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Colorado Bighorn Sheep Hunting

 

Colorado Bighorn Sheep Hunting 2024

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Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herds in Colorado have definitely been a success story over the last decade, with the majority of units seeing increased sheep numbers. Sheep have remained healthy throughout the state in recent years with the exception of unit S32 that saw an outbreak of pneumonia in 2023. Hopefully this outbreak will run its course and be over soon with minimal damage. However, sheep applicants will see a slight reduction in overall tag numbers for 2024, mainly due to this situation. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue to have an aggressive approach to sheep hunting in the state, issuing as many tags as they feel necessary to sustain sheep numbers at their current level. Even with this aggressive approach and over 300 sheep tags being issued each year, draw odds have decreased as more and more applicants apply each year. The success of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep should be celebrated by all and gives hunters another opportunity to draw an elusive sheep tag. If sheep hunters can be patient and maybe a little lucky, they will one day get to hunt sheep in the Centennial State.

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Most of the units in the state are managed for a 6 to 8-year-old ram harvest objective. Colorado takes a very aggressive approach to harvesting rams once they are mature as they feel the mature rams are on borrowed time with the severity of winters in sheep habitat in most units throughout the state. Since most non-resident ram tags are issued in units west of the Front Range in the Rocky Mountains, rams have a harder life and therefore typically max out in the mid to upper 160s with the occasional ram reaching the 180" mark. The bighorn populations that live most of their lives at the low elevations of the Eastern Plains tend to be a little bigger and carry more mass due to the easier lifestyle. Hunters will want to remember that most sheep hunts in the state are extremely physical and not to be taken lightly. The terrain that these animals live in is very rugged and hunters will want to be in good physical and mental shape before taking on the challenge.

Colorado continues to be a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts and recreational hikers, and sheep are consistently looking for a reprieve from these activities. This ever-increasing encroachment into historic bighorn sheep habitat is pushing sheep into new and oftentimes rough, steep country that is non-traditional habitat. This constant activity by recreationalist has changed the sheep feeding and bedding habits, oftentimes making harvest success a lot tougher even with all the advancements in technology. Hunters are going to want to do their homework if successful in the draw. Scouting both in the field and digitally will be a huge asset as sheep herds have become harder to predict due to more human presence throughout the year. Becoming familiar with the entire unit may be the difference between harvesting a sheep or not, or you must be willing to hire a great outfitter if your schedule does not allow for scouting that will put all that work in for his clients prior to their hunt.

Colorado Bighorn Sheep Season & Dates

Please check the regulations for the specific dates you're looking for.

In 2024, Colorado will issue an estimated total of 321 bighorn permits, which is down 10 permits from 2023. Of those permits, 30 are set aside for non-residents, with 24 being rifle permits split between 17 rams and 7 ewes, rounded out with 6 archery-only ram permits. Colorado and Utah are the only states in the West that have archery specific Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunts. Archery hunts are difficult with lower success, but they provide better draw odds than rifle hunts. Of those archery hunts, S34 and S69 are more archer friendly and have the best potential for higher success and bigger rams.

 

Changes for non-residents in 2024 include the addition of an S32 second season archery tag, but the loss of an archery tag in S09 for a ram. Additionally, S74 will have a rifle ram tag available and S44 rifle will have a tag removed. For ewe hunts, S3 will be added and units S32 and S51 will have tags removed for the 2024 season, giving one less ewe than last year for nonresidents. Rocky Mountain bighorn can be expensive to build points for at $100 for a preference/weighted point fee. If you already have the required 3 preference points, remember that building points is optional and you can apply and are eligible in the draw without building points going forward.

Colorado Desert Bighorn Sheep

Colorado is home to a second species of bighorn – Desert bighorn sheep. They call the western border of the state home, and total estimates are around 500 sheep according to current CPW surveys. The population is doing great even with a decline in numbers in the Black Ridge area the last two years. In 2024, Colorado will issue 15 permits, which is the same as 2023. Once again, there will only be a single nonresident permit, and it will be in unit S62 for the seventh year in a row. A 160" class ram is a realistic expectation for the unit. If hunters put in their time and pick through the available sheep, they should have a successful hunt and turn up a mature ram.

Colorado Bighorn Sheep Draw

There is no point system for Desert bighorn sheep in Colorado, which puts everyone on an even playing field in the draw. However, you must choose between applying for Rocky Mountain or Desert sheep as you can’t do both. Like all sheep permits in the lower 48, odds are dismal at best, but you can’t draw if you don’t apply. Applicants had a 1 in 2,075 chance in 2023. The good news is that if you’re not building points and you are already applying for other species in the state or have already killed a Rocky and need a Desert sheep, it’s a great add-on species at an out-of-pocket cost of only $10.

Self Guided DIY Colorado Bighorn Sheep Hunts

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Private Land, Semi-Guided, and Guided Bighorn Sheep Hunts in Colorado

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Colorado Bighorn Sheep Application Deadline

The Colorado big game application period deadline is April 2, 2024 at 8 p.m. MDT.

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2024 Colorado Bighorn Sheep Non-Resident Hunting Fees

 

2024 Colorado Non-Resident Fees
Annual Small Game Hunt License (required to apply) $98.92
Youth Annual Small Game Hunt License (under age 18, required to apply) $1.46
Habitat Stamp (required for adults to apply) $12.15
Draw Application (per species) $10
Youth Point Fee (all species) $NONE
Post Draw Fees (if successful)
Desert Bighorn Sheep $2,686.04
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep $2,686.04

 

CO Bighorn Sheep Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine