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CDFW Accepting 2021 Big Game Tag Returns and Preference Point Reinstatements Through April 30
  • April 21, 2022
Two 2021 deer tags rest on a tree stump along with assorted big game hunting gear.

Many California deer, elk and pronghorn hunters whose 2021 seasons were cut short or eliminated as a result of wildfires and public land closures are now able to seek a reinstatement of their preference points and receive refunds of their tag fees in some cases.

Eligible elk and pronghorn tag holders must submit their unfilled tags along with a written request to reinstate their preference points and receive a tag refund by mail to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) postmarked no later than April 30, 2022. Eligible tag holders will also receive a preference point for the species for the 2021 season.

State law does not allow the refund of deer tag fees, but eligible premium deer tag holders can submit their unfilled tags along with a written request to reinstate their preference points – including earning an additional point for deer in the 2021 season – also no later than April 30, 2022.

Written requests and returned tags must be mailed to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
License and Revenue Branch
Attention: Big Game Hunting Desk
P.O. Box 944209
Sacramento, CA 94244-2090

No 2021 bighorn sheep hunts are eligible for preference point reinstatements or refunds. Only the premium deer, elk and pronghorn hunts listed below are eligible:

2021 Deer Hunts Eligible for Preference Point Reinstatement:

A1, A3, A4, A5, A6, A7, A11, A12, A13, A14, A15, C, D14, D16, X1, X4, X8, G1, J21

Only deer tags acquired through the Big Game Drawing as a hunter’s first choice are eligible for preference point reinstatement. 

2021 Pronghorn Hunts Eligible for Refunds and Preference Point Reinstatement:

710, 720, 730, 732, 734, 740, 742, 745, 750, 755, 760, 766, 780, 790 

2021 Elk Hunts Eligible for Refunds and Preference Point Reinstatement:

304, 305, 331, 409, 411 

As a result of an unprecedented loss of public access and big game hunting opportunity due to wildfires and forest closures in the summer and fall of 2021, CDFW pursued regulation changes allowing affected deer, elk and pronghorn hunters to seek a reinstatement of their preference points used to acquire their premium tags, which can take years, sometimes decades, to obtain through CDFW’s annual Big Game Drawing.

The California Fish and Game Commission approved the regulation changes at its February 2022 meeting and the regulations were enacted April 18, providing only a short window of time for hunters to submit and CDFW to process thousands of anticipated requests prior to the 2022 Big Game Drawing, which will be conducted in early June.

Pronghorn and elk tag holders requesting a refund of their tag fees in addition to preference point reinstatement will be subject to a nonrefundable processing fee of $31.95 that will be deducted from their tag refund. Hunters should allow six to eight weeks for a refund check to arrive in the mail from the State Controller’s Office.

Hunters may still participate in the 2022 Big Game Drawing even as their preference point reinstatement requests are being processed. Once approved, reinstated preference points will be applied to a hunter’s 2022 Big Game Drawing application at the time of the drawing.

CDFW is in the process of notifying affected tag holders directly and encourages those interested in obtaining notices such as these more quickly to consider adding an accurate e-mail address to their customer record at CDFW’s Online License Sales and Service website and selecting “Yes” to opt in to CDFW Licensing Reminders if not already subscribed.

Additional information, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and the new regulations, is available at Post Season Tag Returns. Questions that aren’t addressed in the FAQs should be directed to CDFW’s License and Revenue Branch via e-mail at LRB@wildlife.ca.gov or by phone at (916) 928-5805.

CDFW asks affected tag holders to review the FAQs before sending e-mails or calling with questions due to the heavy volume of expected tag returns (up to 12,000) and the time required to process requests for hunters to use their preference points in the 2022 Big Game Drawing. Prior to 2020, CDFW received an average of 125 tag returns annually.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

Categories: Big Game, Deer, Fire, Hunting


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