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2018 Colorado deer application strategy article

Colorado's 2018 mule deer and whitetail deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2018 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Whitetail Breakdown

Colorado is king—both in sheer numbers and overall trophy potential—when it comes to mule deer. With an estimated population of over 400,000 and more record book bucks than any other state, Colorado represents your best chance to tag out on a big buck. Colorado’s season structure provides a hunt for just about everyone with early season archery, muzzleloader, early rifle, and second, third and, even, fourth season late rifle hunts. If you have not hunted mule deer in Colorado, then do yourself a favor and plan to—it’s that good.

Total number of Typical B&C mule deer entries since 2000 - Colorado 2018

Total number of Nontypical B&C mule deer entries since 2000 - Colorado 2018

While a lot of us are focused on mule deer, whitetail deer also inhabit much of the eastern portion of the state. While it can be very tough to find a place to hunt and gain access, there are some great opportunities for a nice whitetail. This article covers all the information our INSIDERs need to know about Colorado’s draw system and how to obtain a permit to go deer hunting in 2018. 

Note: The application deadline for all Colorado species is midnight on April 3, 2018. You can apply online here.

Why Colorado for mule deer and whitetail deer in 2018


There is a lot of opportunities to hunt deer in Colorado. If you have no points, maximum points or anything in between you can find a hunt to suit your needs.

Trophy potential

A trophy buck can come out of any unit in the state, including hunts that take very few points to draw. Certainly, some hunts offer a better chance at a big buck, but the bulk of the units in the state regularly produce 170” plus bucks.

Season dates

Colorado has the most diverse season structure of any state, offering archery, muzzleloader, early rifle, 2nd rifle, 3rd rifle, and 4th rifle. Some are easier to draw than others, but if you want to hunt early with a bow or a gun, you can. If you want to hunt late season during the rut, you can. Colorado gives you options and just about every one of them can offer you a good hunt.

The possibility of hunting each year in Colorado

There are several decent hunts that can be drawn as a 2nd choice or as a 1st choice with no points. Also, Colorado also has leftover and turn-back permit systems where returned permits that took less than five points to draw will be reallocated via the leftover list. In addition, Colorado has a landowner permit program where you can buy a landowner tag and still retain your points. If you are strategic, you could obtain a permit to hunt in Colorado every year.

Quality whitetail hunting

The opportunity for a do-it-yourself (DIY) hunter hunting public land is poor, but if you are willing to go guided or pay a trespass fee, the trophy quality is quite good. Whitetail inhabit the eastern plains of Colorado and the trophy quality is better than most realize. 

New for 2018

Licensing system change

Colorado new licensing system

  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) transitioned to a licensing, pass, and reservation system in January 2018. All new and existing customers need to have a unique email and password to create an online profile in the new system. This process does take some time, so we highly suggest taking care of this well before the application deadline for those of you who apply the last few days before the deadline. Start the process here.
  • Applications are now paperless for all species. You must apply online or via telephone.
  • You are no longer required to front the fees for permits when applying. You will only pay the $3 application fee per species and the $10 habitat stamp. The permit fees will only be charged if you successfully draw a permit. The preference point fee will only be charged if you are unsuccessful in the draw.
  • The credit card on file will be charged for your permit between June 4 and 8 if you are successful in the draw.
  • Applicants applying as a group must choose a group leader and that individual must apply first by selecting “I am a group leader” on the application prior to other group members applying.

Mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing in select game management units (GMU)

Mandatory CWD testing required for rifle harvested buck deer in Units 3, 4, 5, 14, 15, 18, 27, 28, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, 45, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 181, 214, 301, 361, 371, 421, 441, 951.

Muzzleloader bullet change

Round ball bullets for muzzleloaders are now a minimum of .50 caliber. This applies to deer, pronghorn, and bear. Round ball bullets for muzzleloaders are now a minimum of .54 caliber for moose and elk.

