A moose in the Wind River south of Riverton. Photo by Cindy Harris in July 2021

Moose and bighorn sheep hunters: Game and Fish wants your input on preference points

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking for input on a recommendation to change how preference points work in moose and bighorn sheep license draws. The proposal— researched and drafted by the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce — suggests Game and Fish change from a preference point draw to a weighted bonus points draw. The proposed changes would impact the way Wyoming moose and bighorn sheep licenses are issued for residents and nonresidents.

“The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce frequently heard from hunters frustrated with Wyoming’s current system. Their comments were that drawing a license for moose and bighorn sheep was becoming too difficult — especially when forecasting odds for future generations of hunters,” said Brian Nesvik, director of Game and Fish and member of the Taskforce. “That’s why a change to the preference point system was recommended — to broaden the opportunity to draw a license.”

Under Wyoming’s current system, dictated by Wyoming State Law and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation, 75% of the available moose and sheep licenses go in a preference point draw where applicants are ranked based on their points; the remaining 25% are randomly allocated. The more points a hunter has, the higher chance of drawing. 

The Taskforce modeled future drawing odds based on current license numbers available and current demand. Their analysis of these predictions influenced their final decision on this recommendation. Study of this data showed over the long term, the current preference point system would become less effective in providing predictability for hunters, which was one of the system’s intended goals when it was enacted.

With the Taskforce’s proposal, preference points would operate differently in the draw. There are three main components to the proposal:

  • Transition from a prescriptive draw where 75% of licenses are drawn from the top point holders to a system that is completely random.  
  • Transition to a weighted bonus point system where an applicant’s advantage in the draw increases exponentially with each subsequent year they continue to apply. The Taskforce recommends this be implemented by squaring an applicant’s total number of bonus points.  
  • Delay implementation by up to four years from the date the law is effective to provide a transition period to long-term applicants with the highest numbers of preference points. 


“With the Taskforce’s recommendation, everyone who has points now has a chance — including those first-year applicants,” Nesvik said. “That means there are opportunities for a broader pool of applicants to potentially draw.”

The proposal is best understood through an example: If a hunter holds 12 preference points going into the draw, those points will be squared to bonus points (12²=144 bonus points). Then, in a random draw, the hunter has 144 chances for licenses.

Under the Taskforce’s proposal some parts about the moose and bighorn sheep draws would remain the same. Residents and nonresidents would remain in separate draws with 90% of available licenses to residents and 10% to nonresidents. Hunters will still be limited to accumulating one point a year — and have to maintain a balance by gaining a point once every two years. Points will still be automatically used with any applications. 

The Taskforce proposal was signed in May and is being studied by the Wyoming Legislature’s Travel, Wildlife and Recreation Committee. There is currently no draft bill.   

Game and Fish is collecting public input on the Taskforce’s proposal to offer to TRW for consideration in their interim study discussions. A short survey form is available on the Game and Fish website and will be open until Aug. 1. 

“It’s crucial that Game and Fish hears from hunters on this topic so your thoughts can be included in discussion,” Nesvik said. “It’s equally important that moose and bighorn sheep hunters understand how these proposed changes would affect them, if enacted, in drawing a license.”