Table of Contents
- Application Periods
- Preference Point System and Big Game Draws
- Hunt Codes
- Costs for Applying in Colorado
- Colorado Big Game Draw Results
- Secondary Draw and Leftover Licenses
- Over-the-Counter Tags
- Plan Your Application Season with DrawScout
Colorado’s application period for Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, Bear, Moose, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, and Mountain Goat opens in early March. The application period is relatively short, ending in early April.
Points are purchased during this same application period. Colorado does not have a separate application period to purchase points.
Preference Point System and Big Game Draws
Colorado has a pure preference point draw, a modified preference draw, and a hybrid draw.
Each applicant’s first choice is considered before moving on to the next applicant. The draw then moves on to all second choices, third choices, and so on. This process is similar to Wyoming’s draw but differs from states like Nevada whose draw considers all choices before moving on to the next applicant. This distinction is important to consider when making your hunt choices as it can impact which hunts are even available as a second choice.
Colorado also only purges preference points if your first choice is successful. If unsuccessful on your first choice, you earn a preference point. Successful second, third, and fourth choices do not purge preference points.
Preference Point Draw
The preference point draw for deer, elk, and antelope is a pure preference point system: Those with the most points get the tags. There is no random component to this draw.
In this draw, tags are allocated to non-residents based on the number of preference points recently required to draw the hunt. Some high-point hunts only allocate up to 20% of tags to non-residents. Others allocate up to 35%.
Colorado has a hybrid draw for a small number of deer, elk, and pronghorn hunt codes that would normally take a large number of points to draw. Unlike the preference point draw, winners of these tags are drawn at random. Having said that, you still must have five preference points (as of 2022) to be considered in the hybrid drawing. You also must put the hunt code as your first choice.
For additional details on the hybrid draw and to view the eligible hunt codes, consult Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s latest brochure.
Modified Preference Point Draw
The Colorado draw for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, and Moose works a bit differently than the standard preference point draw. Applicants must first build three preference points for a species before being entered into this draw.
Once an applicant has hit three preference points, they will begin earning “weighted preference points.” Weighted preference points are not unlike bonus points in other states. The drawing for these tags is random, but applicants with the most weighted preference points have a statistical advantage.
The weighted preference point system is optional. Applicants can choose not to purchase weighted points and hope to draw with only the three minimum required preference points.
Tags in this draw are allocated 90/10: Non-residents can only be awarded up to 10% of available tags.
Random Desert Bighorn Sheep Draw
The only completely random draw in Colorado is for Desert Bighorn Sheep. This species does not have a preference point system and tags are given at random. You cannot participate in this draw while also applying for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the modified preference draw.
Purchasing Preference Points in Colorado
Colorado does not have a separate point purchase period. Applicants who are unsuccessful with their first choice are awarded a point. Points are “purchased” by using the point-only hunt code for a given species as your first choice. Applicants can then draw a second-choice hunt while still earning a point.
To apply in Colorado, an applicant must know their hunt code. All hunt codes are available in the big game brochure. As with all states that use hunt codes, be sure to verify them every year on the state’s website or in their brochure.
DrawScout also suggests hunt codes based on your tag selection, or you can auto-populate a tag by adding your hunt code. To learn more about how hunt codes work in DrawScout, watch our demo on YouTube.
Costs for Applying in Colorado
Colorado charges a small application fee for each application. They don’t require hunters to pay the cost of each tag upfront.
Hunters are required to purchase a habitat stamp in order to apply in a drawing or purchase points. Additionally, applicants must also purchase what’s known as a “qualifying” license. These vary between residents and non-residents. Available options and pricing are available in your DrawScout account or directly from CPW.
Colorado Big Game Draw Results
Draw results in Colorado are typically released at two separate times: Bighorn sheep and mountain goat are released in mid-to-late April, with the remaining species results released in late May. Results for one to two species per day are typically released over the course of several days. Applicants may also learn their fate through a credit card charge prior to receiving an email from CPW.
Secondary Draw and Leftover Licenses
Colorado holds a secondary drawing for any remaining tags after the primary drawing is complete. This secondary draw is random. Applicants still must purchase required and qualifying licenses.
After the secondary draw, any remaining leftover or returned tags will become available on a first-come, first-served basis. The leftover list becomes available in late July. Beginning in early August, CPW releases reissued licenses each week on its website.
Colorado does not have over-the-counter tags for deer. However, the state does offer great opportunities to hunters looking for OTC elk or pronghorn antelope tags.
Over-the-counter elk permits are available for archery, second, and third rifle seasons. Antelope tags are available for archery seasons in many units.
Plan Your Application Season with DrawScout
Planning for Colorado and many other states at the same time is a lot to keep straight. DrawScout helps hunters organize their applications and maximize their chances of a successful offseason.