Friday, March 17, 2017

BC Limited Entry Hunting, or LEH

Well, the time has finally come. The 2017-18 Limited Entry Hunting Regulations Synopsis has been released. Reminds me of being a kid and getting the Sears Christmas Wish Book. Even knowing that I wouldn’t be getting much from that catalog, it didn’t stop me from dreaming...much like the LEH synopsis.

Almost immediately upon the release of the LEH, and often before, you will notice the massive number of posts on the hunting forums from people that don’t have clue how the LEH system works. The same questions keep being asked, year after year...but at least there are some new things to talk about for 2017. It should be noted, that the province has very good explanations on the whole system, should anyone be interested. However, I will attempt to explain how it works, just to do my part for humanity. Keep in mind, if I can figure it out, anyone can.

How the LEH system works

The whole process starts in January when the province reviews the data from the previous year. This information is used to recommend changes to the new regulations, and are submitted for the F&W director's approval. After approval, the regulations are drafted into the synopsis and released. That is the quick and dirty explanation. Far more detail and work are done to get them out.

Once the synopsis is released and the LEH application portal is opened we can start applying. The province expects over 175,000 applications for about 25,000 authorizations. This translates into about 1 lucky winner per 6 applicants. Naturally, the odds vary depending on species and location.

Starting in 2016 the LEH went online, with some remnants of the previous paper system still in place. For 2017 it is all online. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to Service BC, FrontCounter BC, or your local vendor to apply, it just means no more paper cards. With the new online system there came an updated Hunter Number called the Fish and Wildlife ID (FWID). Essentially this is your old hunter number preceded by 3 new numbers. This was put in place for the online LEH, and 2017’s new online Hunting License and Species Tags. I will touch on that later.

A couple advantages to going online is that all applications will be entered into the same database regardless of when and where they were submitted. It also allows the applicant to see the status of their application. No more wondering if your LEH postcard made it to Victoria and got entered, or frantically rushing to the courier and throwing $50 at them to deliver your applications on the last day. Now you can do it all from the comfort of your own home, lounging in your camo y-fronts, sipping a Lucky, and hoping like heck the rest of the lollygaggers don’t crash the computer system while frantically entering their applications at 11:59 pm on May 26 (this year's deadline).

The online system makes sure you have your contact information updated, and helps reduce errors. In the past, delays were caused by difficulty in reading the cards, and this often resulted in an application being tossed. Incorrect address resulted in returned authorizations. It also eliminates the fear that many hunters had that their included bribe wasn’t big enough to get their card drawn.

The LEH is a lottery – pay your money, take your chances.

With 175,000 applicants for 25,000 authorizations, getting a draw is all up to chance. You will increase your chances by picking authorizations that are less in demand due to species and location/access. The LEH system has also adopted Enhanced Odds for all species except Mule deer.

Enhanced odds means that anyone that has previously been drawn will have their odds reduced for a period of time. For all Moose draws, and Elk in Region 1&2 a successful applicant will have their odds reduced by 66% for the next 3 years. So if you were drawn for Moose in 2016, your odds of being drawn for a moose in 2017, 2018, and 2019 are reduced by 66%. For all the remaining species (excluding Mule deer), the odds are reduced by 50% for one year. I will do an example of how this works a little later.

How the computer does the draw

The first thing that happens to an application is a check against a previously successful drawing. For example, the lucky guy that got the moose draw in 2016 will get his 2017 moose application flagged.

Once all the applications have been checked the computer randomly generates id numbers and assigns one to each application. These id numbers (and associated applications) are then reordered low to high. Having a randomly generated number ensures that nothing on the application has an influence on whether it is picked or not (other than the possible flag). The number itself does influence the chance of being drawn – the lower the number, the sooner it will be chosen.

First Choice Hunts

Now that the numbers are assigned and put in order, the First Choice hunts are drawn. The computer looks at the first application (lowest random number) and the First Choice hunt code it requested. Assuming this application hasn’t been flagged, the computer assigns an authorization to this applicant. The computer moves to the next lowest number/application and continues the process until every application has been gone through once.

