Point Creep — What is it and learn how it could impact you

Point creep when drawing hunting tags

Point creep has been happening since draw systems were created. Photo credit: Brady Miller

Jump to: Point Creep Defined Catching point creep Adjusting App Strategy

It's safe to say, that application season is a very exciting time of year! But with that being said, application season can also be pretty frustrating if you apply blindly and just hope to draw. So with application season here, this is a great time to talk about everyone's favorite topic... point creep.

The point creep topic usually gets discussed once draw results are out as you will hear a lot of people say things like, “why didn’t I draw a tag, last year everyone at three points drew the tag?” or “I had six points and it showed 100% but I didn’t draw” and unfortunately the answer is point creep.

Let's define point creep

Point creep occurs when the number of tags available doesn't meet the demand of applicants and each year the point value that it takes to pull the tag keeps creeping upward. Point creep happens all across the West and even happens on random draw states to a degree with what could be called draw odds creep.

This point creep phenomenon occurs for several reasons: more people start to apply for a unit, more people actually entering the draw after building points for so many years, or the unit is blowing up causing more people to apply at higher point levels, or the state reduces tags, etc. 

Point creep has the potential to jump a lot when you have states that allow you to build points on a point only option for a fee. Those people are not actually entering the draw, so a hunter might think he is about to draw a tag, and then a handful of those applicants who have been sitting on the sidelines building points, will then jump into the application game and pull a tag. This has a big impact on draw odds.

All this causes people with lower points who historically drew tags at those point levels to not draw. In some units, the point value required to draw might only jump up a point, but other units could jump up by two, three or even more points in one year! Point creep is easy to see in a preference point system but it also happens in a bonus point system, and as stated earlier, it can even be seen in a random draw system.

Point creep in a preference point state

Point creep in preference point state

In the above example, you can see an example of point creep in a preference point state. The unit was relatively easy to obtain at zero to one point back in 2016, and now most recently it took 3 points in 2020. One note to add here is that in 2020, this unit saw a drastic decrease in applicants and more tags were offered.

Point creep in a bonus point state

Bonus point system point creep example

The above image shows a unit in a bonus point state. Over time you can see this unit is getting harder and harder to draw. In this unit you now have lower draw odds at a given point level when compared to 2016.

Draw odds creep in a random draw state

Also, you have a form of "draw odds creep" in random draw states like Idaho and New Mexico. In the example below, this unit had a fairly decent chance to draw back in 2016 and now the odds are getting more and more dismal each year. A basic decrease in draw odds overtime again do to supply and demand.

Draw odds creep happening in random draw system state

Will COVID-19's impact be seen in 2021?

Last year we all had to deal with COVID-19. There was most likely a large number of people that decided to sit on the sidelines in 2020 because of the uncertainty in how the fall was going to play out with traveling. Now all those people who sat out last year, are more than likely going to jump in and apply at a higher point level. 

Can you actually catch point creep?

The most honest answer to if you can actually catch point creep is unfortunately no. Especially if you are trying to wait it out and draw a certain dream unit. The only real way that you can beat point creep is if the unit gives out a larger number of tags and/or you have plenty of years left in your life and are willing to wait it out.

A few years ago I wrote a point creep article that dove into specific examples in regards to point creep. In that article, I gave a great example using my dad's points in Colorado and his dream of hunting one of the popular dream elk units when he first started to build points in that state. Be sure to check out that article for some graphics outlining some of these topics.

While point creep is hard to catch, from time to time certain units could become easier to draw due to higher point applicants applying elsewhere for a plethora of reasons. Some of those reasons might be the potential for severe winter kill and individuals might be worried about burning their points, or even big drought years you could see applicants just buying points for dream units.

Everyone is aging and we all want to hunt. So you could beat point creep if some of the older applicants at high point levels decide to apply in units that take fewer points because they decide it's no longer worth it to keep waiting out for a certain unit, so they will jump in another unit where they will be the maximum point holder (causing temporary points creep in that unit), and pick up a tag. So then you could see a decrease in the maximum point level, but not by much. Also, the unfortunate situation is a lot of these people who are near maximum points, could pass away and never draw a tag.

All of these factors above is why when building out your application strategy, it is essential to look at the big picture and you must consider the number of tags given out, applicants at each point level and where the current breakpoint is when it comes to the number of points required to draw the tag you have been dreaming about.

Adjusting your application strategy to beat it

Another one of the ways to beat point creep is to take in all of the research data before you apply. If you checked out the last point creep article I wrote back in 2019, I gave you several real-world unit by unit and species examples of how point creep has impacted several units. So if you want to dive into those examples, be sure to check out the article below.

Point Creep Examples

1. Application strategy articles

One other big area of importance is diving into all of the research information you have available on your INSIDER account. Each application strategy article is packed with information to help guide your application choices. Along those same lines, all of the information on Filtering 2.0 and on all of the Unit Profiles can also help you to find a unit to apply for that might take fewer points but still offer you the same quality of a hunt.

