APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Colorado Elk and Antelope
Colorado's elk and antelope application overview
When it comes to elk populations and hunting opportunities, Colorado sits alone at the top of the list. Statewide populations are estimated at 275,880 and the amount of quality public land elk habitat stretches on for miles. If you want to hunt annually, over half of the units are open to over-the-counter (OTC) archery, as well as 2nd and 3rd rifle season hunting. In addition, there are a lot of options to experience a good hunt with five and fewer preference points.
If you are after a trophy class bull, Colorado rarely produces outside of a handful of the top limited quota units and these units will take at least a couple decades worth of preference points. The sad truth is that if you are relatively new to applying in Colorado you have no chance to draw those units unless they change their draw system, which to our knowledge has not been considered as of yet. If you have a pile of points, the good news is that hunting should be good in 2017. Snow totals are up and for bulls that pull through, spring and summer ranges should be in excellent shape.
Use the information included below and ultimately you can find something that works for you. Take into consideration your points, season/weapon, and style of hunting. Whether you are looking for a true wilderness backpack or horseback hunt or day hunting opportunities, Colorado has something to offer and we can help you find it.
Colorado and antelope hunting aren’t typically mentioned together in the same sentence, but Colorado does offer another opportunity to apply and possibly draw a permit. For the bowhunters, much of the state is open to OTC hunting and with some research you can typically find a spot to hunt. Colorado rarely produces a record book buck but populations are good in portions of the state and it represents one more chance to get off the couch and into the field hunting.
Note: The application deadline for Colorado is midnight on April 4, 2017 MST. You can apply online here or on paper.
Why Colorado for elk and antelope in 2017
Ample OTC opportunities
- Archery elk hunting during prime rut dates.
- Muzzleloader dates are very good, running from Sept. 9 -17
- Over half of the elk units have OTC permits available for archery and rifle hunters
- Large populations and tons of public land to hunt elk
- No nonresident antelope quota, residents and nonresidents have equal opportunity
- OTC archery antelope hunting throughout much of the state
- A mature bull in the 280-300” class can come from almost any unit in the state
- Opportunity to combo hunt both deer and elk during the archery, 2nd and 3rd rifle season
New for 2017
- Licensing system change
- Colorado is transitioning to an upgraded system in 2017/2018
- Everyone will need to have an email and password to apply in the new system
- Going paperless in hunting license applications in 2018
- 2017 is the final year you can apply on paper
- Changes to license refund, reissue and exchange policies
- All license exchanges will be charged a fee of 50% of the cost of the original license, not to exceed $25. Read more here.
- 2017 license reissue policy
- Any license that is returned to CPW that took 5 or more preference points to draw will be manually reissued to the next eligible person based on the residency status of the returned license. So if a resident license is returned, it will be reissued to a resident. If a nonresident license is returned, it will be reissued to a nonresident.
- For each license returned, CPW will contact the next five people from the current year’s draw order.
- If one of those individuals accepts the license from the manual reissue process, all of that person’s preference points will be used.
- If a person has a current conflicting license for that species, they may exchange their current license for the one being offered. The exchange fee will be assessed, which is 50% of the cost of the original license, not to exceed $25.
- If none of those five people accept the license from the manual reissue process, it will be place onto the leftover list at random intervals.
- Any license that is returned to CPW that took fewer than 5 preference points to draw will automatically be placed on the leftover list at random intervals.
- Customers who obtain a license from the leftover list will NOT have to use their preference points.
- Definition of hunting over bait has been expanded
- It is illegal hunt big game over bait, whether or not the person hunting personally placed the bait. Bait means to put, expose, distribute or scatter salt, minerals, grains, animal parts or other food as an attraction for big game. Salt or mineral blocks used for normal agricultural purposes are not considered bait. Scent sticks that smell like food are illegal for bears.
- Mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing in certain units
- Big Game now included in walk-in access program (WIA)
- A pilot big game access component within the Walk-In Access Program for 2017 that will allow public access to some WIA properties for deer, elk and antelope.
- Hunter pink is now an alternative to hunter orange
- It’s legal to wear solid fluorescent pink clothing as an alternative to solid fluorescent orange.
