The Colorado 2023 hunting brochures are out. Colorado issues two sets of regulations – one for big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, and moose) and a separate one for sheep and goat. You can request a hard copy by calling 303-297-1192, or they are available online at http://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/BigGame.aspx. The application deadline is 8 p.m. (MT) on April 4, 2023. Sheep and goat licenses must be paid for by May 2nd, and deer, elk, antelope, and moose licenses must be paid for by June 16th. Failure to collect payment will result in forfeiture of any accumulated preference points used to draw said permit as well as loss of license.
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Colorado Species Specific Information Colorado Elk Colorado Mule Deer Colorado Mountain Goat Colorado Bighorn Sheep Colorado Moose Colorado Pronghorn Antelope Available Colorado Hunts (HF Adventures)
Colorado Hunting Applications; Big Game
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has online applications only for all species. You will need to create an online account to apply in the 2023 draw or call CPW at 800-244-5613.
Online applications must be submitted by 8 p.m. (MT) on April 4, 2023. Visa, MasterCard, or Discover will be accepted. Corrections or modifications to applications are accepted in Colorado and can be made until the April 4th application deadline.
Group applications are accepted for all species, except for moose or Desert bighorn sheep. The number of applicants allowed within a group application is unlimited, except for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat, which allow a maximum number of two.
Non-residents and residents may not apply together for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep or mountain goat. If non-residents and residents apply together and draw, the permits will count against the nonresident allocation. Group applicants go into the draw with the lowest number of points of any individual in the group. For example, three applicants in a group with 1, 6, and 7 points will go into the draw with a group preference point total of 1. Group members must apply for the same species, hunt code, order, season, and method of take.
You can choose to build points only, but you still have to pay the non-refundable hunting license, application, habitat stamp, and point fee (if required). The preference point only code for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is S-P-999-99-P, for mountain goat is G-P-999-99-P, for moose is M-P-999-99-P, for deer is D-P999-99-P, for elk is E-P-999-99-P, and for antelope is A-P-999-99-P. The preference point fee is $100 for sheep, moose, and mountain goat, but it is free for youth.
Details of the Colorado Hunting Draw; Big Game
For deer and elk, non-residents are limited to up to 35% of the total permit numbers per hunt code, unless that hunt has taken residents six or more points to draw on average for a three-year period. For those units, non-residents will be limited to 20% of those permits. Non-residents are limited to 10% of the total number of sheep, mountain goat, and moose permits. There isn’t a non-resident/resident allocation split for antelope permits
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Colorado draws everyone’s first choice before anyone’s second, third, or fourth hunt choice is awarded. If you draw your second, third, or fourth choice, you will still be given a preference point. You may apply for points only as your first choice and still list a second, third, and fourth choice. We often get asked about the Colorado hybrid draw. Simply explained, hunt codes requiring 10 or more resident preference points to draw will have 20% of available licenses for deer, elk, and antelope shall be issued through a random drawing. The number of preference points required to draw shall be determined by the average number of points a Colorado resident needed to draw during a three-year period that ended with the 2009 drawing. A minimum of 5 individual preference points is required for an applicant to participate in the random drawing.
Group applications are not eligible to participate in the random drawing. The hybrid random drawing occurs after the regular drawing, so, in almost every case, non-residents will have already met their quota in the initial regular drawing and no non-resident permits are available in the hybrid draw. Colorado has a secondary draw. Most of the tags in the secondary draw are tags for hunts that did not have enough applicants in the primary draw to exhaust them.
In 2022, CPW also added all licences that were turned back or not paid for before the secondary draw list came out. This year, CPW will exclude all tags from that list that took 5 points or more to draw in the primary draw. The deadline for the secondary draw is July 5th at 8 p.m. (MT). The payment deadline is July 21st. Any eligible hunter ages 12-17 will receive preference in the secondary draw for elk, deer, antelope, and bear licences. Applicants will need to purchase a qualifying hunting licence to enter the secondary draw. Preference points are not considered in the secondary draw, and applicants will neither gain nor lose points.
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If you draw a permit and harvest a Rocky Mountain bighorn ram of at least 1/2 curl or any mountain goat, you must wait five years before applying again. Any Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep taken with a special management ram license or auction or raffle license is exempt of this waiting period. If you harvest a Desert bighorn sheep, you cannot participate in future Desert bighorn sheep drawings. If you harvest an antlered moose, you may never apply again for an antlered or either-sex moose license drawing. If you do not harvest these species, there is no waiting period before applying.
Colorado Hunting Fees
Colorado requires applicants to first purchase a qualifying hunting license in order to enter the draw. Applicants are charged a $9.17 fee per application and a one-time $10.59 habitat stamp fee. Applicants will no longer be charged a preference point fee for elk, deer, antelope, and bear. Sheep, moose, and mountain goat applicants will have the option of purchasing a $100 point if unsuccessful or opting out and just participating in the draw and if unsuccessful will simply remain at the same point level. Remember that all male or either-sex hunts for sheep, moose, and mountain goat require at least 3 preference points to be considered in the draw. That means you must already have or continue to acquire preference points until you have accumulated 3 preference points just to have an opportunity to draw a permit. After you have accumulated your 3 preference points, every point acquired after that will be a weighted point, which will increase your odds of drawing.