2. Standalone Draw Odds page

Our standalone draw odds page is loaded with extra draw odds information that you won't find on Filtering 2.0

The standalone Draw Odds page and the detailed draw odds page for a specific unit is the perfect place to calculate how many more years it might take you to draw the tag if you're a few years behind the maximum point level or just starting out. This will be a rough estimate because you can never know how many people have been saving up points and are ready to enter the draw in this unit or how many people are going to switch from a different unit and start to apply in the unit you're trying to draw a tag for, death of applicants, or people switching out of this unit. Also, to calculate how long it might take you to draw, you have to assume the same people keep applying and not switching over to build points, and that the state doesn't change the tag numbers or how they allocate tags.

3. Looking at people who just apply for points

Most states across the west allow hunters to purchase points during a point only purchase period without ever going into the draw. This is one of the hardest areas to plan for because you just never know when people who are only building points and not applying, are going to jump in finally try to cash out their points. This is why when you look at draw odds, hunters may want to also consider point only purchase applicants to sort of gauge what they might be competing with at their point level. Keep in mind that while looking at this data can be helpful, it is impossible to know when these point only purchasers will jump in.

Below are two examples from Colorado where you can see all of the applicants who only purchased points. To see a big list of point only purchase applicants for all species in Colorado and Utah, check out this link.


Colorado elk point only purchase applicants from 2020


4. Season dates changes impacting draw odds

Let's look at Colorado, for several years everyone has known about the change that was going to happen on the later rifle season hunts. More information on that change can be found here

So for 2021, the late rifle season dates are:

  • Second season rifle hunt = October 30 through November 7
  • Third season = November 13 through the 19
  • Fourth season = November 24 through the 28

This means that second season dates are now occurring on what was historically a third season date, and even more drastic, third season hunts are going to be going on during past fourth season dates and fourth season hunts are now going to be held during Thanksgiving week. Hunters have definitely taken note of this new 5-year season date since it was released in 2019. I believe lots of people who have been building points might have just continued to build their points instead of cashing them out and are waiting to jump in the pool of applicants in 2021. Also, some of those units that people might have been picking up for minimal points, could see point creep impacting their chance to hunt this year.

One strategy to beat that might be to consider applying to hunt with a more primitive weapon like archery or muzzleloader for 2021. 

5. Just get out and hunt

In my opinion, I’d rather hunt more than continue to sit on the bench and wait to reach that maximum point level. You will never get those years back that you sat on the bench and just built up points while not taking advantage of OTC hunts, hunting units that take fewer points or picking up second choice or leftover tag. You can pull a fairly decent tag every year if you want to adjust your strategy and set your expectations accordingly if you don't have a ton of points. There is honestly so much opportunity to hunt these days out west! At least you're out hunting, learning and expanding your skillset each year. Hunting more often will lead to becoming a more efficient hunter.

The only real way to beat point creep is to stop worrying about "dream units" and just hunt more. Sure certain states and species that a lot of us apply for are technically "dream hunts." So applying for those comes down to personal preference and even to a degree what state we are talking about, but this is why it's essential to have a multi-state application strategy. This ensures you're not just putting all your eggs in one basket and just hoping you pull a tag by only applying in one state each year.

While everyone is totally able to spend their points and years of applying how they see fit... but hopefully they think long and hard about their strategy and are willing to put the time required to make that strategy work. 

I know I've said this saying a lot over the years, but you can't eat points. Points don't fill the freezer. Points don't look good on the wall. 

This is the power of the Draw Odds details page that gives you the tools to figure out what to apply for.

Review your draw odds here

There are so many other great hunts out there, which is why I don't chase dream hunts that I know I will never draw. I've talked a lot about my strategies through the years in articles and on podcasts. One of the main points I try to get across is the importance of hunting a certain species as often as possible. The situation I like to paint is someone waiting 15 years to draw a premium archery elk hunt, if you have never elk hunted during that time as you were throwing all your eggs into one basket... are you going to have as successful of a hunt on your premium tag if you have never elk hunted before? You will be behind the curve on how to elk hunt during the rut, how the wind plays a part in your calling setup, etc, etc. The best thing here is to pick up OTC hunts for elk or easier to draw elk hunts in other states while you wait to draw that dream tag.

The cost of continuing to build points

Quick example, in Wyoming, it cost $150 for a moose point. Take that point fee and multiply it by 30 years and you're looking at $4,500 with no real guarantee you'll ever draw the hunt. Would all that money on points be better served in your bank saving up for a DIY moose hunt in Alaska? Everyone should spend their money how they see fit, but just some food for thought that I've been thinking a lot about lately.

More information on point creep

Below is the first video in our new series, THE SIZZLE. This series is all about diving into everything research related to western hunting. The first round table video talks about point creep with Brandon, Trail and Dave.


Podcast about point creep

Randy Newberg recently sat down with Trail Kreitzer and myself where we dove into point creep while on a recent Arizona Coues deer hunt. Check out the point creep Hunt Talk Radio podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

In summary

While point creep can be a pain and it isn't going away anytime soon, it is only a real issue if you let it be an issue. There are so many great hunts across the west, so keep that in mind when you are planning out your application strategy.



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