Every year a few hundred hunters get a letter from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' telling them that an error on their application bumped them from a special license drawing.
About 42-45 percent of applicants fill out a paper application for the March 15, May 1 and June 1 drawings. Another 42-46 percent apply online and the remaining applicants apply over the counter at an FWP office.
"Last year was especially tough for hunters who used paper applications," said Hank Worsech, of FWP's licensing bureau. "Our records show 1,135 out of 275,177 hunting license drawing applicants received a letter notifying them of a fatal error on their application."
"Though this failure rate may sound low relative to the total number of applicants, every one of them represents a disappointed hunter—and that is a big deal," Worsech said.
What goes wrong for these folks?
Worsech said that most of the time a few common errors trip hunters up.
"Many nonresident applicants don't read the bold type at the bottom right of the application that says no personal or company checks accepted," he said. Nonresident paper applications call for money orders, cashier's checks or an international draft on a U.S. bank.
"In 2009, 217 nonresident applicants for the March 15 drawing sent personal checks, up from only 50 the year before," he said.
FWP doesn't decide on the license drawing requirements, they are spelled out in Montana law. A temporary team of about 20 people is hired to review every handwritten application and enter the information into a computer.
Worsech said some hunters even make the ultimate mistake and miss the application deadline. Montana law requires that the applications be postmarked on or before the deadline to be eligible for the drawing.
Of all the late applications FWP gets each year, the one that gets the prize was dated 2005 and arrived in 2008.
"You have to wonder where it spent those years and how and why it finally made its way to us," he said.
On the other hand, it isn't unusual for FWP to receive mail on time that has no stamp or Easter Seals in place of a stamp.
In last year's popular June 1 drawing for deer, elk and antelope licenses, about 165,000 hunters applied and 535 failed to make it into the drawing—up from 245 the year before.
"Maybe 2009 was just a bad year with a lot of distractions," Worsech said. "We found people forgot to sign the application, and some even forgot to select a hunting district."
He hopes these hunters have better focus this year, or that they apply online at fwp.mt.gov . The computer rejects the application until all fields are completed.
"Even with an online application it is critical to double check the hunting district number you typed to be sure it matches the district you intend to hunt," Worsech said. "Remember: once you click 'send,' or drop the envelope in the mail, there is no going back."