New hunts/seasons

  • Fourth rifle buck open in Units 69, 84, 86, 691, 861.
  • Season dates for Unit 512 extended; it now runs Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

Camping permit requirement

Unit 43: new camping permit required for Conundrum Hot Springs area of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Cost increase

Deer license cost increase for nonresidents from $376 to $396 for 2018. Resident deer license cost was reduced from $34 to $31 in 2018.

State information

To view important information and an overview of Colorado’s rules/regulations, the draw system and preference 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.

Colorado State Profile Mule Deer Profile Whitetail Deer Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Colorado is one of the easiest states to apply in. 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. You’ll hear this as being an undersubscribed unit. 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. You can see the list of second choice mule deer hunts on our standalone draw odds here for residents and here for nonresidents.

Important dates and information

  • The deadline to apply for Colorado deer is midnight MST on April 3, 2018.
  • Apply online here or by calling 1-800-244-5613.
  • New for 2018: You no longer have to front license fees to apply.
  • All applicants must create an online account to apply online.
  • Youth may apply for a preference point if they turn 12 before Dec. 31, 2018. Youth may apply as long as they turn 12 prior to the end of the hunting season applied for.
  • Applicants born after Jan. 1, 1949 must have completed an approved hunter’s education course before applying and you must carry your hunter’s education card with you while you hunt.
  • Hunters age 50 plus, or military personnel, who have not completed hunters education can take a one-time online test to test out. The cost is $24.50 and you must pass with 90%.
  • Corrections to applications can be made by submitting a form on the CPW website.
  • Successful applicants will be charged between June 4 and 8. If the credit card used to apply is not valid to charge between those dates, you have until June 20 to pay for your license online, at a CPW office, or by phone. If you fail to pay you will lose the license and the preference points required to draw the permit.
  • Draw results will be posted on or before June 4 to 8. Make sure your credit card info is up to date. If it is not, they will attempt to contact you via email.  
  • 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.
  • If you return a drawn permit and want your preference points reinstated, you will not receive an additional point for 2018.
  • When you draw a nonresident license it also includes an annual fishing and small game license that is valid through March 31 of the following year.
  • If you check the box on the application for leftover licenses, then you will be a sent a list of all leftover licenses after the draw in June.
  • Preference Point codes:
    • D-P-999-99-P (deer)
    • E-P-999-99-P (elk)
    • A-P-999-99-P (antelope)
    • M-P-999-99-P (moose)
    • S-P-999-99-P (sheep)
    • G-P-999-99-P (mtn goat)

Cost to apply

Application fee per species$3.00
Habitat stamp (required to apply)$10.00
Preference point fee per species
(deer, elk, antelope)

* License cost ($396 nonresidents, $31 residents) will be charged only if you are successful in the draw.

The seasons

The season dates for the western portion of Colorado have moved back one day again for 2018. The archery season is nearly a month long while the muzzleloader, 2nd rifle, and 3rd rifle are all nine days. The highly sought after 4th season rifle hunt is only five days long, but should occur in conjunction with the mule deer rut.

Dates for deer seasons in 2018*

ArcheryAug. 25 to Sept. 24
MuzzleloaderSept. 8 to 16
Second rifle deer season (west of I-25)Oct. 20 to 28
Third rifle deer season (west of I-25)Nov. 3 to 11
Fourth rifle deer season (west of I-25)Nov. 14 to 18

* Unless otherwise noted in the brochure tables

For a season-by-season weapon breakdown, check out our Colorado mule deer species profile.

Colorado statewide deer harvest- Updated 2018

The draw system

Understanding the draw

Nonresidents can be allocated up to 35% of the deer licenses for each hunt code unless the hunt has taken residents at least six years or more to draw on average over a three year period. In these cases, nonresidents can be allocated up to 20% of the total licenses for those hunts.

Point system

Colorado uses a preference point system for deer where the applicants with the most points for each hunt get the licenses. There is no random component to the draw for nonresident deer licenses. Every year that you apply and do not draw your first choice you will be given a preference point. There is also a preference point only code if you simply want to build a point and not be considered for a hunt. That code is D-P-999-99-P. Put that code as your first choice if you want to build a point.

What about the hybrid draw?

