There are no other opportunities to build points.
Nonresident tag allocation
Nonresidents are limited to not more than 1 elk or pronghorn tag, in total, for all nonresidents combined. For Bighorn sheep, nonresidents are limited to 10% of tags, however tag quantities are less than 25 for the 2023 season.
An Annual Hunting License is required to apply in the California Big Game Draw, including for purchasing a point only. An application fee is applied per species for elk, pronghorn, and sheep, including for points-only purchases.
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price|
|Pronghorn Antelop Tag||$172.29||$527.50|
|Deer Tag - 1st||$35.38||$317.00|
|Deer Tag - 2nd||$44.28||$317.00|
|Application Fee per species (Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, Bighorn Sheep)||$8.13||$8.13|
|Bighorn Sheep Tag||$468.75||$1,736.75|