Hunters should not let the COVID-19 pandemic scare them away from license draws this year and certainly should not pass up the opportunity to earn bonus or preference points, according to Eric Pawlak of Trophy Applications and Guide Service (TAGS) in Sidney, Neb.
“At a minimum, build your points up,” Pawlak said. That doesn’t mean you are taking a chance on travel restrictions or other virus-related issues disrupting your plans. You can put in for points but stay out of the draw for this year’s tags, he said.
“People are nervous but they’re applying,” he said. “They think there’s going to be an end to this and also they understand that bonus points are the name of the game.”
Pawlak said March 18, the deadline for the popular New Mexico draw, was busy in his office. Phones were ringing with hunters trying to beat the application deadline. (He also booked three deer hunters for fall hunts. “They weren’t too worried,” he said.)
Application deadlines vary by state, with some running through May, so there is still time to apply.
The New Mexico deadline may have been a good harbinger of the state of hunting and the feelings of hunters toward the coming season. Year after year, the New Mexico deadline is typically a busy day in the TAGS office, “probably the biggest day of the year in my world,” Pawlak said. “If it’s not our biggest draw of the year, it’s close. And, typically, on deadline day the phone is pretty lit up” and it was this year too. “Was it as busy as last year? No, but was it busy? It was.”
He said he has seen an increase in hunters wanting to put in point-only applications, “where people are saying ‘I don’t want to draw this year but make sure you get me a point for this year.” Building and maintaining your bonus points is important now as it is in any other year, he said. But what will the overall effect of the coronavirus pandemic be on hunting?
“Down the line I would think this is going to have an effect on the draw of different state lotteries,” he said. “People have other things to worry about right now and I think there’s a lot of fear out there too so I think drawing odds will be a little bit better this year than they have in years past.”
So, if you don’t have that fear or are confident the crisis will have passed, “then put in and try to capitalize on it,” he said. “It’s just like the stock market. People are saying this could be a great buying opportunity. Maybe this is an opportunity to draw some great tags this year.”
Pawlak predicts a surge in hunting business once the virus abates. “As soon as things start opening up, you’re going to see pent-up demand. These guys we deal with want to go hunting. They don’t want to be locked in their house this fall. They want to be out and about and they want to go hunting.”
He bases that prediction partly on the financial crises of 2008, when the stock market plunged and predictions were dire. “Did we see a dip in 2008? We did,” he said. “But it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. People were booking trips and applying for tags.”
“I’m not saying it’s not bad,” he said. “It’s bad but it’s going to end, there’s an end to it and I think if we look at what happened in China, the end is coming faster than most people might fear right now.”
TAGS is part of Worldwide Trophy Adventures, based in Nebraska. “We help people draw tags and once they draw we assist with outfitter selection for the tag they’ve drawn,” Pawlak said. “We’re right in the middle of application season so there’s still a lot of states to come and if hunters need help, we can help them.”
He said some employees are working from home to keep in-office staff below 10 but they can operate because they work primarily over the phone and via the internet. TAGS can be reached at 800-755-8247 or at worldwidetrophyadventures.com/tags.