Fee to Enter Alabama State Hunting Lottery

Eric Patterson

Staff member
Today I registered to enter the Swan Creek blind drawing and also to enter the lottery for a sandhill crane special season permit. I was surprised there was a fee associated with these lotteries totaling over $30. I believe this is the first time ever DCNR has charged a fee just to be in a draw. I could see a fee being assessed to the people that are drawn, but honestly I'm taken back by a fee just to enter the draw. My question is do other states charge a lottery entry fee for hunting related lotteries? There is another lottery that opens in a couple weeks, called a Special Opportunity Area (SOA), where those drawn get to hunt a portion of the WMA that is closed to the public and only hosts a few hunts all season for lottery winners. I suspect I'll have to pay for it as well on top of the $30 I already forked over, should I choose to enter. If I won I'd be happy to pay a usage fee. But pay just to enter seems like they're gouging the public's interest in hunting.

Maine has a lottery for moose tags. I forget the minimum, but there's a range you can spend. Maybe $50-5000. If you enter the minimum every time I believe you are "guaranteed" with the point system to get in by around 20/25 years. I haven't entered it in a few years, and you need to pay in every 3 years not to get bumped. Not really interested in blasting a moose, and if that ever changes maybe I'll go to Newfoundland where you can just buy a tag and go that year.

Side note, I know folks sell their tags for big money up in Maine. We always see folks moose hunting when we go for grouse. We always always get asked why we drive 11 hours for grouse- just a different mindset.

We have lottery and non-lottery tags in CT, but I don't recall if there's a fee just to enter the draw. I just pick up my deer from the local PD as I'm on their road kill lists.
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There are fees to enter the drawings here on NWR. There are also fees to enter the special opportunity hunts here. Big game draws in many states out west also often have a fee associated with putting your name in the pot. Some become part of the tag cost if you win. Some are refundable.
I've never done it for waterfowl, but I spend several hundred dollars annually on big game lotteries. In most cases, you earn a preference or bonus point for your trouble, but there are cases where you do not.
My understanding is that we had it pretty darn good in ALabama for may years in the ways of access to most WMAs, our open public waters with limited rules and low license/tag fees when compared to most other states.
Bottom line is that it costs ADCNR money to run these drawings and to manage the WMA and SOA drawings & hunts.
They get no funds from state taxes to do so, just licenses & fees and PR/WB matching funds.
Carl said:
My understanding is that we had it pretty darn good in ALabama for may years in the ways of access to most WMAs, our open public waters with limited rules and low license/tag fees when compared to most other states.
Bottom line is that it costs ADCNR money to run these drawings and to manage the WMA and SOA drawings & hunts.
They get no funds from state taxes to do so, just licenses & fees and PR/WB matching funds.

That is all very true. When the state started charging a WMA fee folks were upset while I fully supported it. When other license fees went up too, I supported those as well. I know they have a very small budget. It is a shame we don't have a 1/8 cent sales tax like other states that not only pays the bills but buys significant more land too. But we don't. Managers struggle to get the job done with tiny budgets. I get it.

Having said that I oppose the registration fee. The state has essentially set up a raffle that allows one ticker per customer. I would prefer to pay a usage fee if drawn, even were it significantly higher, than to probably throw my money away.

Look, I've complained about this stuff before. Bottom line I long for the old days, fewer rules and few hassles to enjoy public lands. Every year more structure is added. More rules, more fees, restricted access (which increases crowds btw) etc., and I'm not seeing improvements in hunt quality for their efforts. Actually the opposite, and honestly it sours my attitude for anything else they bring forth.

Old days, or new days.

Hunters and Fisherfolks have footed the bill, and will continue to do so at an even greater rate in tough times. Fish & Game Departments have been last on the list of funding seemingly forever.

We have never been freeloaders, like some other groups, and never will be.

Pay to play will be more evident than ever. Blue collar hunting as it was, a thing of the past.

