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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Colorado Deer

 

Large velvet mule deer buck
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Colorado's mule deer and whitetail deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown MD Hidden Gem Areas Points System Whitetail Deer Breakdown WT Hidden Gem Areas

Colorado stands supreme as the mule deer juggernaut of the West. While many of the adjacent states hold promise and produce trophy bucks, none come close to the sheer numbers of high scoring, mature mule deer that Colorado generates each and every year. The combination of genetics, habitat, and management are key to staggering numbers of deer found across the state. One glance in the Boone and Crockett (B&C) record book will support this claim.

Giant mule deer and impressive whitetails are available for hunting over an abundance of seasons, weapon types, and terrain. Whether you are after a high country hunt in the backcountry for summer deer, a chance to hunt bucks later in the fall as they enter the rut period, or anything in between, Colorado has a deer hunting adventure awaiting you. Study this write up and you will gain insights on developing your own personal deer hunting strategy for Colorado in 2016!

Note: The application deadline for Colorado is midnight on April 5, 2016 MT. You can apply online here or on paper.



Why Colorado for mule deer and whitetail deer

Trophy bucks. Period.

•  Whether it be long term B&C entries or recent entries for mule deer, Colorado has the edge.
•  Practically any unit across the state holds mature mule deer bucks that will score 175” or better.
•  Whitetail bucks in eastern Colorado are surprisingly better in quality than most hunters realize.

The year of late rifle dates

•  2016 marks the latest calendar date for the opener of the rifle deer seasons on the western slopes of Colorado.
•  The third season rifle deer dates will begin nearly as late as a fourth rifle season during most years.

Diversity in weapon types

•  Colorado has a designated season for archery and muzzleloader as well as multiple rifle seasons to select from.
•  Big bucks are taken every year across the state with each of the weapon types.
•  Your preference points for deer can be used towards drawing any season with any weapon choice.

Great early season archery opportunity

•  Backcountry hunting at high elevation is available in many units.
•  A long, liberal archery deer season is available in the units west of I-25. There are also three different archery periods to select from for the archery hunts east of I-25.

Possibility of hunting most years

•  Many of the season choices can be drawn with a low number of points.
•  Landowner tags are regularly available and do not impact your accumulated preference points.



New for 2016

•  If you elect to forfeit your tag with the plan of redeeming your pre-draw preference points, you must now return your tag at least 30 days prior to the first day of the season, unlike the previous 48 hour requirement.
•  Returned tags will be available on a leftover list on a first-come first served basis.
•  There will be a $15 refund processing fee to cover administrative costs.
•  The application to turn your tag in for a license refund or points restoration can be found here.
•  Late rifle season dates for 2016 will be the latest start dates in several years.
•  Beginning in April, there is a test-out option available for hunters over 50 years old or U.S. military personnel for the hunter education certificate requirement.
•  A new free apprentice license is available for first time deer hunters at least 12 years of age that will allow them to hunt deer without a hunter education certificate as long as an eligible mentor accompanies them. Mentors must be 18 years of age and have a hunter education certificate or have been born prior to January 1, 1949.

The impact of wolves on Colorado’s herds

Luckily, Colorado does not have any established wolf numbers, which means that predation is not an issue. Although a few wolves have roamed into Colorado recently, luckily the state has a hard stance on wolves. Hopefully, this continues for the foreseeable future.



State information

Colorado has a relatively straightforward, no nonsense system in place for handling the deer draw. 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.

Colorado statewide mule deer harvest

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.

State Profile Mule Deer Profile Whitetail Deer Profile

Important dates and information

•  The deadline to apply for Colorado deer is midnight on April 5, 2016 MT.
•  Apply online here or by paper.
•  If you apply by paper, then your application must be postmarked by midnight on April 5, 2016 MT.
•  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.
•  The maximum preference points for Colorado deer is 26.
•  When you draw a nonresident license it also includes an annual fishing license that is valid through March 31 of the following year.
•  Application corrections and amendments are due April 11, 2016 MT.
•  You can apply for a deer preference point only by submitting the code D-P-999-99-P.
•  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.
•  Nonresident quotas for deer are determined by the demand for a given hunt code.
•  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.
•  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.
•  The deer application can be filled out for mule deer only hunt choices, whitetail deer hunt choices, or either species hunt choices. Pay close attention to the season description in the regulations.
•  It is possible to draw more than one deer license in a calendar year. See section below under whitetail under Hidden Gem Areas.



