Colorado Mule Deer Hunting 2024

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WESTERN COLORADO DEER

Available Colorado Mule Deer Hunts – Search HF Aventures

Colorado has had the latest rifle deer hunts on record for two years now for the second, third, and fourth season. Although 2021 was abnormally dry and warm for November and harvest numbers on mature bucks were not as high as expected, 2022 did not disappoint with snow falling early during the second season and deer beginning to move from the high country to lower, more accessible terrain. CPW seems to be happy with the harvest of mature bucks on these late season hunts as they are already discussing late season rifle dates again for their five-year plan beginning in 2025. If you are one of the hunters who has not cashed your deer points in yet, you may want to consider doing so before long as these late season hunts definitely seem to be taking their toll on the older trophy class bucks in several areas. For now, there are at least two more years of later season rifle hunts in Colorado for hunters to capitalise on. Regardless, if you have 1 point or 30, you are going to want to look hard at the best unit and season you can draw and possibly pull the trigger. Unfortunately, the days of CPW managing Colorado for trophy mule deer is a thing of the past and the war on mature bucks is here to stay. There are still some good opportunities out there to hunt a trophy mule deer, but they are getting fewer and farther between every year.

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Western Colorado has some of the best mule deer habitat in the world with its diverse summer/fall range where deer can be found from the high rocky basins above 10,000 to the lower, more mild rolling sage foothills throughout the state. This makes Colorado a must for any mule deer hunter regardless of your weapon preference or physical ability. September offers some great opportunities for archery, muzzleloader, and in some units, early rifle hunts where hunters can pursue mule deer on their summer range and chase velvet bucks before they rub and begin to timber up. The late season rifle hunts of second, third, and fourth season give a hunter the chance to go after rutting bucks in late October through November, depending on which season is drawn. Weather conditions will most likely determine where the deer are located. If the fall is warm and dry like in 2021, bucks will likely remain in the higher to mid-range areas of the unit, making them harder to find. However, if the snow flies and temperatures drop, mule deer will migrate to their wintering ranges early where hunters have easier access and deer are more concentrated, which is what happened last year. One thing we cannot predict is what Mother Nature is going to do this fall, especially during application time. Hunters have to roll the dice and hope that the stars will align for them the fall they choose to have a tag in hand.

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Colorado Mule Deer Draw

Most unsuccessful applicants from the last two years are hoping that point creep begins to level back off this year, but with over 70,000 non-resident applicants with points, that is not likely to be the case. Although it may not be as big of a jump as previous years for some units, and potentially, some late season hunts might even go down as top point holders have burned their points. There were a lot of applicants who did not draw that will have their names in there again this year plus one more point from last year, so a lot of units will either stay the same or fall back into the normal point creep situation of requiring one more point than last year. Those mid-tier units that are taking 10-16 points to draw seem to be the ones with the most point creep the last two years and will likely be so again as hunters try to cash in on the best unit they can draw. One note for Colorado is that point creep isn’t nearly as bad in this state as others because of the wide array of options. Most hunts that take 8 points or less tend to hover around the same amount of points to draw with minimum point creep every couple years.

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When you look through the tables, you will notice that 99% of all archery and muzzleloader hunts on the western side are earlier in the year during September. This allows these hunters to capitalize on having first crack at the deer before they realize hunting season is upon them. One thing to remember about units that have large portions of high elevation roadless or wilderness type country is that this can make for an extremely physically demanding hunt. If you are in marginal shape, pay attention to our unit descriptions before applying and seeing there is 180″+ potential. As stated above, second, third, and fourth rifle seasons are all mostly in November. The second season takes place during the last four days of October and ends on November 5th.

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The good news is that the same philosophy that has always applied still applies today – there is potential for a trophy buck in any unit in the state. The difference today is that with technology, rut rifle hunts, and better equipment than ever before, there are far less mature bucks on the landscape to luck into. Colorado is still a good place to hunt big mule deer bucks on a regular basis and will most likely always be given the amount of habitat and lush alpine basins, but mule deer hunting is starting to resemble Colorado elk hunting more and more. There are always going to be a lot of opportunities to hunt bucks, they just might be young bucks with the occasional mature bucks that slipped through the cracks for four to five years.

COLORADO PLAINS DEER

Eastern Plains hunting continues to be a consistent producer of older age class trophy bucks. This part of Colorado is less susceptible to winterkill, and in most of the regions, it has an abundance of agriculture crops that are high in protein quality feed. Add this to great genetics and you are going to grow trophy quality bucks. This side of the state is also primarily private land, and deer harvest is regulated more by landowners than CPW. It has become more difficult to access land on the Plains simply due to supply and demand. The demand for hunting older age class bucks has outfitters tying up any piece of private land that has the potential to hold big, mature bucks. The cost of Plains deer hunts continues to go up every year, and the availability of booking a hunt is a bigger deterrent than the price. Most outfitters are one to two years out, with some being booked indefinitely for the foreseeable future. The only bright side is that if you can get a spot booked with one of the reputable outfitters, it typically only takes a few points to draw in their area, and the harder to draw areas are only around 4-6 points.

The Plains is a totally different style of hunting than the high mountains of Western Colorado. Most of it consists of flat farmland with adjacent sandhill desert country. The best ranches will have both types of terrain on them as once the crops are harvested later in the year, the deer need some place to take refuge. If the ranch doesn’t have this type of country to pursue them in, you’re only left with about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to hunt. For spot and stalk archery hunters, there is usually enough wind, and it is typically a steady wind that allows hunters to sneak in very close, especially if the ranch has some topography. The archery season dates encompass the bulk of November, which allows hunters to see the best the area has to offer for mature bucks.

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Plains hunting boils down to “pay to play.” If you want a trophy mule deer, the Plains has them, it’s just a matter of getting booked with an outfitter or having an unlimited amount of time to drive around and knock on doors until you find the right landowner with good enough ground to hunt. We work with the best outfitters on the Eastern Plains, so get in touch with us to help you figure out which outfitters have what you are looking for.

Self-Guided, DIY Colorado Deer Hunts

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Private Land, Semi-Guided, and Guided Colorado Deer Hunts

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Colorado Deer Hunting Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted by 8 p.m. (MDT) on April 4, 2024.

Our magazine, which is available in print and online, has everything in one location – application info, draw details and odds, fees, hunter requirements, point structure, age restrictions, youth information, weapon restrictions, other tag opportunities, hunt planning, and much more. If you would like access to all of our research, join today!

2024 Colorado Deer Non-Resident Hunting Fees Fee Cost Annual Small Game Hunting License (required to apply) $93.78 Youth Annual Small Game Hunt License (under age 18, required to apply) $1.40 Habitat Stamp (required for adults to apply) $11.50 Draw Application (per species) $10.00 Post Draw Fees (if successful) Deer $456.14 Youth Big Game (Elk, Deer, or Antelope) $116.50 CO Deer Hunting Articles from Huntin’ Fool Magazine

  • Driven To Never Give Up by Pat Reeve
  • A Nice, Mature Buck by Kris Kohlhoff
  • My First Mule Deer Hunt by Bob Newland
  • Gunnison Dream Mulie by Justin Armatis
  • Where are the Deer? by Matthew Rosenbaugh
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>