There are many a reason I'm glad to be as old as I am, and done the things that I love to do.

my 2 cents
NC is the same with a charge to apply for hunts.
I apply for swan permits here and it's $10 for the lottery. If you don't get drawn then you get points so that you are pretty much guaranteed to get one the next year.
Eric, you might ask to see where the drawing monies go. Perhaps those entry fees go to support specific properties as some extra money towards helping keep them nice. I am not upset about a pay to enter a drawing. My opinion is it keeps everyone from entering because not everyone wants to pay to enter so the chances are better at drawing. Most times it is only $5 or so for the stuff I put in for. I know big game is higher and I will be looking at those more in the future since I have a rifle my brother made me that is in need of meeting an antelope. But in general, my understanding is the entry fees go to support whatever DNRs budget. I have never put in for one or seen one where preference points weren't given if you didn't pull. Heck, some states allow you to buy extra preference points. Perhaps though, there will be a response to the entry fee question that might make it more palatable to you.

I am with you on the more rules, lesser access, though I don't worry much about fees since I have a lifetime hunting fishing license in FL so my licenses (except gators) are all nonresident anyway and I expect to pay more period.
An update:

I think I'm over being ticked for paying the fee, especially since so many here say their states charge a fee. I do want to add some info just for completeness of the discussion.

For starters I learned yesterday I was not selected for a Swan Creek blind spot. I say spot because the the state does not supply a blind, rather a place to park a floating blind you supply for the season. We had a group of about 15 and not one of us was selected. I did hear there were more than 900 entries so that means the state brought in over $18,000. I hope those funds go right back to Swan Creek.

I took Dani's advise and asked a few questions about the drawing registration fees on the Al DCNR FB page. No response.

But were they to claim it is just to cover the cost of the blind draw I'll have to doubt that. Up until a couple years ago the blind draw was done in person with about 300 blinds showing up. All 300 blinds would be inspected and only if they passed inspection would they enter the draw. I attended several of the drawings over the years and the state had no less than a half dozen employees at the drawing all day long inspecting each and every blind. After that was done they'd start the drawing and with every blind owner present they'd spin a big tumbler full pill bottles each containing the name of a blind owner. One-by-one a pill bottle was pulled, opened, and name called out. The lucky person went to a board and picked a spot from the ones that remained. At one time there were 75 blinds, then it went to 50. Either way it made for a long day. Now everything is handled with software and the only blinds that are inspected are the 30 (reduced from 50) that are lucky enough to be drawn. This without a doubt requires a fraction of manpower to run, and given all the drawings the sate is doing now there is no doubt the fees more than cover the software they bought to run the drawings. Plainly put they cut costs and generated money at the same start. A really smart business move, but I still don't like paying to enter a raffle.

Now I wait to see if I'm drawn for the sandhill crane season and then I will to put in (maybe) for the Special Opportunity Area (SOA) draw. Yep, another $10-20, make that times two. Thomas is a nearly broke college student so I cover his fees too. By the time it is all said and done I will have spent $100 and it is not looking like I'll get anything in return. Vegas offers better odds. Such is the life of a WMA hunter in this day and age. The older I get, the less I like it.

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Now this just tickles me to no end. If you recall at the top of the thread I was expressing discontent about the state charging to enter a draw to get a duck blind location at a local WMA.

Well guess what? Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (AL DCNR) broke state law. Here in Alabama lotteries are considered gambling and the state does not allow it. Someone complained about the duck blind lottery fee and it went to the state Attorney General who said ALDCNR can't charge a fee to enter a draw. AL DCNR is now refunding everyone's money going back in time.

Seeing as how I don't believe you should pay a fee just for a chance to hunt this really pleased me.

They?ve been charging fees for the alligator hunts for years, wonder why that?s been ok but not this drawing for blinds??
Charging fees to enter the gator hunt draw? Or just charging for a gator tag if drawn? I've never paid attention to that opportunity.

"The cost to apply per zone is $22. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover accepted. Application fees are not refundable. "

Are you sure on your sources that indicated that the AG ruled that these drawings & application fees are considered "lotteries"?
I have not heard or seen anything about it.
I'm skeptical.
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Cant find the opinion online either.


Also, the drawings are specifically authorized in state law:
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I did not get the AG ruling info from an official source. Someone may have assumed it was the AG. However, I have a hunting partner that received a refund notice from AL DCNR.

Interesting, never heard of application fees being refunded.
Next time I run into one of my former colleagues at ADCNR, I will ask about this.