- OTC hunt on Unit 54
- Unit 54 is now open to OTC unlimited license for 2nd and 3rd season rifle for bull elk
- Exemptions to hunter education requirements
- Test-out option available for hunter education requirements, as well as an apprentice certificate for new hunters.
The impact of wolves on Colorado’s herds
Colorado does not have any established wolf packs and there is no legal wolf hunting opportunities. There has been an occasional sighting, but wolf predation is a non-issue in Colorado presently. With that being said, you can check out a few recent news articles we covered on Colorado wolves below.
Colorado’s draw system for elk and antelope is relatively basic. It operates on a true preference point system where the applicants with the highest number of points receive the permits. The main thing to understand is that your first choice on the application is everything. The only way that a second choice is even drawn is if that particular hunt choice had tags available after everybody’s first choices were considered (undersubscribed). Make sure that you look at our draw odds and find only hunt choices that have 100% second choice draw odds during prior years when you are looking for a second choice hunt. There are very few elk and antelope options for second choice so don’t spend a lot of time searching for that. OTC opportunities are abundant for elk and antelope should you not find success in the draw. You can see the list of second choice elk hunts on our standalone draw odds here for residents and here for nonresidents.
To view important information and an overview of Colorado’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Species Profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Note: Customers with errors on their paper applications will NOT be contacted to fix those errors prior to the draw; those applications will be disqualified from the draw. Application correction requests can be submitted until April 10 here.
Important dates and information
- The deadline to apply for Colorado deer is midnight MST on April 4, 2017.
- You can apply online here or by paper. We recommend applying online to avoid mistakes.
- If you apply by paper, then your application must be postmarked by midnight MST on April 4, 2017.
- Also, when you apply by paper, each species application has a separate address. Each application must be filled out and sent with payment in separate envelopes to each respective address. Do not send multiple species applications to the same addresses.
- You can return your license (tag) for a refund or reinstatement of preference points, but must submit your application at least 30 days prior to opening day.
- The application to turn your license in can be found here.
- When you draw a nonresident license it also includes an annual fishing license that is valid through March 31 of the following year.
- You can apply for a preference point only by submitting the codes:
- E-P-999-99-P for elk
- A-P-999-99-P for antelope
- Preference points are usable on the first choice only.
- Any choice drawn as a second choice will not impact preference points and an additional preference point will be awarded should you draw a second choice.
- Colorado is a state where you must front fees. So that means you are required to submit the entire license fee at the time of application.
- You will be refunded the entire amount less the application fee and preference point fee.
- You can apply as a group for elk and antelope, with no limit to the number in the group. Be aware that a group application will go into the draw with the lowest number of points of any individual in the group.
- If you check the box on the application for leftover licenses, then you will be sent a list of all leftover licenses after the draw in June.
Episode 258 - Colorado big game draw and units to apply for and OTC hunting opportunities with Cliff Gray of Flat Tops Wilderness Guides
Outfitter Cliff Gray of Flat Tops Wilderness Guides — A goHUNT Business Member and Jay Scott discuss the Colorado big game hunting draw and application system and OTC opportunities. Listen as they breakdown the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th rifle Seasons in Colorado for deer and elk also mountain goat and bighorn sheep.
Colorado archery elk units breakdown and what units to apply for with Chris Roe of Roe Hunting Resources. Listen as we breakdown the top tier, mid tier, lower tier and OTC units in Colorado for elk. Lots of great info in this episode.
EP 109 - Hunting in Colorado, tips for planning your Colorado hunting adventure with Brady Miller and Brandon Evans
Cody is joined by Brady Miller and Brandon Evans of goHUNT to get some tips on hunting Colorado and how to apply. Overall they focus most of this episode on those looking to hunt over-the-counter deer and or with very few points. Also covered is application info for moose, sheep and mountain goat.