The draw system

Understanding the draw

Your first choice is the most important choice on the application. This is the choice that will use your accumulated preference points and is the choice that nearly all tags are drawn. Every application will be drawn and the first choices will be considered prior to any application’s second choice. Every year that you are unsuccessful drawing your first choice for deer, you are awarded an additional preference point. Preference points are like money in the bank and are needed to draw the given tag you desire. Our Draw Odds will help you to filter out hunt choices based on your personal preference point level. This will help you  see only those hunt choices that are within reach for you. You may also want to set the filter to allow you to see hunt choices that are a point level or two higher than your current level. This will help you to see what may be in reach should you decide to continue building points for additional years.

Here’s why that matters

The most sought after hunt choices for deer always carry a higher preference point price tag. Hunters often apply for deer in Colorado for a hunt choice that they have heard is the best option for a trophy buck. They do this without ever truly understanding how many points is needed to draw that particular hunt choice. If applicants apply with the knowledge that they are doing this for an additional point and understands that they have no choice of drawing that tag randomly, then this is not an issue. However, it is common for an applicant with only two preference points to apply with a false hope that s/he can draw a hunt choice that requires at least 15 preference points the prior year. The sad truth is that many of these high point hunt choices issue very few tags annually even though the number of applicants is high. If this is the case, then this hunt choice is highly likely to have “point creep” and an applicant that is over 12 points below what is needed to draw, may never catch up and actually draw that hunt.

The other issue with this strategy is that the only constant is change. Herd health among the deer units of Colorado is no different and, like other states, is constantly changing. Unit 10 in northwest Colorado has been a high demand rifle deer unit for decades. Around the year 2000, this was truly one of the best areas in the state. Yet, for the last decade, this unit has struggled to produce high-end bucks and the numbers have dwindled due to winter mortality, drought, predation, and the increasing number of elk in that region. Even so, the popularity continues and many hunters continue to apply for the few available tags offered for the third rifle season in Unit 10. There are a number of better options in the state that require a far lower number of preference points to draw.

Unit 10 third season rifle deer 2015

 

Resident

Nonresident

Licenses (Tags) available 2015 4 1
Points needed to draw 2015 13 19
Total number of first choice applicants 104 60
Total number of second choice applicants 28 33
Total number of third choice applicants 13 5
Total number of fourth choice applicants 7 8

 

Resident draw odds for Unit 10 3rd season rifle

Colorado Unit 10 resident draw odds for third season rifle

Nonresident draw odds for Unit 10 3rd season rifle

Colorado Unit 10 nonresident draw odds for third season rifle

As you can see in this example, there are a couple things that make little sense. An applicant with 19 points drew the one nonresident tag and this was due to a very high demand for this tag. There were 59 other nonresidents that applied for this hunt choice as a first choice. These applicants were spread across the various point levels, but they applied first choice. This one nonresident tag was far from being available to a second choice applicant. Remember from above that all applicants’ first choices are considered before any of the second choices are considered. As shown in the illustration, 33 nonresident applicants applied for this as a second choice with the hope that it would be undersubscribed and available to draw. Even worse is that 13 more nonresidents applied for this hunt choice as a third or fourth choice. There’s always hope, right? If you are going to fill out a second choice, look at our Draw Odds and find a hunt choice that was 100% draw with zero points in recent years. That will be your only chance at drawing a subsequent choice. Research and knowledge is power and we provide you with the tools to increase your chances.

The preference point for deer in Colorado is interchangeable for both mule deer and whitetail hunt choices. The maximum number of deer preference points for the 2016 draw is 26.

Unlocking Colorado’s deer system

Understanding how the draw system truly works is the key to success. The following advice can also help you to unlock the system and hunt more often.

