Understanding Hunting Draws

In Alberta, you can hunt some big game species by purchasing a general (over-the-counter) licence. Other species are not as straightforward and you need a special licence.

A special licence permits you to hunt a specific type of big game animal in a specific WMU. To get a special licence, you must be successful in the draw system.

Why have a draw system? Well, when a species cannot withstand the pressure of unlimited tags – or when game managers are working toward a specific population objective – the draw system helps manage hunting pressure.

The need-to-know:

  • The Alberta Hunting Draws booklet comes out each year at the end of May. Find the booklet online at www.albertaregulations.ca.
  • You must have a valid WIN card to apply for a special licence.
  • You can apply online at www.albertarealm.com or in person at a licence issuer.
  • Draws are due by mid-June. Get yours in on time.
  • Most draw results are available online at www.albertarealm.com by mid-July. If you don’t have an email address your results are mailed by early August.
  • There are certain restrictions and maximums allowed when applying for some draws. Always refer to the hunting draws booklet for current information.

It’s all about priority

Alberta’s special licence draws are based on a priority system. Generally speaking, you gain one priority point for each year you apply for the same special licence and are not successful. You want to build priority to increase your chances of being drawn. A few things to keep in mind:

  • If you are drawn for a special licence your draw priority for that specific licence goes back to zero, even if you don’t hunt under that special licence.
  • Priority levels apply to a specific draw code, regardless of the WMU or season you apply for within that draw code.
  • With few exceptions, if you are drawn for a special licence you are not permitted to buy a general licence for that species in the year you are drawn.

999 it!

If you’re unable to hunt in a given year but want to increase your priority level for future years, enter “999” as the first and only draw choice on your application. By entering “999” you’re telling the system you do not want to be drawn and that you are only applying to increase your draw priority. There are some limitations – check the current hunting draw booklet for details.

Looking for tips on applying for draws as a single hunter or a group of hunters? Check out our articles on hunting draw strategies for The Single Applicant and Applying as a Group.

With your draws in or licences purchased, you're getting closer to heading out. What makes all the difference in the world as a new hunter? The right mentor. Check out the next article in our Start Harvesting series: Finding a Hunting Mentor.


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