The draw system
Understanding the draw
For elk, nonresidents are limited to up to 35% of the total number of permits per hunt. The only exception is for hunts that have taken six points or more for residents to draw for three consecutive years. In these cases, non-residents are only allowed up to 20% of those permits. Colorado operates under a true preference point system, where the applicants with the most points draw the permits. Every year that you apply and are unsuccessful in the draw for elk and antelope you will be awarded a preference point. You may purchase points only also, although you still have to front the cost of the species permit that you apply for. You will be refunded the cost of the permit minus the application fee and bonus point fee after the drawing is completed.
Your first choice is the most important on your application. Colorado considers every applicant's first choice before moving to subsequent choices. Our Draw Odds will help you filter out hunt choices based on your personal preference point level. This will help you see only those hunt choices that are within your reach. You may also want to set the filter so you can see hunt choices that are a point level or two higher than your current level. This will allow you to see what may be in reach should you decide to continue building points for additional years.
Unlocking Colorado's system
As previously stated, permits are awarded to those with the most preference points. We regularly talk to people that look at a Colorado hunt and say, “that hunt takes 10 years to draw, if I begin to apply now and build points, in 10 years I can go on that hunt.” In reality, the number of permits remains relatively stagnant and the number of applicants at each point level normally far exceeds that number of permits. Every year that permit is going to take one more point to draw, which is what we call point creep. Let’s look at an example.
Unit 10 Archery Elk
In 2015 it took 22 preference points to guarantee this Unit 10 archery permit and 18% of the applicants with 21 points also drew. In 2016 it took 23 preference points to guarantee a permit and only 14% drew with 22 pts. If you look at the number of applicants in the top point pool there are likely to be 7 applicants with 23 points in 2017 and only 2 permits. Thus, draw odds with max points is likely to be 29%. If you were in that top point pool in theory it could take you another 3 to 4 years to draw. If you started applying for this hunt this year for the first time, in theory it could take you 42 years to draw with the number of applicants already out ahead of you! Many of the top tier units are even worse than this, especially for the early rifle hunts.
While checking your draw odds be sure to further investigate the Draw Odds detail page of each unit you are interested in. That can give you the detailed breakdown of how many applicants are at what point level and mean the difference on whether you will draw a permit or not. Remember there are not randomly allocated permits. Be sure to use the draw odds tool to understand what units are actually within reach and make your selection accordingly.
Primitive weapon hunts can be key to allowing you to hunt a quality area with a lesser number of preference points. For both species, the archery season coincides with the peak of the rut.
We recommend that you build points for a hunt choice that fits your hunt style and meets your trophy potential requirement. While you are building points, take advantage of the OTC archery opportunities in other units.
Colorado's 2017 elk breakdown
Colorado continues to offer ample opportunity to hunt bull elk, although a trophy caliber bull is a rarity. There are a handful of units that regularly produce a 350” plus bull, but you will need a couple decades worth of preference points currently to be able to draw most of those hunts. For example if you look at the number of applicants for Unit 201 early rifle at the 15+ point levels, there are currently 36 years worth of applicants in the system. Units 2, 201, 10, 40, 61, 76 and 851 provide great hunts, but unless you were ahead of curve and began applying many years ago you are better off looking into other opportunities.
The good news is that Colorado definitely is not short on opportunity. The population is healthy across the western ⅔ state and without waiting years for a chance to hunt you can purchase and hunt the OTC units every year. Over half the state has OTC hunts available. During the peak of the rut you can hunt with archery tackle or hunt with a rifle during the the 2nd and 3rd seasons.
In addition to all the OTC hunts Colorado has so many options in the 1 to 5 point level. It seems that you rarely hear much about these types of hunts. Truth be told the trophy potential likely doesn’t vary too much from the OTC units, but what is different is that the hunting pressure. With a set number of permits, these types of hunts can be fun and fast paced hunts for a mature bull with reduced hunting pressure.
Current elk herd condition
Big game populations in Colorado are managed on the basis of herd management plans for specific areas called Data Analysis Units (DAUs) that represent the annual ranges of subpopulations. These DAUs are divided into Game Management Units (GMUs) to better manage harvest and hunter numbers within each herd. Of the 43 elk distinct elk herds, 23 exceed their objective by more than 10%. The most notable in terms of population are DAU’s E-6 (population 39,899), E-14 (population 17,329), E-24 (population 19,200) E-31 (population 17,746) and E-32 (population 10,475).