Colorado has a hybrid draw for some deer, elk and antelope hunts. If a hunt has required ten or more resident preference points to draw on average over a three year period, up to 20% of those licenses will go in a random draw called the hybrid draw. A minimum of five preference points is required to be considered in the hybrid draw. Group applications are not permitted in the random hybrid draw. Residents that meet the minimum five points have a slim random chance to draw some of the best hunts in the state if they choose to apply for them.

So why do nonresidents not have a chance in the hybrid draw? The random hybrid draw occurs after the regular draw and the nonresident quotas are already met in the regular draw for almost every hunt so there are no nonresident permits available for the hybrid draw. The only hunts that could be drawn under the current system by nonresidents are antelope hunts, which do not have a nonresident quota.

Hunt choices

The draw system considers every applicant’s first choice before considering second, third, or fourth hunt choices. In essence, the only way you will draw a hunt as a second, third, or fourth choice is if there are fewer applicants that list it as a first choice than there are licenses. If you draw a hunt with your first choice, then your preference points will be purged. If you draw a hunt as a second, third, or fourth choice you will retain and build a point for that year and obtain a license to hunt. Utilize our standalone Draw Odds page and Filtering 2.0 to help you to filter out hunt choices that you can draw based on your personal preference point level. Every year, we are asked if there are hunts that can be drawn as a second choice—and there definitely are! When using the standalone Draw Odds be sure to explore those by changing the drop-down link in “Select Your Draw Choice” to the second choice. Very quickly, you will see many realistic second choice hunt options. If you are going to include a second, third and fourth choice, then do some research and only apply for hunts that may slip to those choices; otherwise, there is really no need to select a hunt for those choices.

Percent of COLORADO DEER TAGS DRAWN 1ST - 4TH CHOICE - updated 2018


A deer application can include mule deer only hunt choices, whitetail deer hunt choices, or a combination of hunt choices. Pay close attention to the season description in the regulations when you apply; there are hundreds of hunt codes. Double check to make sure you are applying for the hunts you want.

Group applications

There is no limit for numbers of applicants in a group, except for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Two may apply in a group for those species and they must both be residents or both nonresidents. Residents and nonresidents can apply together in a group for other species. Group applications go into the draw with the lowest number of preference points of any individual in the group. Example, three applicants with two, three and six points will go into the draw with two points. The group leader must apply first and all other group members must use the same person as their group leader to go into the draw. Colorado will not over allocate to give everyone on a group application a license if there are not enough licenses in the quota. For example, if there is a group of five and there are only four licenses in the quota, that application will be rejected. As previously stated, nonresidents and residents can apply together in a group; the nonresident licenses drawn in this type of example will come out of the nonresident quota.

License returns

As previously noted, a drawn license can be returned. Colorado has a reissue process for those licenses. Licenses that required less than five preference points to draw will be placed on the leftover list at random intervals. Licenses that required five or more preference points to draw will be reallocated to an alternate applicant if possible. CPW will contact up to five of the next alternates in line to try to reallocate the license. If no one takes it, it will go into the leftover list. If a resident returns a license it will go to a resident, if a nonresident returns a license it will go to a nonresident.

Other tag opportunities

Leftover limited licenses have gone through the draw process and still have a quota remaining. When you initially apply, you can check the box to have a list of the leftover licenses sent to you (“If unsuccessful send me…”). If you select that, in June, CPW will send you the leftover list with instructions on how you can apply for those licenses. The application deadline for leftover licenses is July 3. Beyond the leftover drawing, any remaining licenses will be sold over-the-counter (OTC) starting Aug. 7 at 9:00 a.m. MST via phone or in person at a CPW office. On Aug. 8, any remaining licenses will be available online.

As noted above, all returned licenses that take four or fewer preference points in the current year’s draw will be available for purchase the week after they are returned and processed. Those are randomly posted on the leftover list as they are returned and can be purchased on a first come first served basis starting in early August. It’s worth checking that list periodically if you did not draw a license because, every year, some good licenses are turned in.

