How Does the Big Game Draw in Arizona Work?

Arizona has a limited draw for their big game hunt tags. To get one of these highly sought-after tags, you must enter an application into their “Big Game Hunt Draw.” This complex lottery system is designed to allow everyone a chance, if just a slim one, to draw their desired tag, but it also favors those who have been denied tags before. There will be three passes or phases to this lottery. We will walk you through each pass.

To begin the process, you must fill out and submit a hunting application to apply for the draw. On the application, you can select up to five tags in order of preference. Each application will be given a random computer-generated number. The lower your application number, the greater your chance of winning your desired tag.

How Do Bonus Points Work in The Arizona Draw

How Do Bonus Points Work in The Arizona Draw

This is where the lottery process begins to get complicated. Each time you apply for a tag and fail, you are awarded a “Bonus Point.” Bonus Points are species-specific, so you can build up various points by applying for multiple species or build up points for one species. If you are applying for the elk draw you may need more points than you need to get drawn for an antelope or mule deer tag.

The purpose of bonus points is to have more numbers entered into the draw. There are also ways for you to get extra bonus points. You will receive a permanent point across all species if you complete the Arizona Hunters Education Program. Another way to earn an additional bonus point is to apply for the same species five years in a row. This will award you a loyalty point, but if you fail to continue to apply for this species or get drawn for say an elk tag or mule deer tag, you will lose this loyalty point. You can also decide on your application not to be entered into the draw and instead take a bonus point.

Randy Goulds Turkey

Details on the Actual Big Game Draw in Arizona

Now that we know about the applications and bonus points, we can look at the draw itself. Again, there are three passes or phases in the Big Game Draw.

First Pass (20% Bonus Point) 

The first pass is called the 20% Bonus Point Pass. During this phase, 20% of all game tags will be given out to the applicants with the highest number of bonus points. For example, if there are 100 tags available for turkey, then 20 of those tags will be handed out in this phase. All applicants with the max number of points for turkey will be given a randomly generated number. The lowest number applicant will be selected, and they will get their first choice. The following lowest number will then be picked. The draw will look at their first choice; if it is still available, they will win that tag. If the first choice is unavailable, the department looks at the second choice. If it is available, they will be awarded that hunt, but if the second choice is also not available, that application will be put back into the general pool and get another chance in the third phase of the draft. If and when the draw goes through all applicants with the max number of points, and there are still tags left to be drawn from that original 20%, then they will move on to the applicants with the most bonus points minus one and repeat the same process of randomly assigning numbers, drawing and awarding hunts if available and if not being put back in the general pool. If the draw still needs to hand out all 20% of tags, they will move on to applicants with max points minus two until all 20% of tags are gone.

Second Pass (1st and 2nd Hunt Choices)

The second pass will be closer to a lottery system. Each application is awarded a randomly generated number, and then for each applicant’s bonus point, they are awarded another randomly generated number. So if you have nine bonus points, ten numbers will be entered into the raffle. Preference again goes to the lower numbers. As the applications are drawn, the first and second choices will be looked at and given to the applicant in order of preference if the tags are available. If the tags are unavailable, the application will be put back in the pool for phase three.

Third Pass (3rd, 4th, and 5th Hunt Choices)

In the third pass, the process from phase two is repeated, except that rather than looking at the first and second choices of the applications, the third, fourth, and fifth choices are considered in order of preference and awarded if they are available. If not, then better luck next year.

Out-of-state residents

Out-of-State Residents

There is a catch for non-Arizona residents, however. Only 10% of all tags can be issued to nonstate residents. And in round 1, only 5% of that 10% is available to nonstate residents. So if there are 100 turkey tags up for grabs in a season, only ten are available to those looking to hunt from out of state, and only five can be handed out in phase 1, with the rest being given out during phase 2.

Can I Apply For The Arizona Big Game Draw With a Group?

For those interested in hunting in a group, you can apply in groups from 2 hunters to 4 hunters on a single application. The group bonus points will be calculated by adding up all the bonus points each individual has accumulated, then dividing by the number of hunters in the group. The number will be rounded up if the decimal is .5 or greater. If your application is drawn, there must be enough tags for all hunters, or the application will be returned to the pool. Out-of-state limitations still apply to the group applications as well.

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