Anyone born on or after January 1, 1949 must have completed an approved hunter education course before applying. You must carry your hunter education card or proof while hunting. You can validate your hunter education card at most license vendors. Once your hunter education card has been validated, you will not need to carry it with you while in the field. As of 2017, hunters age 50 or older or military personnel defined as active duty reserve duty, veteran, and National Guard who have not completed hunter education can take a one-time online test that will allow them to test out. The cost is $24.50, and you must pass with at least 90%.
Colorado has a free apprentice license that serves as a one-year waiver of the hunter education requirement with the aim of getting new hunters into the field. It can only be obtained twice and allows for the purchase of hunting permits. The apprentice license holder must be at least 12 years old to hunt big game and must be accompanied by a mentor at all times in the field. The mentor must meet the hunter education requirements and be at least 18 years old.
Colorado law requires hunters to wear at least 500 square inches of solid fluorescent orange or solid fluorescent pink above the waist as well as a fluorescent orange hat or head covering while hunting antelope, bear, deer, elk, or moose with any firearms license. Hunter orange is not required when hunting goat or sheep.
All off-highway vehicles operated in Colorado on public lands must have a valid Colorado OHV registration, which is $25.25.
Youth may apply for a preference point if they turn 12 years old by December 31st of the application year. Youth may apply for a permit at age 11 as long as they turn 12 years old before the end of the hunting season applied for. At the age of 12, you can hunt big game in Colorado.
Colorado Hunting Point Structure
Colorado has a true preference point system for elk, deer, antelope, and bear. For those species, permits are allocated to the applicants with the most preference points within the non-resident quota. There is no maximum number of preference points for these species.
There is a slightly modified point system for moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, and mountain goat, and it is now optional. For those species, you are awarded a preference point for the first three years you apply. The maximum preference points you can build is 3. You must apply and build 3 preference points before you are actually entered into the draw. After you have 3 points, you are entered into the drawing and permits are randomly allocated. A weighted point will be awarded for each year you apply and are unsuccessful in the drawing after that if you opt in and pay the point fee. 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. Applications are sorted by this new number from lowest to highest, and low numbers for each hunt code are awarded licenses. There isn’t a point system for Desert bighorn sheep.
If you draw your first choice or fail to apply for any big game species for 10 years, your points will be purged for that species.
Colorado Big Game Draw Odds
The odds we list for goat, sheep, and moose are based upon the number of non-resident applicants with 3 preference points. The odds are simple odds and are calculated without consideration of weighted points. If you want to see your exact draw odds based off the number of weighted points you have, go to https://research.huntinfool.com/ and select the hunt you wish to apply for and select the number of weighted points you have and this will give your exact draw odds from the previous year. The elk, deer, and antelope odds are listed as the minimum number of preference points an applicant drew with in the 2022 draw.
Any eligible hunter age 12-17 will receive preference in the secondary draw for elk, deer, antelope, and bear licenses. Preference point fees are waived for all species for youth applicants. Youth hunters, 12-17 years of age, may receive up to 15% of the limited doe antelope, antlerless and either-sex deer, or antlerless elk licenses established for each unit during the regular rifle and private land-only rifle seasons. In addition, Colorado is offering late season antlerless elk and doe antelope opportunities. Group applications will not be accepted. Licenses not drawn by youth will be available to the public. The permit prices for youth are considerably less expensive.
Colorado Hunting Weapon Restrictions
In-line muzzleloaders are legal. Muzzleloader hunters cannot use pelletized powder, smokeless powder, or sabots. Open or “iron” sights are mandatory with no scopes of any kind. Fiber optic sights or fluorescent paint incorporated into or on open or iron sights are legal. Electronic or battery-powered devices cannot be incorporated onto or attached to the muzzleloading firearm. A minimum of .40 caliber is required to hunt deer and antelope, and a minimum of .50 caliber is required to hunt elk and moose. Archery equipment may not be used during muzzleloader seasons.
Only hand-held bows may be used during the archery season; this excludes crossbows from being used during the archery season. Scopes or any magnifying device cannot be incorporated into or attached to the bow or arrow. Bows used must have at least 35 lbs. draw weight and no restriction of let-off. Broadheads must be a minimum of 7/8″ outside diameter. Lighted nocks can now be attached to arrows, and recording devices can be attached to bows.
Firearms and bows carried on an OHV must be fully enclosed in a hard or soft case, and rifles must be unloaded in the chamber and magazine. If you are in a vehicle, a rifle cannot have a bullet in the chamber and a muzzleloader cannot have a primer or percussion cap on.
Other Tag Opportunities
Colorado has raffle and auction Governor type permits. For more information, go to http://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/RaffleAuction.aspx. You can also refer to our January 2023 issue in the “Governor, Commissioner, and Conservation Tags” article.
