Hunters might consider a Super Hunt tag a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but if that’s the case, Dustin Stevenson of Boise must have cat lives because he’s drawn four of them and is still applying for more.
Before you utter “some guys have all the luck,” Stevenson makes a strong case that’s not the case. While he’s had incredible luck with Super Hunts, it doesn’t hold true for other controlled hunts.
“The amazing thing is I’ve put in for antelope controlled hunts for 31 years and only drawn one,” he said. “But I’ve drawn four antelope Super Hunt tags.”
The 43-year old, life-long Idaho resident and self-described “hunting and fishing fool” explains that during those same 31 years, he’s only drawn controlled hunt tags twice for deer and once each for bear, elk and turkey.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Super Hunts, they’re a special drawing for Idaho’s best big game tags for deer, elk, moose and pronghorn. A Super Hunt tag allows you to hunt any unit - general or controlled - that’s open for that species.
Unlike controlled hunts, residents and nonresidents can apply for Super Hunt tags as many times as they like for $6 each and $20 for the Super Hunt Combo (one tag for each species). The cost of the application also covers the cost of the tag if you’re drawn. Proceeds from Super Hunt drawing benefits Fish and Game’s Access Yes! program. You can see more details on the Super Hunt webpage.
Four Super Hunts is an impressive tally, which makes you wonder, what is Stevenson’s secret? He said there isn’t one, except having applications in every drawing, which he has done since the Super Hunt program started in 2004.
He figures he averages $150 annually on Super Hunt applications, and he puts in for all four species, as well as the Super Hunt Combo.
“I’ve always had my name in the hat,” he said. “You can’t win if you don’t play, just like the saying goes.”
But he also understands people’s skepticism because he’s felt it was well. He remembers sitting in a small audience in the early years of the drawing when winning applications were drawn by hand from a large barrel. (The drawing is now computerized.)
“The first couple years I was like ‘I am never going to draw one of those things,’” he said.
The first antelope tag came in 2008, and he took a trophy-sized buck in Unit 39 near Boise on opening day, but that doesn’t mean his hunt was short or easy. He spent about 10 days scouting for the buck because he wanted to “do the tag justice.”
“To go out and find a nice antelope is a lot of time and a lot of scouting,” Stevenson said.
He enjoyed the experience because there are large antelope herds nearby, and he was even able to scout during his lunch breaks from work.
“Antelope are fun because you can go out any time of day and see animals,” he said. “And there can be a big one anyplace.”
Two years, later, Stevenson was back with his second Super Hunt tag, and this time, he concentrated on the Owyhee Desert and took another trophy buck. He said his goal was to top the previous one, which is in itself a challenge because pronghorn antlers are notoriously hard to score by looking at them from a distance.
“Antelope are hard to judge,” he said. “Aside from bears (which are measured by their skull size), antelope are the hardest.”
He said if you want one that scores high in Boone and Crockett Club ranking, its horns have to be tall and have a large circumference.
While height is relatively easy to determine, mass is much more challenging, especially on a 100-degree day with heat waves blurring a spotting scope, not to mention the fact an old, savvy pronghorn buck isn’t likely to cooperate with your pinpoint analysis.
Stevenson shot another nice buck in 2010, and then in 2012 the phone rang again from Fish and Game. He said he figured it was a survey or something. Nope. He won his third Super Hunt tag, but that year, he also drew a deer tag and planned to devote most of his efforts to filling it.
With only a few days left in the pronghorn season, he headed out to his now-familiar antelope hunting grounds and tagged one that topped the previous two.
Then the Super Hunt call came again in 2013, and Stevenson joked “All my hunting buddies hated me.”
He killed his fourth trophy pronghorn, and said one of the things he learned about antelope hunting is you can make it as hard or as easy as you want. He said he could have driven a few miles from Boise and taken a legal buck, but he could also spend days scouting a big one, and then spot and stalk that pronghorn to add to the challenge of the hunt.
Despite his wild success with antelope Super Hunts, Stevenson’s heart really pines for a Super Hunt elk tag, which is usually where he spends most of his money on applications. Stevenson said he can’t remember exactly how many applications he bought for pronghorns each year that he drew one, but he remembers drawing one with a single entry, and he’s never bought more than five antelope entries in a single drawing.
After four antelope Super Hunts and no coveted Super Hunt elk tag, or other tags, is Stevenson thinking about skipping antelope and putting all his money into other species?
“No,” he said. “They’re just too much fun to hunt.”
More about Idaho Super Hunts
- Deadline for first drawing entries is May 31.
- Eight elk, eight deer, eight pronghorn and one moose will be drawn.
- One Super Hunt Combo will also be drawn. This winner is entitled to hunt all four species.
- Winners will be notified by June 10.
Second Drawing deadline for entries is Aug. 10.
- Two elk, two deer, two pronghorn and one moose hunt will be drawn.
- One Super Hunt Combo will also be drawn.
- Winners will be notified by Aug. 15.
How to enter
- Online with a credit card here.
- At license vendors with a credit card.
- By phone 1-800-554-8685 with a credit card.
- At Fish and Game offices with a check or debit card.
- By mail, send a Super Hunt order form with a check.