Colorado elk Data Analysis Units
Between 2004 and 2016 Colorado has made a more concerted effort to reduce elk populations to meet objectives and they have been much more aggressive in terms of antlerless permits. Due to the reduction in elk we increasingly hear from hunters and outfitters that there are fewer elk than they would prefer. As hunters we always want to see more game, but we also have to take carrying capacity into consideration and find the ideal balance. In the end, Colorado still has thriving populations and outstanding habitat. Colorado is a great place to hunt if you want to see a elk and have a reasonable chance to harvest.
The following DAU’s and game units all boast elk populations that are at least at 115% of objective. If you don’t see you favorite unit in the list below, not to worry as every DAU in the State but is at least 90% of their targeted population.
Top Colorado elk DAU populations
|E-2||3, 4, 5, 14, 214, 301, 441||22,910|
|E-3||6, 16, 17, 161, 171||4,490|
|E-6||11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26,|
33, 34, 131, 211, 231
|E-10||21, 22, 30, 31, 32||10,920|
|E-13||28, 37, 371||6,200|
|E-14||41, 42, 52, 411, 421, 521||13,310|
Top Colorado elk DAU populations
|E-23||59, 511, 512, 581, 591||3,190|
|E-27||86, 691, 861||2,320|
|E-53||133, 134, 135, 141, 142||780|
Top Colorado elk DAU populations
2017 winter precipitation
Colorado is once again seeing above average snowfall for most of the state. The southwestern portion of the state is currently between 112-137% of average. In Jan and Feb at times the snowpack was as high as 180% + in some areas. The Gunnison basin and San Juan portions of the state are the areas of greatest concern, although current conditions are far better than those of the catastrophic 2007-2008 winter.
In early January the Colorado Parks and Wildlife began a baiting/feeding operation to attempt to pull deer and elk away from Hwy 50 in the Gunnison Area. CPW has also enforced a shed hunting closure that impacts units in the Gunnison Basin (Units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551). The proactive measures will help some, but there is likely to be above average mortality in these areas. The bulk of the winter kill is going to be in the calf and fawn crop. Although hunting in 2017 and even the following two years should still be good, they may take a hit in 4 to 5 years time when those herds will bear the signs of lower recruitment from the 2016/2017 winter. That’s the bad news; the good news is the rest of the state including the Front Range, north central Colorado, and the eastern plains should have excellent survivability, great spring and early summer forage, and antler and horn development should be good.
Colorado’s elk seasons are very structured and follow a statewide calendar. Season dates are not unique to each unit although not all of the elk seasons set by the state are offered in every unit.
Season dates: Aug. 26 - Sept. 24, 2017
The archery season is nearly a month long and varies from early season pre rut spot and stalk and ambush hunting to run and gun calling during the heart of the rut. When it comes to elk hunting, there likely isn't a better time to be in the field than the 15th to the 24th of Sept, but don’t totally overlook the earliest days of the hunt as it can sometimes be more reliable to scout and hunt a mature bull prior to him transitioning into the rut. When testosterone levels peak a bull can cover massive amounts of country quickly in search of cows. Archers should be aware that the muzzleloader season runs concurrently during a portion of the hunt. You may focus your efforts during the final week or earlier portions of the hunt to avoid conflict.
Season dates: Sept. 9 - Sept. 17, 2017
Although the law requires that hunters use a more primitive muzzleloader setup in Colorado, the dates couldn’t get too much better. The muzzleloader and archery hunt does run concurrently which could complicate things for both tags holders, but with the numbers of elk and amount of public land we rarely hear too many complaints. On any given year this can be a good rut hunt, if not, you are still likely to be able to utilize a locator call and spot and stalk methods to find success. The rut should build toward the final few days of the hunt. If you are not familiar with the laws restricting muzzleloader I would recommend you give this article a look to build a muzzleloader for Colorado.
