Understanding The Arizona Big Game Draw

The Draws

Arizona's big game draw isn't actually a single draw but rather 3 draws performed throughout the year. The table below shows the species and time period for each draw.

  Spring Draw Elk & Antelope Fall Draw
Species Javelina, Black Bear, Turkey, Bison Elk & Antelope Javelina, Black Bear, Turkey, Bison, Deer, Bighorn Sheep
Application Period Mid September to Mid October Mid January to Mid February Mid May to Mid June


Every draw is performed using the same process, which we cover below. For each species, there will be numerous hunts identified by a hunt code. These hunts typically have a weapon restriction, unit restriction and date restriction linked to the hunt. The hunt will also have a limited number of permits (quota) available to draw.


Bonus Points

Arizona awards bonus points when an applicant is unsuccessful in the drawing for a species. Applicants can also just purchase a bonus point during the application period by applying for a bonus point only. Bonus points are per species, so you can build points for a host of species or just a single species. Applicants will need to have a valid hunting license in order to purchase a bonus point or apply for the drawing. For each bonus point an applicant has, they'll receive an additional entry into the drawing. 

In addition to getting an extra entry in the first pass (more on this in a sec) drawing, there is also a bonus pass round. Bonus points come into play by acting like a preference point in the bonus point round. High bonus point holders move ahead of lower bonus point holders in potentially drawing a permit. So that is another good reason to build points.



For each species hunters can submit an application. Each application allows up to 5 choices of hunt codes. Applicants can only draw one permit per species so once you have drawn, subsequent choices aren't considered. Arizona considers draw choices in buckets, 1st and 2nd choices are considered together and then 3rd, 4th and 5th are considered together.

When an applicantion for a species is evaluated, the applicants 1st choice will first be looked at to see if there is remaining quota. If there is they will be awarded a permit, if not their 2nd choice will be evaluated for remaining quota. Because 2 choices get evaluated, it is best to put the harder to draw hunt code as your first choice and easier to draw hunt code as your 2nd choice.


Draw Phases

Arizona big game draws are conducted in 3 phases:

  • The first phase is called the Bonus Point Pass
    • In this phase 20% of the total quota for a hunt code is allocated to bonus point holders with the highest point totals
    • All applicants for a species are assigned a random number and then sorted by bonus point total and random number. The highest point holders wit h the lowest random number is selected first. The lowest point holder with the highest random number selected last. Applicants 1st and 2nd choice are considered in this pass
    • For example if there is a quota of 10 permits available, 2 permits will be allocated to the highest point holders.
    • Suppose the highest point holders each have 10 points and there are 3 applicants holding that many points. The 3 applicants are ranked by their  randomly assigned number, lowest to highest, and the two lowest random numbers recieve the permits. 
  • The second phase is called the 1st & 2nd Pass
    • The remaining 80% of the total quota is available to be awarded. However, it is possible there will not be enough 1st & 2nd choice applicants to entirely allocate the quota
    • In the second phase, applicants 1st and 2nd choices are considered and they receive a random number for every bonus point in addition to their application random number. The lowest of these is retained for the draw.
    • Applicants for a species are then sorted lowest random number to highest random number and each application is evaluated sequentially
    • The applicants first choice is reviewed and if there are enough permits left to give to the application (applications can have 1 to 4 individuals ) then the applicant will be awarded a permit. Otherwise the applicants 2nd choice will be evaluated next to determine if there is quota available.
  • The third phase is called the 3rd, 4th & 5th Pass
    • Any remaining quota is available in this pass and it is conducted in the same manner as the 1st & 2nd pass. That is, applicants lowest random number is selected and then sorted lowest to highest.
    • The applicants 3rd, 4th and 5th pass choices are evaluated before moving on to the next applicant. So it again makes sense to order all hunt choices from hardest to easiest to draw.
    • If a hunt code's quota is historically fully allocated in by the second phase then do not select the hunt code for your third phase hunts. Unless the quota is significantly increased or other trends indicate the hunt may have remaining quota in the third phase this year.


NonResident Cap & Bonus Round

A 10% maximum quota allocation to nonresidents exist in Arizona. This cap is enforced at each phase of the draw. How does this impact nonresidents? Suppose a hunt has a quota of 10 permits. Nonresidents can only draw up to 1 of those permits.  The 10% is not guaranteed. There must be sufficient resident demand to meet the 10% cap. In other words, if the resident quota isn't completely allocated, the nonresident quota won't be allocated. AZGFD may also limit nonresident quota to less than 10%.

Up to 50% of resident tags can be allocated in the first phase or bonus point round. How does this work? If there were 10 nonresident permits available, then 5 of those could be allocated in the bonus point round.



Applicants can apply as a group. Up to 4 applicants can apply together. The average bonus points of the group are used and then rounded up or down to the nearest whole point at the .5 point cutoff (i.e. 4.5 -> 5 and 4.375 -> 4). Arizona does not allow the quota to be over allocated, so if a group of 4 were to draw when there are 3 permits left for a quota, their application will be skipped and not awarded the permits.


Extra Bonus Points

There are two ways to get extra bonus points in Arizona. First a hunter can enroll in hunter education. Arizona hunter education is open to all hunters, regardless of state of residency. This bonus point applies to all species! You can also take the class even if you already hold a hunter education license. Secondly, after applying for five consecutive years for a species, you will be awarded a "Loyalty" bonus point. 

Posted: December 1, 2022

Written By: Matt Habiger

About: Matt grew up running around the oaks, pines and birches in central Minnesota. He spent his youth hunting, fishing and riding bmx. For better or worse he's a restless hunter, prone to wandering the reaches of public land. Many youthful days were spent dreaming about chasing elk, deer and bear across mountain sides with a butterscotch maple Interarms 300 Weatherby from his father. 25 years later he still has the same dreams they just happen to come true every Fall and Spring.

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