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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2015: Colorado sheep, moose, goat


Colorado bighorn sheep ram
Photo credit:


The Colorado Rockies are some of the most beautifully rugged mountains in the lower 48. There are more 14,000-foot peaks in the Centennial State than in any other state, creating perfect habitat for mountain species to thrive. Mountain goats and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are on or near the top of nearly every mountain-hunter’s bucket list. You can not afford to miss out on what Colorado has to offer. Here is what you need to know about the draw for these mountain goats, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, moose and desert bighorn sheep in colorful Colorado. Apply soon before the April 7 deadline. 

Why Colorado for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in 2015?

Colorado Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Photo credit: Winterhawk Outfitters

Colorado has a good population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that is spread across the state. With much of the area covered in extremely rugged and remote mountains, the harvest success is lower than in some of the other states that offer sheep hunts. For archery hunters that are up for the challenge of hunting bighorns with a bow, there are archery-only seasons that offer better draw odds. While Colorado may not be known for its giant rams, every year it produces a few rams that score from 160 to 170” Boone and Crockett.

Colorado's top Boone and Crockett Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep entries



Hunting Districts within county

Huerfano13S8, S9, S38, S39, S50, S51
Gunnison7S10, S11, S13, S17, S20, S21, S25, S26, S52, S54, S69, S80, S81
Las Animas7S38, S48, S51, S61
Fremont6S5, S7, S47, S49, S60, S68, S79
Costilla5S51, S65

Why Colorado for desert bighorn sheep in 2015?

While Colorado’s Desert bighorn sheep population continues to grow, there are still only limited opportunities to harvest this species. There are only four units available with one nonresident tag and 11 resident tags and with no preference point system in place for desert bighorns you have the same chance at drawing a tag as anyone else does. Be aware that you can only apply for desert sheep if you are not applying for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Colorado does not allow you to apply for both of these species in the same year. 

Colorado's top Boone and Crockett desert bighorn sheep entries



Hunting Districts within county

Mesa3S24,S56, S62, S75
San Miguel1S63, S64


Why Colorado for mountain goat in 2015?

Colorado mountain goat hunt

Colorado is covered with some of the best mountain goat habitat along its Continental Divide, but the state is a little conservative with the number of permits it issues in comparison to the population of goats that it holds. The harvest success rate is relatively high for an animal that lives in some of the most remote and rugged country you can imagine. Colorado is not home to giant billies but offers good opportunities for those that want to hunt a mountain goat. For dedicated archery hunters Colorado offers archery-only seasons that will typically have better odds for drawing a tag for those that are up to the challenge.

Colorado's top Boone and Crockett mountain goat entries



Hunting Districts within county

Clear Creek5G4, G7, G15, G16
Park4G4, G16
Chaffee3G1, G2, G3, G13, G14
Summit2G6, G7, G10, G15, G16, G18
Grand1G6, G15
San Juan1G5

Why Colorado for moose in 2015?

Shiras moose are thriving in Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has done an amazing job managing this species. It is refreshing to know that this state has a growing moose population while populations continue to plummet in some of the other Western states. Colorado is lucky to not have a wolf population to negatively affect moose numbers like most other Shiras moose states. There are not a lot of nonresident permits issued, but the trophy potential in Colorado is second to none and produces a few 50” bulls every year. Nearly every unit in the state has the potential to produce 40” bulls.

Colorado's top Boone and Crockett Moose entries



Hunting Districts within county

Jackson376, 16, 17, 161, 171
Larimer197, 8, 9, 19, 20, 94, 191
Grand1515, 18, 27, 28, 37, 181, 361
Eagle225, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43, 44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Mesa230, 31, 40, 41, 42, 60, 61, 62, 411, 421
Mineral276, 77, 78, 79, 80


What’s new in 2015?

Bighorn sheep

  • New sheep hunts: Among some of the new licenses introduced this year are tags for rifle bighorn sheep hunts in Units S6, S24, S26, S37, S55, S69 and S75.
  • Units S13 and S26 have combined hunts: Based on a CPW study targeting movement of collared bighorn rams, the area(s) valid for hunting with the rifle S13 license will include a northern portion of the neighboring unit S26.