The Colorado muzzleloader hunt is probably one of the more underrated opportunities. With great dates and typically better draw odds, it may be worth a look if you are a firearm
Early rifle season
Season dates: Oct. 1 - Oct. 11, 2017 (some unit dates vary slightly)
Rifle elk hunters have multiple options. A few select units have an early rifle season and as you might imagine these are highly sought after hunts. The early rifle season provides rut action and an opportunity to hunt with a long-range rifle. This season is found in the regulations with a hunt code ending in E1-R. Those units are Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 201, Unit 10, Unit 61, and Unit 76. Depending on the unit, these hunts will take between 22 and 26 points to draw in 2017.
Season dates: Oct. 14 - Oct. 18, 2017
The five day 1st rifle elk season hunt codes ending in 01-R, has mid-October season dates. Most units in the Western portion of the state have this hunt as an option. The dates are post rut, although you may still see a few satellite type bulls drifting along with the cow/calf herds. You may hear some bugling, but don’t anticipate a lot of rut action. This season can be good, but you’ll have to do more work behind your glass and cover more country to find the better bulls. There are multiple units 1st rifle hunts that can be draw with 0 to 5 pts. If you want to hunt, these can be good hunts where harvest success typically runs in the 20 to 30% range.
2nd rifle season
Season dates: Oct. 21 - Oct. 29, 2017
The 2nd and 3rd rifle seasons are mostly OTC hunts. They share the same dates as the deer seasons and these can be high pressure hunts as both species are likely to be up in elevation and occupying similar types of habitat. The second rifle season hunt codes end in 02-R. This is a post rut hunt where bulls will be in solitary small bachelor herds and transitioning into winter range. Having a full nine days to hunt is an advantage here and it may take all of them to be successful.
3rd rifle season
Season dates: Nov. 4 - Nov. 12, 2017
The third rifle season hunt codes end in 03-R. This nine day hunt runs concurrently with the 3rd season rifle deer hunt and once again hunting pressure is normally very high. The bulls will be in bachelor herds and moving onto winter range. With some winter weather this can be a good hunt as it will concentrate elk onto historic winter ranges. The 3rd rifle season can be good for a mature bull in OTC units that border limited quota units where elk will migrate out of those areas into open units.
4th rifle season
Season dates: Nov. 15 - Nov. 19, 2017
The 4th rifle season hunt codes end in 04-R. The 4th season is a limited quota draw but this option is available in most units. The 4th season is a late season hunt where you can expect cold temperatures and snow in most areas. The bulls are normally tucked away in secluded canyons or low country trying to recoup the body condition they lost during the rut. They are not likely to move much during the day and will spend most of their time feeding and resting.
The goHUNT hit list units for Colorado elk in 2017
Top hit list hunt units to consider for 320" or better bulls
|Unit 201||370"+||Archery, muzzy,|
|Unit 2||360"+||Archery, muzzy,|
|Unit 10||350"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 40||360"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 851||370"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 61||350"+||Archery, muzzy, |
rifle-early, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 1||350"+||Archery, muzzy,|
|Unit 76||340"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-early, 1st, 2nd, 3rd
|Unit 49||340"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 20||330"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, late, 2nd late
|Unit 501||330"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 69, 84||330"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 66||320"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
|Unit 67||320"+||Archery, muzzy,|
rifle-1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
What is the Bosque del Oso?
Every year we have inquires about what the Bosque Del Oso is. This area know as Unit 851 is composed of large private ranches and a 30K acre State Wildlife Area (SWA) known as the Bosque Del Oso. Annually elk move off of the adjacent private lands and winter on the SWA. The 3rd and 4th rifle seasons here are limited quota and offer very good low pressure hunts for great bulls. There are other hunts also, but the better hunts are the late season ones. It will require at least 24 points to be in contention for one of these hunts in 2017.
How to uncover hidden gem elk units
As previously stated, a 350” bull in Colorado is realistic in only a few units. Every year a few lucky hunters will tag out on a bull in the 330-350” range on mid tier or OTC units but it’s generally the exception. The hard fact is that the majority of hunters every fall are unlikely to see a trophy caliber bull let alone harvest one, but just about any unit can produce a 300” class bull.
