Why OTC Tags Are “Where It’s At”
The term “OTC Tags” is one that is growing more popular everyday in the hunting community. For those of you that don’t know what that stands for, it means “over the counter.” It is getting increasingly harder to draw tags through lottery systems. I don’t think it is going to start heading in the other direction anytime soon. We spend a ton of money every year on bows, clothing, optics, you name it. Hours and hours are spent at the range shooting our rifles and sighting in our archery equipment. For a lot of folks, myself included, it is disheartening when you invest so much time and money into something, only to be told you can’t go hunting this season. Not going hunting is just not an option on the table in my house. This is why I focus most of my attention on OTC tags.
The first year that I had ever taken up residency in the west, my Dad was drawn for deer here in Arizona. I had no idea what to expect from the adventure ahead. Before this, I had never even slept outside, much less gone on a deer hunt. Long story short, we had a great time and I got to experience my first western hunt. Being out in the mountains, sleeping in a tent, and the smell of a campfire are just a few things that planted the seed in me at an early age. From that point on, I would always look forward to going deer hunting with my Dad every year. I didn’t take into consideration the possibility of not being able to do so. Therein lies the ugly truth about only putting in for tags by lottery. I soon realized that I would not be going hunting every year with my Dad. That is until we found out about the over the counter opportunities our state had to offer.
OTC tags are IN GENERAL more difficult tags to fill. There is usually more pressure in the field as well as a higher sense of awareness in the animals. That doesn’t at all mean that it isn’t worth going on OTC hunts. It means quite the opposite actually. For those willing to put in the work and get away from the crowds, these hunts are just gold mines in my opinion. You can actually plan on going hunting every year and probably in the same area, if you choose to do so. Because of this, you can scout all year round and really learn the country you are in. OTC tags offer the ultimate opportunity, in the sense of scouting for a hunt. Being prepared for, not only this year, but years to come potentially is huge.
You can read all of the books and listen to all of the podcasts that you want. The only way that you are going to get good at hunting, is to be out hunting. If you are sitting around for 10 years waiting to draw a deer tag, then you are doing quite the opposite. This is another area where I think OTC tags are hugely beneficial. They give you the opportunity to hone your craft, as well as the potential to put some delicious meat in your freezer. Use these over the counter opportunities as a vessel to learn. No, you might not be hunting the biggest bulls or bucks in the country, but the fact of the matter is, you are hunting and will be put through the motions of the hunt. From the scouting to breaking an animal down and packing it out, you are going to get to take part in these things that you wouldn’t have an opportunity to if you were just sitting at home.
Prepared for Those Coveted Tags
Another area that I feel OTC tags shine is giving you the opportunity to prepare yourself for those coveted tags we wait so long to draw. Here’s a scenario. You’ve waited 15 years to draw a premium elk tag, and this year, you were lucky enough to get drawn. During this arduous time of waiting, you have done just that……waited. Never did you take advantage of OTC elk opportunities in the West to actually learn how to hunt elk and now you have drawn a coveted elk tag. This is something that I feared when I was first considering taking up elk hunting, which was not that long ago. I feared it because I didn’t want to wait all those years to draw an elk tag and then not know how to take advantage of it. There are plenty of over the counter opportunities across the West to hone your skills as an elk hunter. Why not take advantage of them while you are waiting for those dream tags? Aside from elk, there is also a plethora of OTC opportunities for bear, mountain lion, mule deer, coues deer, etc. Don’t just sit at home dreaming about hunting. Make those dreams a reality.
So, whether you are wanting to hunt elk in Idaho or coues deer in Arizona, make it happen. There are OTC tags begging to be bought in a variety of states for a variety of species. One person only has so many hunting seasons in them. I say make the most out of all of them, while we can. It gives us more opportunity to share a campfire with good friends and family. It allows us to plan ahead and look forward to actually going hunting, instead of living in limbo every year. It lets us progress and be ready when we do in fact draw those tags we wait so long for. Opportunity is in the air, so breath it in.