Mountain goat

  • In addition to new Colorado resident hunts that are now available in Units G12 for nannies and G18 for either sex, there are a couple of hunting area changes this year. In Unit G5, rifle hunters are restricted to a certain area from Sept. 8 to 25. Unit G11 has been split into two hunting areas with separate hunt codes. 


  • Closures in Unit Group 20 and 29: Moose hunters applying for Units 20 and 29 should note new restrictions are effective for the Brainard Lake Recreation Area. Before applying, hunters can call (970) 472-4462 for information.
  • As moose populations have grown in Units 20, 29 and 38 in the last few years, there are now enough moose in GMU 38 to support a specific license for that unit. Similarly, hunters can now choose between a cow license in Unit 191 only or choose a bull or cow license for hunting in Units 7, 8 and 191.
  • New hunts open: New moose hunts available this year include bull hunts in Units 44 and 45 in the Eagle River watershed as well as cow hunts in Units 66 and 67.

The draw system: An overview

  • Tag or license: License for the species and a nonrefundable $10 Habitat Stamp.
  • Point system: Yes, for Rocky Mountain bighorns, moose and mountain goat. Desert bighorns do not have a point system.
  • Youth: There is no advantage as a youth to hunt these species in Colorado.
  • Draw type: Preference points for three years followed by a weighted preference point for each year after. Desert bighorns do not have a point system; they are completely random.
  • Resident perk: Residents enjoy lower costs and more opportunities provided by more resident-only permits. Residents can also apply online.

Application types and deadlines


Online application
(by midnight)



Habitat stampMust have prior
to applying
Rocky Mountain bighorn/
fishing combo
April 7April 13May 15$2,064
Desert bighorn/
fishing combo
April 7April 13May 15$1,379
Mountain goat/
fishing combo
April 7April 13May 15$2,064
fishing combo
April 7April 13May 29$2,064

** Nonresidents must submit an original CPW paper application 


Online application
(by midnight)



Habitat stampMust have prior
to applying
Rocky Mountain bighornApril 7April 13May 15$254
Desert bighornApril 7April 13May 15$254
Mountain goatApril 7April 13May 15$254
MooseApril 7April 13May 29$254

Special limitations to consider

If you harvest a half curl or larger Rocky Mountain bighorn ram or any mountain goat, there is a five year waiting period before you can apply again. If you harvest an antlered moose you cannot apply for another antlered or either sex moose permit; these are once-in-a-lifetime. If you harvest a desert bighorn you cannot apply for another permit; these are once-in-a-lifetime. If you fail to harvest any of these species there is not a waiting period.

The draw: Unlocking Colorado’s system

Colorado considers everyone's first choice before they consider a second, third or fourth. One preference point is awarded to those who apply properly and are unsuccessful in drawing a license for a first-choice hunt code. You can only apply for one species of bighorn sheep not both.

Colorado moose, sheep, goat license quote

Pat Loescher with an archery Colorado bighorn sheep
INSIDER member, Pat Loescher, was able to harvest this heavy horned 171" ram with a Colorado archery bighorn tag that he drew with three preference points plus three weighted points.

The point system

The maximum number of preference points you can accumulate for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, moose or goats is three. If you have three preference points for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat and you fail to draw a first-choice license, you will receive a weighted preference point for that species. 

Weighted preference points increase your probability of drawing. 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 the low numbers for each hunt code are awarded licenses.

This system provides a chance to draw a tag with less than the maximum number of points. Since the application number is the determining factor in which application is awarded the tag, it is possible to draw at any point after the first three preference points are earned. 

The maximum weighted points for 2015 are:


Resident points

Nonresident points

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep1513
Mountain goat1313


Group applications

Group applications are accepted for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat licenses with a maximum of two people per group. Group applications are prioritized based on the member with FEWEST points. Both members must enter the group leader’s CID number in the group application box to be entered as a group. If the leader has no CID, he or she must call CPW to get one. Both people must fill out their applications the same, using the same person as leader. Each hunter’s application and payment must be submitted separately. Colorado residents and nonresidents cannot apply on the same group application. Group applications are not accepted for desert bighorn sheep and moose.

