Colorado 2016 State Overview
6060 Broadway • Denver, CO 80216 | 303-297-1192
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE COLORADO’S OFFICIAL HUNTING REGULATIONS. USE IT ONLY AS A GUIDE. REFER TO THE STATE REGULATIONS WHEN APPLYING.
Colorado offers a good variety of big game animals to hunt, including Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep, Desert Bighorn sheep, Mountain goat, Shiras moose, elk, Whitetail deer, Mule deer, and antelope. All of the species have good trophy potential, with the exception of antelope, which are mostly average sized throughout the state.
Big game applications are typically due the first week of April. Youth hunters who are 11 years old can apply for hunts as long as they turn 12 years old before the hunting season ends. Online and paper applications are accepted for deer, elk, and antelope. For non-residents, only paper applications are accepted for sheep, moose, and Mountain goats. Colorado does not require you to buy a hunting license to hunt or apply for a hunt, but they do require a $10 Habitat Stamp. Adults have a non-refundable application fee of $3-$28 per species, depending on what species they are applying for and their Colorado activity the previous year. Youth have a $3 nonrefundable application fee per species when applying.
For deer, elk, and antelope, Colorado uses a true preference point system where the applicant with the most points gets the tags until the nonresident quota is met. Some units allow up to 35% of the tags to be issued to non-residents for deer and elk and up to 10% of the total sheep, moose, and Mountain goat tags, with no percentage limitation on antelope tags.
Sheep, moose, and Mountain goat tags are distributed differently than elk, deer, and antelope tags. Once an applicant has accumulated 3 preference points for sheep, goat, or moose, a weighted point will be awarded for each year thereafter that the applicant submits an application for that species and is unsuccessful in the draw. Weighted points increase your probability of being drawn. It is calculated by converting your application number into a different, random application number, then dividing that new application number by the amount of weighted points you have, plus one. This generates another new application number from lowest to highest, and low numbers for each hunt code are awarded licenses. This system does not pertain to antelope, elk, or deer.
Colorado is the land of giant Mule deer. Anyone who wants to harvest a big buck in their lifetime needs to be applying or building points in Colorado. On a good year, any unit in the state has the potential to produce a 200″ buck, from the plains in eastern Colorado to the mountains throughout the rest of the state. There is a hunt for everyone, no matter what type of hunting they prefer. Colorado offers archery, muzzleloader, and three to four different rifle seasons for deer, with some of the rifle hunts being near the rut or in the rut. Colorado allocates hundreds of landowner tags for private landowners to sell to hunters. This gives hunters an opportunity to bypass the draw or to purchase a tag if they are not drawn in the state draw system.
Eastern Colorado has some giant Whitetails and Mule deer. It is mostly private property, so we highly recommend that you secure an outfitter or permission to hunt private property before you apply for the tag. Deer points are deer points, so if you have been applying for Mule deer and would like to switch to Whitetail, your points will work for them as well. If you are looking for a Colorado Eastern Plains hunt, call us and we can help you find a good outfitter with quality private property. If you are a Mule deer hunter, you need to be trying to hunt Colorado every year.
Colorado has more elk and more elk tags available than any other state. They mainly manage their elk herd for opportunity and offer over-the-counter elk tags in most of the units. There are only a few limited draw areas that are managed for better bulls. The draw odds in the limited muzzleloader and rifle units are horrible, but they do produce 300-340″ plus type bulls. The over-the-counter units produce mostly young bulls that are 4×4, 5×5, or smaller 6-points.
We recommend that if you want to hunt elk, you hunt over-the-counter elk while you build preference points for the better limited units.
Colorado has a ton of antelope, but 80″ plus bucks are rare. Because of this, landowner tags are typically cheap. Not many tags are given in the draw, so it is tough to draw a tag. If you want a fun hunt, apply, but don’t expect to come home with a Boone and Crockett antelope from Colorado.
Colorado has great Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep populations with some 165-175″ plus rams being harvested every year. Colorado is the only state that offers archery only seasons. There are a handful of archery units offered to non-residents every year. These archery units typically have better draw odds. Colorado issues about 20 non-resident sheep tags each year between the rifle and archery seasons, but there is usually only one Desert Bighorn sheep tag given to a non-resident.
Colorado produces some of the highest scoring Shiras moose every year and should be at the top of your list if you want to hunt a giant bull moose. Non-residents are limited to a few units for moose, and a small number of tags are allocated to nonresidents each year. A lot of public land, good moose populations, and big bulls make this a “must apply for” species.
Colorado’s Mountain goat hunting is good with healthy goat populations in most of their units. About 15-20 goat tags are issued to non-residents each year. Colorado’s Mountain goats are average for trophy quality, with an occasional B&C goat being taken. Colorado has high hunter success on their goat hunts. Apply if a Mountain goat is on your bucket list.
Colorado is a great state to hunt because of the abundant game populations, trophy animals, plenty of public land on the western side of the state, and it is the easiest state to secure a tag to hunt every year. A really good thing about Colorado is that their youth tags are cheap for elk and deer, so take your kids hunting in Colorado or start building points for them. It’s a great way to get them started and keep them interested in hunting.
With a high number of draw tags for Mule deer, combined with abundant landowner tags, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be hunting Colorado every year for a big Mule deer. If you are a Mule deer hunter, you cannot miss applying in Colorado.