Why build points

Not long after I was discharged from the Marines, I was given the following advice; start investing in your retirement now. The quicker you start investing in your retirement, the faster your investment grows. The more you invest, the more you’ll have to retire on.

While that is some very practical advice, this isn’t a financial blog — We want to hunt elk in the best places the West has to offer, and you need to start building that investment now in order to do that.

There are two ways that I look at building points:

  1. You can build points in an area that gives you a shot at killing a trophy bull.
  2. You can build points for an opportunity hunt. Meaning, you pull a tag in a limited area, with a better shot at killing an elk — any elk.

Personally, I am focused on building points to simply kill a bull elk, not necessarily a trophy. If you pull a limited entry tag the quality of the hunt can be better, less competition, better management — more opportunity to notch the tag or find that trophy of your dreams. Simply put, you want to start building points in order to draw the better tags. OTC hunts can be fun and is a great way to learn how to elk hunt, but you have an opportunity for more.

Speaking of OTC hunts, you should hunt elk as much as possible. When you do draw that special tag you know what you’re doing. Practice makes perfect, and experience is the best teacher. There is really no excuse not to start saving for those OTC hunts, and building points for the future investment.

Where to build points, or apply


I have a very focused short-term goal in Colorado: Archery hunt one specific Unit multiple years, to determine if I want to continue hunting that area. Plus, plan a rifle hunt in the next five years (same Unit) in case I haven’t killed a bull by that time. Pulling the rifle tag will just help me get the job done and hunting that same Unit will help me understand the area.

This isn’t a long-term plan for me because the point creep is out of control in Colorado. There is a big gap between the Units you can hunt with three points vs. nine points vs. twenty points. There are tons of people applying for points in Colorado every year, and that means the really great Units could take 20+ years.

Reasons you should apply or hunt in Colorado:

  1. The best elk numbers in the country.
  2. OTC tags.
  3. Plenty of public land and access.
  4. If you are hunting there, adding a point is only going to cost you around $43 after refunds.

Reasons you should say “no” to Colorado:

  1. Overcrowded. Because everyone knows why you should hunt Colorado!

I recently had the good fortune of meeting Randy Newberg and asked him how often I should approach hunting Wyoming over a familiar area in Colorado. His answer — Every time you pull the tag!

Randy didn’t hold back in saying that Wyoming was a fantastic elk hunting state. From the information I’ve gathered I’m really excited about the opportunity to hunt this state — Soon!

Reasons you should apply in Wyoming:

  1. You can buy preference points in the summer for $50. That is a cheap investment!
  2. Great public access.
  3. You must pull a tag to hunt in most cases, making this a less crowded hunt.

Reasons you should not apply in Wyoming:

  1. I don’t need competition.
  2. Grizz
New Mexico

Have you watched any elk hunting videos lately with monster bulls? There is a good chance you’ve watched plenty where the hunter is in New Mexico.

Pulling tags in New Mexico is different in the fact you don’t “build” points. It’s actually a lottery system — this means you have the same chance of pulling a tag as ANYONE.

Reasons to hunt New Mexico:

  1. You could pull the tag of a lifetime, by luck.

Reasons not to apply New Mexico:

  1. There is one major reason for me — If you know you are wanting to hunt another state, and cannot go on two hunts, don’t apply.

Idaho, like New Mexico, is a lottery state. There are no bonus or preference systems so it’s all about the luck of the draw. This poses the problem of pulling tags in more than one state, and you need to understand this.

The problem with Idaho (for me) is the conundrum of hunting here instead of Colorado. To make a long story short, I’m on a one-year plan with Colorado because of what Idaho has to offer — On paper, it’s a fantastic OTC elk hunting option.

Other reasons why Idaho is my top OTC state:

  1. I know a guy that lives and hunts there — You know who you are!
  2. Less hunting pressure.
  3. Great public access.
  4. Repeat 1-3 about 10 times, then go back and look at the negative of Colorado.

You will not find any reasons from me not to elk hunt Idaho (from my research).

Final thoughts on states… (Resources at the bottom of the page) 

This is a complicated process, and there are more states you should consider, but I don’t want to complicate this process. The goal of this article was to help you develop a simple strategy for building points, or drawing a great elk hunt. To break everything down here is my recommendation:

  1. Pick an OTC Unit in a state that you can hunt year after year. Choices you should consider; Colorado, Idaho, and Montana (not mentioned in this article).
  2. Buy a preference point in Wyoming every year, and always try to draw a tag. If you draw a tag — go there!
  3. Apply in New Mexico, but understand the risk of drawing in more than one state if you pull a tag in another state.

Do your own research, but don’t over complicate the process. Just make sure you are hunting somewhere!

Resources to better understand the process, and tools once you draw the tag

Three tools to determine states and Units to Hunt:

1. gohunt.com

2. Eastman’s Hunting Journal

3. Huntin’ Fool magazine

Four tools to make you a better elk hunter:

1. RMEF membership

2. Elk101 University

3. Don’t leave home without the OnxMaps chip – you’ll thank me later.

4. Randy Newberg’s YouTube channel. He gets into the details of all these topics, and more!

Podcasts to help with the process

I’ve put a list together here: The Ultimate Elk Hunting Podcast Playlist

Your input

There is one piece of this article that is missing, and I desperately want to fill – Your knowledge and know-how.

Please comment if you have any advice or ideas.

Posted by Adam Crews