By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
One $30 raffle ticket has resulted in one very epic upcoming autumn hunt season for a Buffalo police officer.
James Kozisek, a detective with the Buffalo Police Department, took a chance this spring when he purchased his raffle ticket for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “SuperTag Trifecta,” which allows the holder to hunt any three big game animals anywhere in the state.
“It’s kind of weird, they have these other SuperTags, where you can buy just for each animal, and I usually do that,” Kozisek told Cowboy State Daily. “And I could not tell you why, I was just like, ‘Oh, why the hell not, it’s thirty bucks,’ and I just bought one ticket.
“I usually don’t buy a Trifecta,” he continued, “because I think the odds are so (bad) that I’m just like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ but for some reason – I can’t even explain why, just a random act – I just bought one ticket, and that was it!”
According to Sarah DiRienzo, public affairs specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, it’s unusual for someone in Wyoming to win the Trifecta.
“It is exciting, always, when a Wyoming resident is able to win the Trifecta,” said DiRienzo, “because it is a raffle. So it’s a random draw, residents and non-residents are in the mix together.”
Kozisek had monumental competition for the prize. A total of 124,602 SuperTag raffle tickets were sold in the state this year, raising $1.6 million to go toward supporting wildlife management and other conservation issues in Wyoming.
That was a record-breaking number, as last year’s raffle raised $1.3 million.
Those funds help the Game and Fish Department meet its budget, which last year came in at more than $79.5 million.
“That money goes into the Game and Fish general operating fund, which goes to support projects like mule deer initiatives, our Conservation Camp, Chronic Wasting Disease research, projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, fish passage projects,” DiRienzo noted. “It could go towards any of our on-the-ground wildlife projects, and also projects to help people learn more about the outdoors.”
People often purchase multiple SuperTag raffle tickets not only to get the chance to hunt big game anywhere in the state, but also to support conservation efforts in Wyoming, DiRienzo said.
“It is really a once in a lifetime experience to be able to draw a SuperTag,” she said. “It’s so special to be able to go on a hunt like this. I mean, we just hear from hunters all the time who – and lots of people don’t win, there’s not that many licenses available – but they say that the reason they buy super tag tickets is primarily to support conservation. And that’s really cool.”
Winners of the individual SuperTag raffles this year hail from Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, Wisconsin, Washington, and Arkansas, as well as one other hunter from Wyoming, Keith Reau, who won the wild bison tag.
Holders of the individual SuperTags will be able to hunt one pre-selected big game species anywhere in the state.
Kozisek, a born-and-raised Wyomingite, has hunted since he was a boy. But winning the SuperTag Trifecta has inspired a bigger sense of adventure as he plans his fall hunt season.
“I’ve killed lots of elk, but I’ve never killed a monster, like, a big one,” Kozisek pointed out. “And one of the things Alicia (Kozisek’s wife) brought up, she’s like, ‘Go travel the state.’ There are places in this state I’ve never been. There’s phenomenal hunting all over the Red Desert, the Ferris Mountains down by Green River, all that country where I’ve never even been.”
Kozisek explained that unlike a Commissioner’s Tag, in which a hunter must report to the Game and Fish Department where he or she intends to hunt, the SuperTag has no such restrictions.
“I can hunt anywhere in the entire state when the season’s open,” he said. “I can go hunt the Red Desert, load up my truck and drive to Cody, hunt there, I can hunt anywhere I want, as long as there’s a season open. I don’t have to declare to anyone. The whole state is wide open.”
The SuperTag Trifecta allows the winner to choose from 11 big-game species which three he or she will hunt: bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, elk, wild bison, deer, pronghorn, black bear, gray wolf, and mountain lion.
However, Kozisek does have to declare what species he intends to hunt prior to the season opening.
“I have a few more months to finalize everything,” he said. “I could change my species and pick bighorn sheep and bison if I wanted to, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing mountain goat, and I’m leaning towards elk and deer.”
Because Kozisek has lived in Wyoming his whole life, he’s got friends around the state who have offered their assistance to give him the best chance of bagging his targets. However, he wants to see if he can act as his own guide – being a Wyomingite and all.
“Some of these guys are like, ‘Man if you need help, let us know,’” he said. “But a Wyoming boy drawing a Wyoming trifecta? I’d like to try to do it on my own. However, I need to do it right. So if all of a sudden in November or late October I’m hurting, I can call (some friends who are guides) and they’ll try to get me in.”
Kozisek said his win has drawn attention from around the state from well-wishers hoping he succeeds.
“The State of Wyoming is just there,” he said. “They’re supporting me. I mean, there’s people that are willing to help me out and point me in the right direction, or whatever I need.”
That support includes his bosses at the City of Buffalo, who have assured him that if he needs extra time off from his job as a police detective, he’s got it.
“I called down to city hall and I had to talk to them about a leave of absence,” he said. “And they said, ‘Absolutely, if you run short on vacation or whatever, we understand this isn’t just a normal thing and you can look into a leave of absence, unpaid time off-type stuff.’”
Since Kozisek and his wife grew up in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains and lived and worked for eight years in Cody, he said his wife encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond the hunting grounds he is familiar with.
“She’s like, ‘You’ve seen Cody and Meeteetse, but go explore the state – you can hunt anywhere at any time. As seasons open, go explore, go explore this wonderful state.”