Primitive weapon advantage

First off, apply for the hunt choices that are possibly in reach. We have all heard it said that if you venture from roads, then your chances are better of getting a buck. This is also true of drawing a tag. If you are in shape and versatile among weapon types, then you will be able to draw more Colorado deer tags over a given period of time than spending decades waiting to draw one opportunity to rifle hunt in Colorado. There are hunt choices that will require you to be very physical, maybe even backpack or horseback, to find success. These hunt choices may also require you to hunt with a bow or a muzzleloader. Before you immediately say that you will not consider this, you should know that these primitive weapon hunt choices can be drawn in a just a fraction of the years that it takes to draw a high demand rifle deer choice in the same exact unit.

Landowner tags

The other option that Colorado provides is the use of their landowner tags. Every year there are hundreds of landowner tags that are drawn by Colorado landowners and sold on the open market. goHUNT is a leading source for these tags and you can find our current list of available landowner tags here. These tags are offered for the exact same seasons as are offered in the draw. An additional quota of tags for each season is set aside for landowners in their own respective drawing. Landowner tags are a great way to circumvent the draw and obtain a tag to get out in the field this year to hunt. The best part is that they do not impact your accumulated preference points. In fact, you can still earn a preference point in the draw and purchase a landowner tag to hunt that same year.


 

Colorado mule deer breakdown
 

Kevin Clerkins 2015 Colorado archery mule deer
Kevin Clerkin's 2015 Colorado archery mule deer.

The buzz around the West for trophy deer hunters is the repetitive question of whether Colorado was going to have significant mortality this winter. January and early February were certainly a concern because of heavy snowfall and below zero temperatures. After numerous calls to various Colorado Division of Wildlife field offices during early March, it sounds like the fears and concern were not necessary. By mid-February, Colorado was swept with a high pressure system that was unseasonably warm and brought on widespread melting at elevations were deer were wintering. Widespread and localized winter losses should not be as much of a threat as previously feared. If you are waiting to decide if 2016 is the year that you should apply in Colorado for mule deer, then we say go for it!

Current mule deer herd condition

Colorado post hunt deer population estimate

The mule deer numbers across the state are generally in great shape thanks to favorable fawn recruitment in recent years. As in other states, parts of Colorado are not as well off as other areas. The northwest portion of the state has struggled with deer numbers. A long term drought over the last decade in this region along with challenging winters are to blame. With mild winters over the last four years many of the units in and around the Gunnison Basin (Units 44525354, 5556 and 57) are recovering from the severe winter of 07/08. The Uncompahgre region in western Colorado has also begun to stumble in mule deer numbers. From November 2004 through March 2009, a moratorium was placed on mountain lion hunting in Unit 61 and Unit 62. This was done in an effort to support a mountain lion study. Because of this, the increase in mountain lion numbers in this region are the likely culprit for the drop in mule deer numbers. The rest of the state is in good shape and this winter appears to be less severe than everyone feared.

2016 winter precipitation

Colorado got slammed earlier in the winter with heavy snowpack and then freezing conditions that created some isolated herd die offs. As of February, the state is experiencing near record precipitation levels. As long as the state doesn't see late winter storms... you can be sure that Colorado is on track for a phenomenal antler growth year in 2016.

Colorado February 2016 weather precipitation
Utah, Colorado and Wyoming February 2015 precipitation as a percentage of normal. Photo credit: Colorado State

The seasons

The early seasons

If you prefer to chase bucks in the high country with warmer weather and bucks still in their summer patterns, then Colorado has great options for you. Your proficiency with various weapon types will be key to taking advantage of these early seasons.

The archery deer hunters get the first opportunity to chase the bucks. These are also the easiest of the seasons to draw and take the fewest preference points. Spanning from late August into late September, the archery deer season is nearly a month in length. As this season opens, the bucks are very much in their summer patterns and typically found at high elevations. The bucks will be velvet racked in the beginning of the season before giving way to hard antlers by the end of the season. Units that hold alpine habitat will provide a great chance to find bucks above timberline, but plan to be in shape for this hunt. Your mental toughness will be equally necessary as you can plan on failed stalks and shot opportunities prior to connecting. The terrain is generally steep and the air is thin so if you select this season, do not take it lightly.

A muzzleloader deer season opens during the second week of September and runs nine days. This season overlaps with the archery season. Bucks are still in their summer patterns and this can be a great time to harvest a great mule deer buck. The two disadvantages are the primitive weapon and the unforgiving terrain. Colorado has strict limitations on their muzzleloaders. No pelletized powder, no saboted bullets, and no scopes will make for a fairly short-range weapon. If you can get comfortable with shooting a muzzleloader that fits Colorado’s limitations, and you are tough physically and mentally, then the muzzleloader season is a great choice and can be drawn with far fewer points than a rifle season.