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Colorado has a landowner voucher program. Up to 10% of private land-only and 10% of unit wide permits for deer, elk, and antelope licenses for both the general and restricted quota west of I-25 may be issued as landowner vouchers. Up to 15% of deer, elk, and antelope licenses for the general quota east of I-25 and up to 10% of the restricted quota may be issued as landowner vouchers. Landowners must meet certain qualifications both in size of contiguous acres and type of property to be eligible. Vouchers are allocated through a special draw that takes place every year. The number of applications per landowner depends on acreage owned. Landowners who draw will receive vouchers for licenses that they can transfer/sell to eligible hunters of their choice. A landowner voucher can be sold directly to a hunter by the landowner or the designated land manager. A third party cannot sell a Colorado landowner voucher. Once a hunter purchases a voucher, it must be taken to a license agent or CPW location for a proper hunting voucher. Landowners who are unsuccessful in drawing vouchers will receive a preference point for next year’s drawing.
The $93.78 annual small game license, $10 application fee, and $11.50 habitat stamp fee are non-refundable. You may surrender your license to CPW, but it must be done 30 days or more before opening day of the season for which your license is valid. If you return your permit, you may choose to have either the cost of your permit refunded or have your preference points restored. Returned licenses must be accompanied by a completed request form obtained at a CPW location or on the website. A $15 processing fee will be charged for returns, unless it is a youth license. Once there are less than 30 days until the season starts, refunds or preference point restoration is limited to medical circumstances, military service, or extreme extenuating circumstances. If you return a permit, you can choose to have your preference points reinstated to a pre-draw level or you can choose to receive a refund of the license in which your accumulated points will be forfeited.
Colorado has a reissue policy for limited licenses that were turned in after the draw. A license that is returned that took 5 or more preference points to draw will be manually reissued to the next eligible person. For each license returned, CPW will contact the next five people from the current year’s draw order and attempt to reissue it. If a non-resident returns a permit, it will be reallocated to a nonresident. Any license that took fewer than 5 preference points to draw that is returned will be placed on the leftover list. Colorado will issue any tag surrendered after the initial leftover license purchase deadline of August 2nd in a reissue/leftover license webpage. They will release a list of available licenses each Tuesday and transferring them into the leftover list for purchase Wednesday at 11 a.m. (MT).
A limited license can be changed or exchanged from one season to another, provided the original quota was “floating” for the seasons involved. A general season bull elk license can be changed to any other season for which a general bull license is valid. A fee of no more than $5-$7.50 will be assessed to cover administrative costs.
Colorado Harvest Reporting
Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducts big game harvest surveys each year by phone or email. Participation is not required, unless you hunt bighorn sheep, moose, or mountain goat. All licensees for bear, bighorn sheep, moose, and mountain goat must complete a questionnaire plus have their harvest inspected within five working days of harvest. A tooth will be extracted from harvested moose.
CPW requires mandatory submission of Chronic Wasting Disease test samples from some harvested bucks from select deer herds. Any notified hunter who harvests a deer in one of the identified units will be required to present their deer for testing at a CPW facility.
Colorado Hunt Planning
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a “Hunt Planner” service to anyone who is looking at hunting Colorado. You can contact a CPW hunt planner at 303-297-1192, and they will help you apply and map out your hunt. Colorado also has an online Hunting Atlas program that allows you to access information on big game concentrations, migration patterns, and topo maps. Huntin’ Fool offers an online 3D mapping system with various overlays and base map options. Potential hunts can also be found through the interactive filtering tool. All members can access the online map at www.huntinfool.com.
Throughout much of Western Colorado, there are ample amounts of public land to hunt. The Eastern Plains portion of the state has very little public land. A GPS with a landownership layer is highly recommended if you are planning to hunt anywhere in Colorado.
CPW has a big game pilot program. This allows public access to some WIA properties for deer, elk, and antelope hunting. Specific information will be available in the WIA brochure that will be out in August.
Money from the sale of the habitat stamps is used to acquire and manage habitat for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Colorado Parks and Wildlife participates in the State Trust Lands Public Access Program. Not all state trust land is in this program. CPW has a brochure identifying properties open for wildlife recreation that will be out in August.
Colorado is currently at 774,000 acres and hoping to expand this program to over 1 million acres in the future. For a current map of acres enrolled in this program, go to https://ndismaps.nrel.colostate.edu/index.html?app=HuntingAtlas.
Since Proposition 114 was passed, CPW has been tasked with coming up with a planned reintroduction by December 31, 2023. There will likely not be much information until CPW is further along in the planning process. Wolves had been spotted in various portions of the western slope of Colorado since 2004, and as recently as this winter, they killed domestic cattle in Northern Colorado. Wolves were already moving into Colorado from Wyoming, but now they will be introduced in some of the most elk-dense country in the West.
Pro Tips from the License Application Department
- Points for sheep, moose, and goat are $100 each, but if you have 3 preference points, you can opt out of buying a point, meaning you’ll go into the draw with your current points but will not gain one for this year. This is a good option if you’re trying to save a few hundred bucks.
- Colorado is a pure preference state for elk, deer, and antelope, meaning there is no random draw. All tags are awarded to the applicant with the most points.