If there is a hidden gem, it’s in the fact that you can buy an OTC permit every year, or draw many of the units with 0 to 5 points. When you get that kind of opportunity to hunt an area consistently you can really figure an area out and at that point your chances of killing a better bull gets much better. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 feature to find OTC seasons that have the potential of bulls more than 310”. Use this link to jump right to the filter option for OTC elk hunts in Colorado. You will be surprised at the results of a search like this.
Top units to consider for 310" or better bulls on OTC hunts
B&C entry trends for Colorado elk
Units listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are included if any part of the district is found within the county.
Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for typical elk
|Units found within county|
|Moffat||7||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12,|
13, 201, 211, 301, 441
|Mesa||4||30, 31, 40, 41, 42, 60, 61,|
62, 411, 421
|Park||4||39, 46, 49, 50, 500, 501, 57, 58, 581|
|Jefferson||3||29, 38, 39, 46, 391, 461, 501|
|Eagle||2||25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 361, 44, 444, 45|
Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk
|Units found within county|
|Las Animas||5||85, 133, 134, 136, 137,|
140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851
|Fremont||3||58, 581, 59, 591, 69, 691, 84|
Trending bull:cow ratio units
You may have noticed that we provide data on bull to cow ratios for each hunt unit in Colorado. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status and health of the herd. A higher bull to cow ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bulls compared to a unit with a lower bull to cow ratio. More bulls equates to more bulls to hunt and harvest. When selecting a unit or comparing several units, you should take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0.
Top Colorado units for bull:cow ratios
The points system
The preference point race
2017 maximum preference points for elk: 30
There is no chance of drawing a coveted permit in the Northwestern corner units unless you have a couple decades worth of points.
Managing points and expectations
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Colorado Elk Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 elk preference points. What can I expect?
If you are relatively new to applying in Colorado you have a couple of options. You can choose to apply and build points while you hunt OTC units or you can burn them on one of the many hunts that fall into that category. Currently there are very few quality hunts that fall into the 5 to 10 or even 15 point range. Be sure to explore those options before you decide that you want to go down the path of banking points. As previously noted, the best hunts in the state cannot be drawn with less than 20 points and with point creep they are probably beyond your lifespan if you are just getting started. Below is a list of hunts that fall into the 0 to 5 pt range that are among the better hunts offered.
Archery elk hunts that take 0 to 5 points
|23, 24, 33||280"+||25:100|
|12, 23, 24||280"+||25:100|
Muzzleloader elk hunts that take 0 to 5 points
|16, 161, 17, 171, 6||260-300"+||57:100|
|21, 22, 30, 31, 32||300-320"+||20:100|
|231, 25, 26, 34||260-300"+||25:100|
|35, 36, 361||300-310"+||38:100|
|41, 42, 52, 411, 421, 521||290-310"+||21:100|
Best rifle elk hunts 0 to 5 points
|35, 26, 361||300-310"+||38:100|
If you are starting from scratch, then you really should view Colorado as an opportunity state. Use our Filtering 2.0 feature to find an option that will be a good fit for you or search our Outfitter Directory to find an operator that leases a ranch with great hunting.
What can I do with 5 to 15 elk preference points?
With 5 to 15 points there are far fewer options. Toward the upper end you have hunts like Unit 76 archery, 66, 67 muzzleloader and 20, 76 1st rifle. Mid level points, you might consider Unit 40 archery or Unit 49, 67 muzzleloader, or Unit 49 1st rifle. On the low end of this point range you might look at Units 20, 501 muzzleloader, or 20 late rifle. There may be a few more mixed in that you can explore with Filtering 2.0 but these represent some of the best options in that range. Units 40 and 20 are good guided options for a big bull, but will require access to ranch properties that only outfitters will be able to grant you. If a guided hunt or the other options don’t match what you are looking for, consider the OTC seasons while you continue to build points. Be aware that point creep for the best hunts may still be so bad that even at 15 points you could wait 30+ years for the best hunts.
What can I expect with 15 to 25 elk preference points?
At the upper end of this point range you should likely commit to staying the course and waiting your turn to hunt the top tier units. You may still wait a few years, but the muzzleloader and early rifle hunts in Units 2, 10, 201 are within closing distance.
