Become an INSIDER to gain access to this article

Join now

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Colorado Deer

 

Large velvet mule deer in field
Photo credit: Getty Images

Colorado's mule deer and whitetail deer application overview

Jump to: New for 2017 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Whitetail Breakdown

When you hear someone talk about Colorado, big mule deer bucks are instantly thought of. Colorado completely crushes the rest of the west when it comes to mature, high scoring, trophy mule deer. Check out the graphic below to see what we mean. The genetics, the management strategies, and the abundant groceries, makes this a state that should be on your radar.

Note: The application deadline for Colorado is midnight on April 4, 2017 MST. You can apply online here or on paper.

Colorado has opportunities for every person. Whether you’d like to hunt plains whitetail or mule deer, rolling sagebrush flats, aspens, or the ever present giant high alpine bowls. This article will give you the confidence to apply with a solid strategy for Colorado in 2017 and also help you plan out your future strategy.

TOP B&C TYPICAL MULE DEER LOCATIONS ALL-TIME


Why Colorado for mule deer and whitetail deer in 2017

Current and long term trends

  • When you look at the all-time B&C records from the last 5, 3, or even year-by-year trends… Colorado is king when it comes to trophy mule deer.

Opportunity for a trophy in any unit

  • Of the 185 mule deer units in the state, 140 of them have the chance to produce bucks 170” or better. A trophy in anyone’s book.

Great whitetail opportunity

  • Whitetail bucks in eastern Colorado are surprisingly better in quality than most hunters realize.

Optimum late season rifle dates once again

  • The 2016 season saw the latest rifle season dates we’ll see for awhile. With that said, 2017 dates are only a day earlier, so you’ll still see plenty of rut activity.
  • ​This means that once again, the third season rifle deer dates will begin nearly as late as a fourth rifle season during most years.

Possibility of hunting each year in Colorado

  • 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 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.
  • Boundary changes
    • Changes to Units 16 and 17
  • 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.
  • 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

Luckily, Colorado does not have any established wolf numbers, which means that predation is not an issue (at this time). Hopefully, this continues for the foreseeable future. With that being said, you can check out a few recent news articles we covered on Colorado wolves below.



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 4, 2017.
  • Apply online here or by paper.
  • If you apply by paper, then your application must be postmarked by midnight MST on April 4, 2017.
  • 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 27.
  • 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 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. See the section below entitled “Nonresident license quota” for details.
  • 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.
  • 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 entitled “License classifications.”
Colorado statewide deer harvest

The seasons

Once again, the rifle season dates for 2017 on the western side of Colorado are ideal. These dates open a day earlier and close a day earlier than the 2016 dates. This trend will continue, so the time is now if you want a chance to experience better rut dates. If you have several points saved up, it might be a good idea to burn them on the later season dates, after all, these dates are very similar to normal years' 4th season dates.

Dates for deer seasons in 2017

Season Dates
Archery Aug. 26-Sept. 24*
Muzzleloader Sept. 9-17*
Second rifle deer season (west of I-25) Oct. 21-29
Third rifle deer season (west of I-25) Nov. 4-12
Fourth rifle deer season (west of I-25) Nov. 15-19

* Unless otherwise noted in the brochure tables

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



The draw system

Understanding the draw

Like a lot of other states, in Colorado you must pay very close attention to your first choice on the application. This is because the first choice is the one that will use your accumulated preference points and is the choice that nearly all tags are drawn.

TOTAL NUMBER OF DEER TAGS DRAWN 1ST - 4TH CHOICE

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 in drawing your first choice for deer, you are awarded an additional preference point. Preference points are used to draw the given tag you desire.

COLORADO DEER TAGS DRAWN 1ST - 4TH CHOICE

Utilize our standalone Draw Odds page and Filtering 2.0 to help you to filter out hunt choices based on your personal preference point level that you can draw. 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 total. Hunters often apply for deer in Colorado for a hunt choice that they have heard is the best option for a trophy buck (that leads to a long wait until you’re finally hunting). 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 just to gain 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 he or she 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 2016 & 2017

  Resident Nonresident
Licenses available 2015 4 1
Licenses available 2016 4 1
Points needed to draw 2015 13 19
Points needed to draw 2016 13 19
Total number of first choice applicants 2015 104 60
Total number of first choice applicants 2016 84 42
Total number of second choice applicants 2015 28 33
Total number of second choice applicants 2016 28 26
Total number of third choice applicants 2015 13 5
Total number of third choice applicants 2016 9 6
Total number of fourth choice applicants 2015 7 8
Total number of fourth choice applicants 2016 8 5

 

Resident draw odds for Unit 10 3rd season rifle

Resident draw odds for Colorado Unit 10

Nonresident draw odds for Unit 10 3rd season rifle

Nonresident draw odds for Colorado Unit 10

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 41 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, 26 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 11 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.