If you buy a leftover license your preference points are not used. If you buy a returned license that took less than five points to draw initially your points will not be used. If you are selected as an alternate for a license that took five-plus points to draw and you accept it, then your points will be purged.

Colorado offers landowner permits. For the past several years, a third party cannot broker the sale of a landowner license like they use to. Currently, the landowner or designated land manager must transfer the voucher directly to the hunter. Landowners can list their vouchers on sites, but you will need to contact them to purchase one. There are still hundreds of landowner licenses out there and with some research, you can typically find opportunities for a license.

Final thoughts on the draw

There are hundreds of applicants in Colorado’s system that have probably heard at some point about the best hunts in the state and apply blindly every year. Do not be that guy! Remember Colorado deer works on a preference point system where the applicants with the most points are guaranteed the licenses. In a lot of cases, the point creep is so bad that it may take decades to draw or even worse you may never draw. For example, Unit 44 4th rifle gave three nonresident licenses in 2017 that were drawn at the 23 and 22 point level. To put it in perspective, if you were at the 19 point level last year, it could still be another 11 years to draw that hunt. How long do you suppose you might be if you have less than that? Well, at the ten point level you are looking at another 42 years. Think about that, 52 years to draw a deer permit. Don’t do it! There are too many good hunts out there for you to blindly apply and waste your application every year.


Colorado's 2018 mule deer breakdown

Mule deer taken with Hill Guides and Outfitters
Mule deer taken with Hill Guides & Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

There has been a stark contrast between this winter and last. Last year, portions of Colorado experienced early heavy snowpack and late freezing conditions. Almost the entire state ended up with 120% plus of normal snowpack.The southwestern herds of the state, especially in the Gunnison, San Juan, and Upper Rio Grande areas, experienced above average winter mortality. The results are mixed. Some hunters and guides say that the winter kill was higher than expected while the state suggests that the winter kill was only slightly above normal. In all, there was definitely more loss than normal, mostly in the fawn crop. The rest of the state was impacted much less and, for the most part, experienced normal winter survival rates.

Colorado post hunt deer population estimate - Updated 2018

On the flip side, this winter has been dry and warm. Recent precipitation has helped, but it is unlikely that many basins in the southern half of the state will reach average snowpacks. Statewide precipitation is 70% of average. The only areas near normal levels of precipitation are in the North and South Platte basins which are in the north-central portion of the state. The northwest portion of the state (Yampa and White basins) is currently 75% of normal while the southwest portions (Gunnison, San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan) are 50% or less of normal.

The current precipitation levels are concerning. While winter survival rates should be very high, dry hot spring and summer conditions would also stress herds going into the fall and winter months. Only time will tell, but, based on long-term forecasts, there is an increased likelihood of below average precipitation and above normal temperatures.

Colorado snow water equivalent as of March 2018
Colorado snow water equivalent update as of March 9, 2018. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

The goHUNT hit list units for Colorado mule deer

Mule deer taken with Western Outdoor Adventures

Mule deer taken with Western Outdoor Adventures — A goHUNT Business Member

For the past couple years the third and 4th rifle seasons have been warm and dry. There is a correlation between the hot dry conditions and the number of big bucks harvested during those hunts. It’s been several years since snow and cold weather have arrived early enough in the year to provide an exceptional 3rd or 4th season hunt. Some of the biggest bucks harvested in recent years have been harvested during the muzzleloader or archery hunts. On the right year with the right conditions, Colorado late season can still be amazing.

Top hit list hunt units to consider for 180" or better bucks
(not in order of quality)

Public land
Unit 21190"+38:10087.6%
Unit 44190"+42:10081.5%
Unit 53180"+43:10077.4%
Unit 54190"+38:10078.7%
Unit 55190"+43:10089.4%
Unit 66190"+50:10080.6%
Unit 67190"+50:10082.6%
Unit 68, 681, 682180"+28:10086.9%
Unit 201180"+38:10091.9%
Unit 411, 52, 521180"+27:10061.8%



How to uncover hidden gem units

Chris Porter with his 2017 Colorado mule deer
goHUNT's COO, Chris Porter with his 2017 Colorado mule deer.