If you are closer to the 20 point range, you can try to hold out for the Unit 2 and 10 archery hunts, Units 61, 76 early rifle, or look at the Unit 851 hunts. Unit 1 early rifle may be a decent guided option also. If you want to cash in, your best options are Unit 61 archery, 76 muzzleloader, or 40 rifle. On the bottom end of this point range, your best bet is either to wait a few years or look at Units 40, 66 muzzleloader 20, 76 1st rifle, or 61 2nd, 3rd & 4th rifle.
Colorado's 2017 antelope breakdown
Given the size of a state like Colorado it actually has very little quality antelope habitat and populations are not nearly as robust as states like Wyoming or even Montana. The amount of private land that encpmoassses those areas further reduces the hunting opportunities for most sportsman. Yet, there are some good units and Colorado is unique in that it does not have a non-resident cap or limit them to a certain quota. It is possible, and not unheard of that non-residents draw more permits than residents in some units.
Colorado mostly produces mediocre scoring bucks, but on occasion an 80”+ buck will be harvested. Most often they are taken from units that border Wyoming in the northwest portion of the state or along the New Mexico border. The best antelope hunting Colorado has to offer will take 13 or more preference points, unless you are willing to to hunt with archery equipment or a muzzleloader. Although harvest success for these hunts is much lower the limited quota hunts are probably the best bet to get a crack at a trophy caliber buck with a fewer number of preference points.
If you are not as concerned with trophy potential and are willing to do some research and map work, many of the units across the state can be hunted on an OTC archery permit. You can check out the OTC map on Filtering 2.0. The archery OTC season restricts you to buck antelope only from Aug. 15 to 31 and will allow you to hunt either sex antelope from Sept. 1 to 20.
Current antelope herd condition
Colorado manages their pronghorn herds in distinct Data Analysis Units. Of the 29 DAU’s 9 of them are exceeding population objective by 10% or more. Most of the those areas are in the southeastern portion of the state. As a result of the higher numbers, CPW undertook measures to aggressively increase pronghorn harvest from 2009 to 2013 by issuing more doe licenses, creating late doe seasons, and allowing youth hunters with unfilled licenses to continue hunting during late seasons in these areas.
Six out of 29 DAU pronghorn herds were more than 10% below their population objective Five of these herds are on the western slope and have been impacted by several years of drought and a couple difficult winters. The Gunnison Basin DAU declined below objective because of high mortality during the winter of 2007- 2008. The North Park DAU experienced significant winter mortality in the winter of 2010-2011. Both are likely to take another hit this year due to cold temperatures and heavy snowfall.
The majority of Colorado is not ideal antelope habitat; however, the northwestern part of the state as well as the southcentral portion of the state actually have good antelope habitat. Other localized areas of the state hold quality antelope hunting like the high sage near Gunnison, the Saguache Valley, or several parts of the eastern plains. Private land will heavily restrict access into some of the good antelope hunting. An outfitter may be needed to access some of the quality antelope hunting in Colorado.
Colorado Antelope Data Analysis Units
The following nine Data Analysis Units encompass 75% of the total number of antelope in Colorado and represent the largest populations.
Top Colorado antelope DAU populations
|A-8||110, 111, 118, 119, 123, 124||11,270|
|A-9||3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 214, 301, 441||13,260|
|A-7||128, 129, 133, 134, 135, 140, 141, 142, 147||9,040|
|A-1||87, 88, 89, 90, 94, 95, 951||7,240|
|A-35||29, 38, 51, 104, 105, 391||5,340|
|A-5||120, 121, 125, 126||3,660|
|A-6||112, 113, 114, 115||3,280|
|A-20||69, 691, 84, 85, 851, 86, 861||3,160|
|A-30||130, 136, 137, 138, 143, 144, 146||3,100|
As previously noted, the archery season is your best bet in terms of limited quota and OTC opportunity hunts. The archery season for limited quota is Aug. 15 to Sept. 20, 2017. The best archery hunts will likely take between 0 to 5 points to draw in 2017.
The OTC archery option will have dates for buck antelope from Aug. 15 to 31 and will allow you to hunt either sex antelope from Sept. 1 to 20.