Early rifle deer is a truly unique experience that Colorado offers in a select few units. Most of these seasons take place above timberline and have dates very similar to the muzzleloader dates. Obviously, these early rifle deer seasons will take more more points to draw than the archery and muzzleloader while still allowing you to hunt in the high country and experience one of the most breathtaking terrains for hunting. Be in shape and be prepared to spend a fair amount of points to draw some of these seasons.

The later rifle seasons
 

Dusty Jancs 2015 Colorado mule deer buck
Dusty Janc's 2015 Colorado mule deer buck. Photo credit: Out West Outdoors

The rifle season dates for 2016 on the western side of Colorado are very attractive. These dates will not be this ideal for many years to come. Later is better in terms of rifle deer hunting in Colorado. Mid-November brings about rut activity and usually some snowfall, making the deer both active and easier to locate. Normally the fourth rifle deer season is the only option to find good rut behavior. We recommend that this year you consider the third rifle season for the action that you are longing for.

Dates for the second, third and fourth rifle deer seasons

Season

Dates

Second rifle deer season (west of I-25) October 22 to 30, 2016
Third rifle deer season (west of I-25) November 5 to13, 2016
Fourth rifle deer season (west of I-25) November 16 to 20, 2016

 

The second rifle season is the easiest of the rifle seasons to draw, but can be a very difficult hunt if weather is mild and bucks have not been forced into more huntable habitat. Depending on the unit, the second rifle season will usually have bucks hanging in heavy timber cover and moving very little during daylight hours. Hunters that have time to scout and locate a buck before season can do very well on this second rifle season, but with little movement and no rut activity, this can be a frustrating experience for many hunters.

The third rifle season typically issues more tags than the fourth season and the 10 day season will help to avoid a total loss due to inclement weather. If you draw a third season tag and can only go for part of the season, then try hard to go for the latter part of the season. The last five days of the third season should have great action if the weather cooperates.

The fourth rifle season is by far the crown jewel. The dates are sure to have bucks actively searching and checking the does. Their defenses will be down and many mature bucks are known to make major mistakes during this season. The number of tags offered during the fourth rifle seasons is very low. There is a risk with drawing a fourth season. The season is only five days long and a long severe storm front will hold deer down, make vehicle travel near impossible, and visibility can be lost for days on end. Your already short season may be even shorter if a bad storm hits.

The eastern side of Colorado

East of Interstate 25, Colorado is overly very flat. A few creeks and river drainages will break up the agriculture and sand hill covered terrain. Among this easy terrain are some quality mule deer. The terrain is easy on the body to hunt as well. What’s the catch? Nearly all of the eastern half of the state is private ground and access is heavily restricted. Your best bet on the east side of the state is to contact an outfitter or know a landowner. Some of the units have property that is open to the public, but these are generally hunted very hard and finding bucks in these limited public areas is challenging.

The archery season on the eastern plains is actually a split season. There are three different periods that you can hunt with a bow. With one tag, you can hunt all three archery periods until you actually harvest a deer. The early archery season will take place prior to the crops being cultivated and down. The deer live among the standing corn and other crops, using it as feed and cover. The later archery periods will provide rut action and cultivated fields. This will help to provide a better hunt.

The muzzleloader season is mid-October and can be a great option if you have access to property and have a buck located. These dates are actually considered by many of the savvy eastern plains hunters as a great time to harvest a target buck that you have been watching and pre-scouting. The same muzzleloader weapon restrictions exist here as on the western side of the state.

There are two rifle seasons on the eastern plains. The first one takes place in late October into early November. This season is hit or miss with the agriculture harvest. Depending on the year, the crops may still be standing and can make the deer hunting a severe challenge; other years, the bucks will be out in the open as crops are down. Limited rut behavior can be found during the tail end of this early rifle season. The later rifle season is the highest in demand as it takes place the first half of December. Bucks are typically easier to locate, but the rut is winding down and broken antlers can be common.