When you think about a hidden gem in hunting you’re probably thinking about an area or hunt that far fewer people are aware of that can produce above-average results. There are so many units and hunts in Colorado that finding a hidden gem opportunity is very possible. The keys to finding hidden gems are all there within the Filtering 2.0 and the Unit Profiles. Manipulate the trophy potential, Draw Odds, season choices, harvest success and public land filters and you’ll begin to tease out those hunts that have potential beyond the number of points it takes to draw them.

A few more considerations for those of us looking for hidden gems. Consider primitive weapon hunts (archery and muzzleloader). The season dates for these weapons provide very good opportunities to find and hunt a big buck. The bulk of Colorado’s mule deer summer range is public land. Bucks are still in bachelor groups and for the most part still in their summer range and patterns. In addition, the draw odds for the archery and muzzleloader hunts are very good, with some of the best units in the state within grasp with just a few points.

The 2nd season rifle hunts are not the easiest hunts by any means, but they are typically easy to draw. Several good areas with ample amounts of public land can be drawn as a 2nd choice even. Use the Draw Odds page to explore the options. During the 2nd rifle season, the bucks are often timbered up and move very little as they prepare for the rut. Glassing one up can be a difficult task, but, with time and effort, it is possible. Review trophy potentials, draw odds and harvest success percentages and you’ll see there are some sleepers in this category.

There are far fewer secrets for the 3rd and 4th season rifle hunts. If there are hidden gems within these dates, it’s likely in the form of public land percentages and locations. A good chunk of the winter range in some of the easy to draw 3rd and 4th season hunts is private land or the public land that does exist is not good habitat. This is not always the case and, even when it is, there are opportunities for individuals who can dig in and really research the land ownership, game movements, and hunt hard. On the right year with a good early cold snap and snow storm, there are third season hunts that could be very very good.

B&C entry trends for Colorado mule deer

Mule deer taken with Twin Buttes Recreation

Mule deer taken with Twin Buttes Recreation — A goHUNT Business Member

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

CountyNo. of
Units found within county
Eagle1215, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43,
44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Garfield1112, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Archuleta977, 78, 81, 751, 771
Rio Blanco710, 11, 12, 21, 22, 23,
24, 31, 211, 231
Delta5411, 52, 521, 53, 62, 63, 64
Las Animas585, 128, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137,
140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851
Mesa530, 31, 41, 42, 421, 60, 61, 62
Montrose560, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 70
Yuma598, 101, 102, 103, 109

Map of Colorado's typical mule deer B&C all time entries 2018

Colorado Book Typicals 1990-2017 with precip - updated 2018

Colorado Book Typicals 1965-1989 with precip - updated 2018

Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

CountyNo. of
Units found within county
Eagle615, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43,
44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Garfield512, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Morgan495, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951
Grand414, 15, 18, 28, 181, 361
La Plata374, 75, 741, 751, 771

Map of Colorado's nontypical mule deer B&C all time entries 2018

Trending buck:doe ratio units

Mule deer taken with Powderhorn Primitive Outfitters
Mule deer taken with Powderhorn Primitive Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

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 and health 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. More bucks equates to more bucks to find and harvest. When selecting a unit or comparing several units, take this into consideration to help your decision.

The interesting discovery is that the top units with the highest buck:doe ratios are not always found in the top trophy producing units that require over 10 points. Several of these top buck:doe ratio areas are also available to hunt with minimum points. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0. These are some serious sleeper units to consider!

Top Colorado units for mule deer buck:doe ratios

128, 129, 133, 134, 135,
136, 141, 142, 147
6, 16, 161, 17, 17157:100
122, 125, 126, 127, 130,
132, 137, 138, 139, 146
66, 6750:100
29, 3848:100
104, 105, 106, 7, 130, 4747:100
18, 181, 27, 28, 37, 37145:100



The points system

Colorado mule deer taken with Little Creek Ranch
Colorado mule deer taken with Little Creek Ranch — A goHUNT Business Member

The preference point race

2018 maximum preference points for deer: 28


Colorado nonresident deer preference points going into the 2018 draw


Managing points and expectations

Keep in mind that most of the land east of I-25 is private. Obtaining landowner permission prior to applying is highly recommended.