The archery dates are ideal for an action packed rut hunt. Decoying, spot and stalk, and sitting water can all be productive. The harvest success rates are not great, but this is your best option to hunt quality bucks in areas with enough public land to have a good hunt, without building many years worth of preference points.
Muzzleloader permits are all limited quota and allocated through the draw. The season dates run Sept. 21 to Sept. 29, 2017. The harvest success is typically much better than the archery hunt but applicants should be aware that there are limitations on the muzzleloader setup that you can hunt with. This hunt should still be during the later portions of the rut and decoy, spot and stalk and sitting water can all be effective.
The rifle permits are limited quota and allocated through the draw. The rifle dates are Oct 7th to Oct 13th, 2017. Most of the better hunts will require 13 to 19 points to draw depending on the unit. Bucks are post rut and may be in small solitary groups or still hanging with does and fawns. Success rates are normally in the high 70% to 90% range.
goHUNT’s hit list units for antelope in 2017
Top hit list hunt units to consider for 75" or better antelope
How to uncover hidden gem units
Perhaps the best hidden gems for antelope in Colorado are in the limited quota archery, muzzleloader and the OTC archery hunts. Use the Unit Profiles to find units that have a decent amount of public land to hunt while still having an established trophy potential listed. The units without enough animals to provide a decent hunt will have “little to none” listed in the trophy potential; you should avoid these units. Generally speaking, Units 3, 6, 16, 17, 161, 171, 11, 67, 80, 81, 87, 88, 2/201 all have larger tracts of public lands and and healthy herd of antelope.
For the OTC archery permits you can use the Filtering 2.0 tool to search the OTC archery units and then filter down by harvest success and trophy potential to find those units that offer the best of both.
- Direct link for OTC archery hunts sorted by harvest success can be found here.
- Direct link for OTC archery hunts sorted by trophy potential can be found here.
Beyond that, some map and GPS work will allow you to whittle those units down to specific areas to hunt.
Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for antelope
|Las Animas||8||85, 128, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137,|
140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851
|Moffat||6||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12,|
13, 201, 211, 301
|Huerfano||3||84, 85, 128, 133, 861|
|Park||3||39, 46, 49, 50, 500, 501, 57, 58, 581|
Trending buck:doe ratio units
You have probably noticed that we provide data on buck to doe ratios for each hunt unit in Colorado. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher buck to doe ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bucks compared to a unit with a lower buck to doe ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bucks will be the highest scoring, but a higher ratio equates to more bucks to find and harvest. When selecting a unit, or comparing several units, take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth.
The interesting discovery is that the top areas with the highest buck:does ratios are not found in the top trophy producing areas or units that require 10 plus points. Several of these top buck:doe ratio areas are also available to hunt with an OTC license. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0. These are some serious sleeper areas to consider!
Top Colorado units for buck:doe antelope ratios
The points system
Managing points and expectations
2017 maximum preference points for antelope: 29
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Colorado Antelope Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 antelope points. What can I expect?
You have some options and using the draw odds portion of the site that there are permits you can draw for every season and weapon. The issue that you will run into is that these areas are almost entirely private lands and access is very limited. For these types of hunts your best option is to use our outfitter directory to contact a guide which will have some options to access those lands. Your next best bet is to build points, dig into some map and GPS research and take advantage of the OTC archery hunts.
What can I do with 5 or 10 antelope points?
In this range there are a few quality archery and perhaps even some muzzleloader hunts; including archery Unit 3/301 and muzzleloader in Unit 11. Both of which can be great hunts. You might also consider Units 87, 88 rifle. All of these had greater than 50% harvest success and firearms seasons were greater than 70%. If you are closer to the 10 point end of things, you may consider continuing to build points as there are some good opportunities in the 11 to 13 point level.
What can I expect with 10 or 15 antelope points?
Unit 3 muzzleloader and rifle, Unit 11 rifle and Unit 81 rifle are all within this range. All of which can be very good hunts for a great buck. The harvest success was almost 90% on all of these hunts and the trophy potential is 80”+. The likelihood of killing a Boone and Crockett buck are low but that caliber of buck certainly exists within these units. A patient hunter could do well on any one of these.