During this first run, a couple things will happen. Once a hunt code has become fully allocated, and your application comes up requesting that hunt code, the computer skips by to the next application/random number in line. The other thing that happens is that when the computer comes to an application that is ‘flagged’ it ignores either 50% or 66% of them depending on the previously discussed reductions. I will give an example in a bit.

After the computer has finished the first run from lowest to the highest number it starts over again with all the applications/numbers that haven’t been allocated an authorization, and this time it doesn’t reduce the odds of the remaining flagged applications. The rationale is that any authorization that is left is of such low demand that there is no reason to deny the previously successful.

Second Choice Hunts

The computer then starts the 3rd round of drawings for any application that wasn’t assigned a first choice hunt. The applications are checked for any Second Choice requests, and hunts are assigned if authorizations remain. If the hunt is fully allocated, the computer moves on to the next application. As with second round, flags are not penalized. 

You will note that before the Second Choices are allocated, First Choice requests are given 2 chances at any remaining hunts. Essentially, this means that unless a hunt is under-subscribed, meaning fewer hunters requested it than allocations available, no Second Choice has a chance of being allocated. So, if a hunt code shows last year First Choice odds of 10:1, there is no sense in putting it down as a Second Choice. Just in case 10:1 doesn’t mean anything to you, I will explain. If there are 10 allocations available and the odds were 10:1, it means 100 applications were received for that hunt. So 10 lucky guys, 90 losers. All 10 will be allocated on the first run.

Another thing to consider with a Second Choice is that success means a reduction in odds the next year, the same as a First Choice win. So a Second Choice throwaway for a December cow Elk in 7-17 with odds of 0.3:1 counts the same as one in 8-04 at will have a 50% reduction for the next year.

Group Hunts

Group draws are those applications that are entered by a ‘group’ of hunters in which every member of the group gets an authorization. There can be 2-4 members in a group, and the computer assigns only one random number to the entire group. In addition, if any one member of the group is getting reduced odds, then the entire group will be flagged. If the computer draws the groups number, every member gets an authorization. However, if there aren’t enough authorizations left to assign all members, the entire group is skipped and nobody in that group gets a draw. The group draw goes through the same order of picking as previously described.

Shared Hunts

Shared hunts are only available for Moose and Bison. They are available for 2-4 hunters and are a bit different than group hunts. One authorization will be assigned to a shared hunt with 2 applicants, while 2 authorizations will be assigned to shared hunt with 3 or 4 members. The computer considers each application individually in the Shared Hunt, so a group of 4 will have 4 chances to getting drawn, however, the entire group is flagged if any member is flagged. Once a member has been drawn, the group is assigned one or 2 authorizations, depending on the number of members.

Unlike the Group Hunt, if a Shared Hunt member is drawn, and there is only one authorization left for a group of 3 or 4, the computer will assign the team the one authorization. The LEH synopsis describes the rules around participating in a Shared Hunt so I won’t describe them in much detail. All participating members must have a species license, any member can shoot the moose/bison, but only one per person and all members must be in communication and document when an authorization has been used. Shared hunts give more hunters the opportunity to participate in a hunt without increasing the number of authorizations.

Applying for a Shared Hunt is a bit easier in 2017 compared to 2016. New for this year, a member can initiate a Shared Hunt and add all the members at once, or generate a Group ID and share it with other members. If the group initiator decides to add all members at once, they will need each members FWID, and last name, and first initial. They will also be responsible for paying for each applications fee. Worth noting that an agent will not look up the FWID and names of members for you.

Finally, the draw is done

Once the draw is finished the results will be available online (historically the end of June, early July...hopefully, earlier this year). Successful authorizations will be mailed out with details and special instructions (shared hunts). This year there isn’t a requirement to carry the paper authorization while hunting. You will need your species license, however. Unfortunately, members of Shared Hunts will have to carry a paper Record of Harvest the paper-system hasn’t been completely eliminated.

Ok, how do some guys always get a draw?