Colorado big game draw FAQs

Where and how do I apply?

Residents can apply online or with a paper application. Nonresidents must submit an original CPW paper application found in the regulation booklet or you can order them online (photocopies are not accepted). There are addresses on the application for each of the species. Payment along with the application must be mailed together for each species in a separate envelope. 

Is Colorado good for building points? 

Colorado is a great state to build points with a relatively low cost of $40 per species. For Rocky Mountain bighorns, moose and mountain goats, Colorado makes you build three points before you are eligible to draw a permit. The point system in Colorado rewards those that apply each year. Desert bighorns do not have a point system.  

Do you have to float the permit fees?

Yes, Colorado is a state where you have to front or float the tag fees when you apply. With some of the permits costing over $2,000 each, Colorado can be expensive until you receive your refund.

Can I turn my tag in if I decide not to hunt?

If you decide not to hunt after you have drawn a tag, you can submit a refund application along with your license before the opening of the season. If you get a refund you will not get your points back. You can turn your license in before the season opens and get your points back, but you will not receive a refund. Remember that you must turn your license in prior to opening day to restore your points. 

The seasons

Colorado has highly structured seasons. Sheep, moose and mountain goat hunts usually offer generous dates. In some cases, multiple weeks and a small number of permits mean the animals are not pressured or stressed. These hunts will definitely be an opportunity to build memories that will last forever.

Hunter opportunity

General information, tips and our insights for hunting bighorn sheep, mountain goats and moose in Colorado.  

Draw odds and tag availability

Coveted hunts (pretty much any bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat) have an extremely small number of tags each year. Overall, odds for permits are better for residents than nonresidents.

2014 nonresident sheep, moose and goat tags

2014 resident sheep, moose and goat tags

Special features for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat in Colorado

  • Archery-only seasons are available for Rocky mountain bighorns, moose and mountain goats.
  • Multiple seasons for most species allow for more hunter opportunity without having a lot of hunters in the field at once. 
  • There are no wolf or grizzly hazard areas in the state.

Managing points and expectations

I have 0 points. What can I expect?

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

For Rocky Mountain bighorns you will need to apply for a couple more years before you are eligible to draw a tag. 

Mountain goat

You will need to accumulate three preference points before you are eligible to draw. Keep applying!

Shiras moose

Just like Rocky Mountain bighorns and mountain goats, you will need to keep applying until you have three preference points before you are eligible. 

Desert sheep

If you are applying for desert bighorns, you have the same chance at drawing as anyone else in the draw because they do not have a point system. It could be your lucky year. Remember that you cannot apply for desert sheep if you are applying for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

What can I do with 3 points?

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

With three points you are finally eligible to draw a permit, but it can take a quite a few more years of applying before you draw that coveted tag. The way that the draw system works with weighted points means there is a chance that you may get lucky and draw a tag. If you are a diehard archer then your odds of drawing an archery-only sheep tag are better than rifle. 

Mountain goat

Now that you are eligible to draw, it is important to understand that the odds are still very slim. Colorado does offer a few unique archery-only options with better odds. If rifle is your weapon of choice then apply for a unit that fits your physical limitations and keep your fingers crossed for a tag. 

Shiras moose

Colorado has many units that produce great trophy moose. With three points you have a shot, but you will still need luck on your side. 

What can I expect with 10 or more weighted points?

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Having double-digit weighted points gives you a big advantage in the draw. The maximum number of weighted points that someone can have as a nonresident for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is 13. You could draw that coveted tag any year. If you feel confident with archery equipment and are up to one of the most challenging hunts around, you may consider applying for the archery-only seasons to improve your odds of drawing. 

Mountain goat

With 10 or more points you are at a great statistical advantage to draw a tag now. The archery option will be easier to draw but extremely challenging. Rifle choices are still a good possibility. Be ready to get in shape because with double-digit points, you could draw a tag sooner rather than later.

Shiras moose

Since all of the nonresident tags go into the same pool per unit for moose and are not separately by season, applying for the primitive weapon moose seasons do not improve your odds of drawing a tag. The units in Jackson, Larimer and Grand County have produced the biggest bulls. Pick a unit in one of these three counties and hope for some luck!


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