I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?

There are three different strategies if you are planning on applying for deer in Colorado for the first time in 2018.

1.) Build a preference point only by including the D-P-999-99-P as your first and only choice and plan to hunt in the coming years.

2.) Build a preference point by including the D-P-999-99-P or a hunt code that you cannot draw as your first choice and then include a hunt that you have a chance to draw as a second choice. This will allow you to build a preference point and possibly draw a license as a second choice. Review the second choice draw odds to see what’s possible.

Find your resident mule deer 2nd choice draw odds here

Find your nonresident mule deer 2nd choice draw odds here

3.) Review the draw odds to see what hunts can be drawn with zero points. There were 15 archery, 26 muzzleloader, two early rifle, 19 second season rifle, 11 third season rifle, eight fourth season rifle and many more plains deer licenses that could have been drawn with zero points in last year’s draw.

Tip: If you plan to apply for one of the hunts that had 100% odds with zero points, be sure you check the second choice odds before you list one of them as your first choice. Remember if you draw a hunt as your first choice you won’t gain a point. Don’t draw a hunt as a first choice when you could have drawn it as a second choice and build a preference point for the year.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds with zero points here

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds with zero points here

What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?

We would make the case that if you are within this point range or close to it, you should really begin to do the research and strongly consider drawing a license and plan to go hunting. Point creep is very bad in Colorado for the top tier hunts. As was previously noted, you could wait a lifetime to hunt one of those hunts. The reality is that even with those licenses there is no guarantee that you will harvest a big buck. The snow may not fall, the bucks may not rut early enough, and just like that you’ve waited decades for a hunt that may not actually be that good.


The list of hunts that a resident can draw with three or four points is extensive. The easiest way to quickly narrow down your search is to use Filtering 2.0 and select the criteria you’re looking for. Example: go to Colorado > Mule deer > 180”+ trophy potential > Resident draw odds > First choice > 4 points > 100% draw odds. Go here for the direct link. To narrow that down even further you can select the weapon you’re looking for in the select your season drop down menu.

A few of the better hunts within this range are: archery hunts in Unit 21, 55, or 66; muzzleloader hunts in 54, 62, or 551; second season rifle hunts in 55, 67, 80, or 551; third season rifle hunts in 22, 53, 68, or 76; and fourth season rifle hunts in 15 or 60.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds with 4 points here


The pile of hunts that a nonresident could draw with three or four points is lengthy. Follow the same strategy outlined above, using Filtering 2.0, the stand alone Draw Odds and Unit Profiles to find the hunts that suit your objectives best.

A few of the better options within this range are: archery hunts in 54, 67, 83, and 551; muzzleloader hunts in 52/411/521, 54, 64/65, and 67; second season rifle hunts in 22, 53, and 551; third season rifle hunts in 62, 70, 80/81, and 161; and fourth season rifle hunts in 444 and 511. Keep in mind that fourth season hunts drawn with very few points could be difficult due to private land issues and access.

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds with 4 points here

What can I expect with nine or 10 deer points?


A resident can draw any archery tag, including Unit 2, 10 and 201. Unit 61 muzzleloader is a good option as is early season rifle in Unit 65, 82/86/861 and 851. Unit 10 and 851 second season rifle are both worth considerations. Unit 30, 55, and 67 third season rifle could all be good options.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds with 10 points here