Trends in B&C entries

Colorado Book Typicals 1990-2015 with precip
* 2015 entires are not complete because all the entires have not been added to B&C's Trophy Search.
Colorado Book Typicals 1965-1989 with precip
** Annual precipitation pulled from Boulder, Colorado which is good representative of the state's weather.

goHUNT’s hit list units for trophy Colorado mule deer in 2016

Many hunters harvested older age class animals in 2015. Biologist are very optimistic about the future of mule deer in Colorado. 

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

Unit

Trophy
potential

Unit 44 190"+
Unit 66 190"+
Unit 55 190"+
Unit 53 180" +
Unit 67 190"+
Unit 22 180"+
Unit 21 190"+
Unit 30 180"+
Unit 76 180"+
Unit 102 190"+

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem areas
 

Danny Wadhams 2015 Colorado mule deer
Danny Wadhams' 2015 Colorado mule deer.

The trick to finding something that is “flying under the radar” is to utilize our Unit Profiles and Filtering 2.0. Three of the very most important tools are right there for you: trophy potential, male to female ratios, and harvest success. Discover units with a buck to doe ratio that is above 30:100, that offers a chance for harvesting bucks 175”+, and has a harvest success for rifle that is over 50%. If you are searching for a muzzleloader option, then a harvest success threshold could be 40%. Archery harvest success rates of 30% or greater should be your threshold. If you utilize this feature, you will find many different options to consider. The beauty of Colorado is that most units truly have a legitimate opportunity to harvest a mature buck that will score 175”+.

Colorado deer harvest success percent

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

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Eagle 10 15, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43,
44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Rio Blanco 7 10, 11, 12, 21, 22, 23,
24, 31, 211, 231
Archuleta 5 77, 78, 81, 751, 771
Garfield 5 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Las Animas 5 85, 128, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137,
140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851

 

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

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Eagle 4 15, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36,
43, 44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Morgan 4 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951
Garfield 3 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Grand 3 14, 15, 18, 28, 181, 361
La Plata 3 74, 75, 741, 751, 771
Mesa 2 30, 31, 40, 41, 42, 60, 61, 62, 411, 421

 

Trending buck:doe ratio units

You may have 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 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, 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.

The interesting discovery is that the top areas with the highest buck:doe ratios are not found in the top trophy producing units. 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 ratios

Unit

Buck:Doe
Ratio

Trophy
potential
Unit 6 64:100 170"+
Unit 17 64:100 170"+
Unit 161 64:100 170"+
Unit 171 64:100 160"+
Unit 16 64:100 170"+
Unit 135 58:100 160"+
Unit 128 58:100 170"+
Unit 142 58:100 170"+
Unit 129 58:100 170"+
Unit 133 58:100 170"+
Unit 134 58:100 160"+
Unit 136 58:100 180"+
Unit 141 58:100 170"+
Unit 147 58:100 170"+

 


The points system

The preference point race

2016 maximum preference points for deer: 26

Managing points and expectations

Find your draw odds

Colorado deer bonus points going into the 2016 draw

I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?

First, you will need to decide if you want to simply start building Colorado points or actually head to Colorado in 2016. Obviously, the majority of the season choices will be out of your point reach, but there are several choices that are available. Utilize the Filtering 2.0 tool to see which hunt choices are available with zero points. Pay close attention to weapon choices and season dates that are available. Remember that many of the hunt choices that show up as 100% chance to draw with zero points may be available as a second choice. If you draw as a second choice, then you will still earn a preference point. Many of these options will be high in private land and a frustrating experience. Lean on the Unit Profiles to give you the insight you need.

What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?

Regardless of the weapon type, you actually have a chance at this point level. Many of the archery seasons are available to you even in the better units across the state. Unit 54 has a great buck:doe ratio with trophy potential of 190”+ and a 34% harvest success. Be ready to hike during this season. Big bucks are out there.

There are also several muzzleloader choices to select from. One that stands out is Unit 53 with the high harvest success and trophy potential at 180”+. As far as rifle seasons are concerned, look to the second and third seasons at this point level. A few third seasons to consider would be Unit 35, Unit 36, Unit 68Unit 71 or Unit 711. All three of these choices are a good spend of three or four points.

What can I expect with nine or 10 deer points?

