Leftover Tags Are A Great Opportunity

If you are like me this year, the tag gods did not exactly bless you with a thrilling hunting season. I can’t complain too much because I have been very fortunate in the past and you can’t have the best luck every year. If you did, drawing a great tag would not be as exciting.

With all the excitement over for the main draw, there are often countless left-over tags for premium units that have not been given out. Depending on your state, the leftovers can be up for grabs and can offer you a second chance at a successful hunting season. 

When it comes to leftover tags, a little research can go a long way. I have a few tips that can help you wade through the bad units and come up with some potential great second opportunities.

Know the Land Composition

Often times when you see leftover tags, especially out west, it has to do with access. For example, east of I-25 is the majority of private land. As a result, there are always leftover deer and antelope tags available. But remember just having a tag isn’t the gateway to hunting, land access is. So, in Colorado, I almost always count out any unit on the eastern plains. If you have unit-specific maps or national forest service maps, these will help you evaluate which units have accessibility to public land and how you can access it. 

Don’t Be Picky

Remember that if you are looking at leftover tags you probably don’t have a tag in your pocket, to begin with. So, don’t go in with the mentality of finding a “magical” unit and killing a giant buck. Don’t get me wrong, this happens every year in some units, but I wouldn’t count on it. A leftover tag is your chance to get out in the field during the fall and have a chance to fill the freezer. 

This is a nice little bull elk that I took on a leftover tag. Remember, it’s about getting outdoors and not taking a giant. I was thrilled with this bull!

Keep your options open. Don’t be afraid to take a doe tag, this can open up the opportunity to look at a new unit and find something for next year. I find that when you keep your expectations in check, hunting on leftover tags is much more enjoyable and you often find success. 

This was obviously an awesome day. I took a deer, turkey, and coyote all just because I decided to buy a leftover turkey and deer tag.

Know Where to Buy

Leftover tags are the “hail Mary” for most hunters, meaning that they can get a little desperate when trying to buy them. Most game agencies have different rules for purchasing leftover tags than they do for the regular draw or over the counter tags. Most of them make you call the agency directly to purchase or go to a physical agency location and wait in line to buy them. That means you can’t just log on to the website and buy them, and you can’t go to Walmart and get your license. It’s almost like they want to see the chaos and panic as some sort of amusement. I have literally seen lines over a block long waiting to see if they will get their tag. Most agencies operate on a first-come, first-serve basis for leftover tags, so even if you wait in line there is no guarantee that the tag will be available when you get your chance.

It’s hard not to count views like this as a successful hunt. Even if you don’t get to take an animal, enjoy the opportunity to get outdoors.

Although it can be a little hectic and inconvenient, it is often worth it. I have had some of my most memorable hunts hunting on leftover tags. The best part is that I never come away disappointed. I didn’t even expect to hunt anyway, so just being in the outdoors with an opportunity is a success. I always seem to find a cool new unit or see something that I have never had the opportunity to see before. So, if you have struck out on your state draw, I would encourage you to look into the leftover tags in your state. I would be willing to bet that you will find a hunting opportunity and most likely have at least a chance at filling the freezer.

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About the author: Jake Wallace was introduced to the shotgun sports after breaking his hips when he was 11, which forced him into a wheelchair for 23 months. He saw a shooting program on one of the outdoor networks and thought that it was something he could do from a chair. Jake started shooting ATA from a chair and progressed to international when he was able to walk again. He loves being in the outdoors because nothing clears his mind like sitting in the woods or on a boat. Jake was part of Lindenwood University’s history of success having graduated from there in 2012 after being a part of four ACUI National Championships for the Lions from 2009-12. He currently resides in Colorado Springs where he’s a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. JAKE WALLACE: Hunting for Trap Superiority http://www.usashooting.org/news/usasnews/USAnews-2017-August/?page=22 Competition Highlights • 2018 World Cup Gold Medalist, Mixed Team • 2017 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2017 World Championships Team Member • 2017 Qatar Open, First Place • 2016 Fall Selection Match Champion • 2015 Shotgun Team Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 USA Shooting National Championships, Gold Medalist • 2014 Championship of the Americas, Silver Medalist – shot a perfect 125 in qualification to tie World Record • 2014 Fall Selection, Silver Medalist • 2014 Spring Selection, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Granada World Cup, Sixth Place • 2013 World Clay Target Championships Team Member • 2013 National Championships, Bronze Medalist • 2013 Spring Selection Match, Bronze Medalist • 2010 World Championships Junior Team, Silver Medalist (w/ M. Gossett) • 2010 World Championships Junior Team Member

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