Nonresidents in this point range have some great options and we would encourage hunters to burn them on a hunt sooner than later. As previously noted, point creep is significant for the best hunts and the difference in a hunt that takes 10+ points and one that takes a few is not significant enough to wait in our opinion. Good options are archery hunts in Unit 2, 61, and maybe 201. Muzzleloader hunts in 551 or 851 can be good. Early rifle hunts in 43, 48/56/481/561 and 65 are worth some research. Unit 21, 44, 55, 61, 66, and 67 second season rifle hunts could all provide a good hunt for a great buck. The best third season rifle options are in Units 22, 30, 68/681/682, 54, 551 and perhaps Unit 40 and 63 with a guide/outfitter or private land access. Fourth season rifle options in 15, 33, 71/711 could be good with snow and cold temperatures. One consideration you make think about it that a fourth season hunt only gives you five days to hunt while the third season allows you nine days. It may be worth hunting one of the better trophy potential units during the earlier dates. Research and weather are going to be the key to the fourth season hunts at this point level.

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds with 10 points here

What can I expect with 15 or 20 deer points?

For the select few that have waited this long to draw a deer tag in Colorado you can draw most hunts, but you are likely only considering a few. As I pointed out earlier, even with 19 points you could wait another 11 years to draw a Unit 44 fourth season rifle license. If you stay the course for one of the top tier rifle hunts you may be applying for several more years.

If you fall within this range and are looking for a hunt, once again use the Filtering 2.0, Unit Profiles, and Draw Odds pages to find the hunts that best suite you. The muzzleloader hunts are all within range, except perhaps Unit 2 and 61 for nonresidents. All early rifle hunts are available, including Unit 82/86/861 and 74. Second season rifle hunts in Units 2, 10, and 201 are worth some research and consideration. Hunting the third season rifle hunts in Units 53, 55, 61, 66, 67 can be good with some scouting and winter weather. Units 35/36/45/361 can offer a fourth season rifle permit hunter a good hunt, but consider that the third season license can be drawn with one point. Other fourth season rifle hunts to think about are 52/411/521, 53, 55, 63, 66, 67, 68/681/682, 201, and 551.

Find your resident mule deer draw odds with 20 points here

Find your nonresident mule deer draw odds with 20 points here

Colorado's 2018 whitetail deer breakdown

The eastern half of the state has good numbers of whitetail deer and the quality is far better than most realize, which is likely due to the fact that almost everybody is thinking about mule deer. Whitetail licenses are far easier to draw and there are even some OTC opportunities in the south-central part of the state. The OTC licenses occur in areas where whitetail deer are rare and mule deer are the primary species of interest. The bulk of Colorado’s whitetail occurs on private land. Private land access is the key to harvesting a big whitetail buck and, of the 73 units, 53 of them have the potential to harvest a 150” or better buck. While it’s hard to turn away from all the incredible mule deer hunting Colorado can provide, it may be worth considering booking a hunt with a guide or researching some of the public accessible state wildlife areas and taking a year or two off to hunt big whitetail.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

From the front range across the eastern plains to the Kansas border, whitetail occupy the river bottoms and agricultural fields. Some of the highest buck to doe ratios occur within whitetail dominated areas. Herds are generally healthy and supported by river bottoms, wheat, corn and hay farms. The eastern portion of the state does not experience the harsh winter conditions that the west side of the state does and survivability and fawn recruitment are typically very high.

The seasons

You can draw licenses for archery, muzzleloader or rifle whitetail. There are three timeframes that a bowhunter can hunt with the same license in most units: Oct .1 to 26, Nov. 7 to 30 and Dec. 15 to 31. This gives a bowhunter a tremendous opportunity to scout, hunt and harvest a great buck. The muzzleloader hunt runs from Oct. 13 to 21. The rifle hunt varies by unit, but the hunts typically occur between late October and mid-December.

There are also some season choice licenses for whitetail. These licenses are available in Units 91, 92, 96, 89, 90, 95, 93, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102. Hunters using these licenses can hunt during all seasons until they fill their license. Some of these hunts are only valid on private lands and for doe only so be sure to review the state rules and regulations.

goHUNT’s hit list units for trophy Colorado whitetail deer in 2018

When it comes to whitetail hunting in Colorado, it’s really true that the property you’re hunting is more important than the unit. A quality land and hunt management strategy is key. Conducting some research into finding a quality outfitter or landowner with access is important.