With nine or ten points you need to be very careful how you spend them. Any archery deer season is yours if you want it. Only a couple of muzzleloader choices are out of reach. With these primitive weapon choices, look to Unit 55, Unit 66, or Unit 67.

For a solid third season rifle choice, consider Unit 53. This will be a great hunt this year. A few fourth season choices to consider would be Unit 25 or Unit 70. Any of these rifle seasons will be good choices for a chance at a 180” buck.

What can I expect with 15 or 20 deer points?

Any archery or any muzzleloader season is yours if you want it. If you have waited this long you are probably holding out for a rifle opportunity. Third seasons in Unit 53, Unit 55, or Unit 66 would be a good choice if you have around 15 points. If you are closer to 20 points this year and you want to go on a third season hunt, then apply for Unit 44 or Unit 21.

The fourth season in the best units are within reach if you have 20 points built up. If you have 19 or 20 points, then apply for Unit 22, Unit 44, Unit 55, or Unit 66. If you are closer to 15 points, then look to Unit 68 as a fourth season choice.



Colorado whitetail deer breakdown
 

Pat Loescher 2015 Colorado whitetail
Pat Loescher's 2015 Colorado whitetail.

Colorado whitetails are often overlooked, but for good reason. It is hard for most Western hunters to not approach Colorado as the premium mule deer destination. If you can draw just one tag for deer in Colorado, then it would be very difficult to overlook the muleys. The whitetail tags are far easier to draw, but you will need access to private land in order to hunt. Nearly all of the eastern side of the state is private and this is where the quality whitetail deer hunting takes place.

It is not uncommon for Colorado whitetail bucks to score 150” or more. Genetically known for heavy racks and extremely large bodies, a mature Colorado whitetail buck is a very impressive animal. If you plan to give this a try, plan to hunt near agriculture fields and secure permission prior to applying.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

The overall health of the Colorado whitetail deer herd is in a great shape. With all of the agriculture and irrigation, food and water is rarely an issue. Winter mortality is not common either. The numbers of whitetails vary across the eastern units. If you have corn with adjacent river valleys or sand hills, then you should be able to find whitetails to hunt.

The seasons

The seasons on the eastern plains are different than the western slopes. The dates are also completely different. See the above season section on mule deer for information about the eastern Colorado seasons.

The only additional feature regarding seasons for the whitetail licenses is the season choice licenses ending in S2-R. The season choice classification is available in some of the eastern plains units and allows the license holder to hunt every season offered in that unit, with any of the weapon types, until a buck is harvested. This is actually a great option for someone that has the ability to make return trips to hunt during the various seasons.

goHUNT’s hit list units for trophy Colorado whitetail deer in 2016
 

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

Unit

Trophy
potential

Unit 103 160"+
Unit 102 160"+
Unit 98 160"+
Unit 139 160"+
Unit 101 160"+
Unit 107 160"+
Unit 109 160"+
Unit 117 160"+
Unit 116 160"+
Unit 127 160"+
Unit 132 160"+

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem areas
 

Clay Hill with a Colorado whitetail buck
Clay Hill with his 2015 Colorado whitetail buck.

As stated earlier, it is really the private ground that makes a whitetail unit good. It is possible to get more than one deer tag in Colorado. 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 over the counter as well. 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

•  All of 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 antlerless except the following:
•  Over-the-counter 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.

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

County

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Yuma 4 98, 101, 102, 103, 109
Morgan 4 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951
Baca 3 137, 138, 139, 144, 145
Bent 2 125, 126, 130, 136, 146
Prowers 2 126, 127, 132, 139, 146

 

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

County*

No. of
entries

Units found
within county

Logan 3 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 95, 96, 97, 98

* Seven other counties with one entry each
 


The points system

Either species points in Colorado

The preference point that you accumulate is good for either species of deer. The same deer point can be used to apply for mule deer one year or whitetail the next.

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.

Find your draw odds

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

Many of the unit choices are available to draw with little or no points. With zero points you can draw good tags, but the question remains whether or not you will find access. Your decision as to what you should do is really going to be answered by the permission that you find or the outfitter that you book with to gain access. We highly recommend that you do not simply apply for a deer license on the eastern side of the state with the hope that you will find ground to hunt.

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.

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