Yeah, you know the dude...gets a moose draw every damn year. Permanently installed horseshoes. Well, the secret is....luck of the draw. And of course, some guys put in for areas that have lower odds or a less desirable area, or Shared Hunts with 3-4 members to increase the odds of being drawn. That is all you can control.

So, let us run an imaginary draw for a First Choice hunt...and only use one hunt code to make it simple.

We will choose Moose in 7-23D, Oct 1 to Nov 5, Hunt Code 4315. There are 13 authorizations available and 2016 First Choice odds were 2.5:1, which means 32 applicants applied for this draw. We will use the same odds and applicants for this simulation. We will assume all applications are individual to make it easier (for me).

Our randomly assigned numbers are 1-32 and one is assigned to each of the 32 applications. The numbers are sorted low to high, and all those applicants that were previously successful for a Moose draw from 2014-2016 will be flagged. We have several flagged applications, as the successful hunters from last year had a great time and want to go again....and the odds are only 2.5:1, so why not?

Number Flag Result Number Flag Result Number Flag Result Number Flag Result
😁 9 😁 17
😁 25
2 😁 10
😁 18
😢 26
😁 11
😁 19
😢 27 😢
😁 12
😁 20 😢 28
5 😢 13 😢 21
😢 29
😁 14
😁 22
😢 30
😁 15 😢 23
😢 31 😢
8 😢 16
😁 24 😢 32

The computer starts the first run, and 1 is given an authorization. Number 2 is looked at and the flag is noted, but it is the first, so it gets an authorization. 3 and 4 are lucky. 5 comes up and the flag is noted, and because this is flag 2 out of 3 will be skipped, so 5 doesn’t get an authorization. 6 and 7 get authorizations, however, 8 is flagged, and as it's the third flagged application, it's skipped. 9 is also flagged, but it's now the first of the next 3 flagged applications, and there are authorizations left, so it's a lucky recipient. 10-12 get lucky, but 13 is the second flag after 9, so doesn’t get lucky. 14 is lucky, but 15 is an unlucky third flag that doesn’t get one. 16 and 17 get lucky with authorizations. However, when 18 gets the call there are no more authorizations left, so every application from 18-32 do not get drawn for this hunt code.

The end result is that of 32 applications, 13 were drawn, and 2 of those drawn were at reduced odds. This is a rather simplistic example, but it does show how some lucky SOB appears to get drawn every year despite insurmountable odds, and other poor saps get nothing year after year. Just luck of the draw.

My brother sent me an exasperated email last year, following my 4th out of 5 moose draws. He couldn’t fathom how he had applied for Shared Hunt, with no reductions, in an area of such low odds that they were practically begging people to take the tags and still get skunked. Obviously, it was a nefarious government conspiracy, but I assured him some people got the looks, others got the horseshoe.

Other obvious tidbits

You must have a valid hunting license, and a valid species license for the authorization you have received, should you chose to go on the hunt. Getting an LEH authorization doesn’t allow a person to exceed the allowable bag limit as outlined in the BC Hunting Synopsis. For example, if you get a Moose LEH authorization, you can only take one moose whether it is during the LEH period or during a general open season.

2017 Hunting Licenses

New for 2017, is the news that Hunting license and Species licenses are now online like the LEH. Gone are the little books. Now you will purchase a Hunting License and Species License online. You will not receive a paper Hunting License, and will not be required to carry one. You will be required to carry the individual Species License. If purchased online, they will be mailed out and will probably take a week or so. If you are needing them quickly, you have the option of purchasing at Service BC, FrontCounter BC, or a local vendor as in the past. The tag itself is similar in size to the old hunting book pages but made of water and tear resistant paper. It will have a barcode and will be linked to your FWID so a Conservation Officer can check online. The tag will also have the familiar outside edge notches to cut for antlered/antlerless, region, month and day.

Concluding thoughts

Well, that was rather long, but hopefully, makes it a bit clearer on the how and why of the LEH system. If you are looking for a detailed explanation all you need to do is check out the province’s LEH page. Here, let me google that for you: BC LEH