Top hit list hunt units to consider for 160" or better bucks
(not in order of quality)

Public land
Unit 103160"+14.9%
Unit 102160"+7.4%
Unit 98160"+5%
Unit 139160"+3.9%
Unit 101160"+7.8%
Unit 107160"+2.9%
Unit 109160"+3.6%
Unit 117160"+3.6%
Unit 116160"+4.3%
Unit 127160"+7.9%
Unit 132160"+4.7%



How to uncover hidden gem areas

There are not too many hidden gems for Colorado whitetail hunting. If there are, they are tucked away in state wildlife areas along the Arkansas River and South Platte River Drainages. These areas are either state or privately owned lands that offer hunting opportunities to the public. The opportunities are not great, but, with some research, there is a chance to harvest a decent whitetail buck or doe.   

Another possible hidden gem for some is that Colorado allows hunters to obtain more than one deer license in a year. Colorado classifies their deer licenses into three separate classifications (also known as lists): A, B, and C licenses. You can draw an A list license, then purchase a list B or list C license OTC, too. Below is a list describing these three classifications. Make sure to verify the license type with the Colorado Division of Wildlife Regulations.

List A licenses

The deer licenses that we apply for in the draw are usually classified as A licenses.

List B licenses

The list of licenses that qualify as a B license is short. Most of the B class licenses are private land only or antlerless except the following:

  • OTC licenses for either sex, whitetail only.
  • Either sex whitetail only licenses for Units 59, 69, 84, 581.
  • Licenses for hunt codes D-E-089-S2-R, D-E-093-S2-R.

List C licenses

Several of the antlerless choices across the state are classified as List C.

The List B and List C licenses are not trophy opportunities, but they are a chance to extend your season.

B&C entry trends for Colorado whitetail deer

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for typical whitetail deer

CountyNo. of
Units found
within county
Yuma398, 101, 102, 103, 109
Prowers2126, 127, 132, 139, 146
Baca1137, 138, 139, 144, 145
Kit Carson1107, 109, 114, 115, 116, 117
Morgan195, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951
Pueblo159, 84, 123, 128, 133, 135, 591

Map of Colorado's typical whitetail deer B&C all time entries 2018

Colorado's top Boone & Crockett producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical whitetail deer

County*No. of
Units found
within county
Cheyenne1113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 121, 122
Kit Carson1107, 109, 114, 115, 116, 117
Yuma198, 101, 102, 103, 109

Map of Colorado's nontypical whitetail deer B&C all time entries 2018

The points system

Either species points in Colorado

Colorado only has one preference point system for deer and you can collect and use your points for either mule deer or whitetail. The eastern plains hunts are good for either species. There are however a few hunt choices that are whitetail only and have their own hunt codes that you would need to use when you apply. The whitetail only options are easier to draw than the plains deer licenses. The plains deer licenses are easier to draw that the hunts west of the front range.

Managing points and expectations

Any of the mule deer hunt choices that are offered on the eastern plains are also good for whitetail deer. There are; however, a few choices that are whitetail-only and have their own hunt code. The whitetail-only choices are generally easier to draw and the either species licenses on the plains units are far easier to draw than the mule deer hunt choices on the western side of the state.

I want to hunt whitetail in Colorado. What can I expect?

If you are serious about hunting whitetail in Colorado then your real research needs to be in finding a spot to hunt. The best option is to book with an outfitter who has access to quality bucks on private lands. Use our Outfitter Directory to contact an outfitter prior to the draw. He will instruct you on which unit his leases are located in. If you are not able to draw, then a landowner tag is always an option since most of the landowner tags are controlled by the outfitters. Most quality options to hunt the plains units are booked out years in advance. Be sure to discuss the long-term strategy with an outfitter prior to applying. You may need to pick up preference points while waiting to ensure that you can draw when you are ready to hunt. Explore the Draw Odds to see how many points it may take before booking a hunt. The eastern plains offer very good hunting for both whitetail and mule deer; however, it’s highly likely that you will have to book with a guide or do some real research and contact landowners to gain permission to hunt.

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