Unlocking Colorado’s deer system

Understanding how the draw system works in each state is the key to success. Luckily Colorado has a very straightforward system. The following advice can also help you to unlock the system and go on hunts 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, hire pack goats/llamas or even 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. You can find our current list of available landowner tags here (Note: Colorado tags normally show up late spring/summer). 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.

Podcast listening



The Rich Outdoors Podcast

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.

You can find the podcast index for all of the episodes on The Rich Outdoors Podcast websiteiTunes, Stitcher and Overcast.



Jay Scott Outdoors

Episode 259 - Colorado mule deer with Clay Hill - Landowner vouchers, draw and applying for tags, unit breakdowns, finding big deer

Jay Scott and Colorado Outfitter Clay Hill talk about all things hunting in Colorado for mule deer including landowner vouchers, draw tags, unit breakdowns, how to find big deer, velvet bucks, rutting deer, rifle seasons, archery and much more.

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.

Episode 263 - Colorado mule deer unit breakdown and application strategy with Brady Miller of goHUNT.com

Colorado mule deer unit breakdown and application strategy with Brady Miller of goHUNT.com. Listen as we discuss the units in Colorado for deer, hidden gems, how to use the goHUNT INSIDER resource, why Brady loves mule deer, 3rd and 4th Season hunts and archery.

You can find the podcast index for all of the episodes on Jay's website, iTunes and on PodBean.


 

Colorado's 2017 mule deer breakdown
 

Giant mule deer taken with Roosters guide and outfitting adventures
Giant mule deer taken with Roosters Guide and Outfitting Adventures — A goHUNT Business Member

Current mule deer herd condition

It is well known that the west got slammed with a hard winter. The question remains: will this winter produce a large herd die off? Initial reports claim that fawn die off is happening in a lot of units. Even with spring on the way, snowpack remains high in most units of Colorado.

Colorado post hunt deer population estimate

2017 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 and March, the state is experiencing record precipitation levels.

Colorado is seeing above average snowfall for most of the state with the units around Aspen, west of Estes Park, and northwest of Durango seeing some of the highest percentages. While the deer on the Front Range in north central Colorado should have little problem escaping the deeper snows, the populations of deer found in the San Juan will experience more trouble. Depending on how the rest of the year plays out, hunters applying in the southwest corner of the state may consider saving points for another year or cashing out in other regions of the state. You can read a recent Colorado news article we covered here that talks about their baiting program. The state recently announced a shed hunting restriction in northwest Colorado for most of Moffat County. 

Earlier this year Colorado put a temporary emergency shed hunting ban in place that impacts units in the Gunnison Basin (Units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551). This closure is in effect from January 22 to May 15, 2017. The emergency order closes areas in the basin below 9500' to all recreational small game, predator, furbearer hunting, mountain lion hunting, and to the collection/possession of shed deer and elk antlers, bighorn sheep skulls and/or horns, and pronghorn skulls and/or horns. You can read more information here

Western 2017 precipitation percent of normal
Utah, Colorado and Wyoming February 2017 precipitation as a percentage of normal. Photo credit: Colorado State
 


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

It is well known that hunters struggled to find quality deer during the abnormally warm 3rd and 4th season hunts during the 2016 season. If those mature bucks that made it through the rifle season can survive the harsh winter, 2017 could still be a banner year.

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

Unit Trophy
potential
Buck:doe
ratio
Unit 44 190"+ 44:100
Unit 66 190"+ 43:100
Unit 54 190"+ 43:100
Unit 55 190"+ 42:100
Unit 53 180" + 35:100
Unit 67 190"+ 43:100
Unit 22 180"+ 34:100
Unit 21 190"+ 33:100
Unit 30 180"+ 33:100
Unit 76 180"+ 25:100
Unit 102 190"+ 39:100
Unit 101 190"+ 39:100

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem units

Robert Grantham Colorado archery mule deer

INSIDER member Robert Grantham with his 2016 Colorado archery mule deer that scored 206 2/8".

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


B&C entry trends for Colorado mule 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.

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Eagle 11 15, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43,
44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Garfield 9 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Rio Blanco 7 10, 11, 12, 21, 22, 23,
24, 31, 211, 231
Archuleta 6 77, 78, 81, 751, 771
Delta 5 411, 52, 521, 53, 62, 63, 64
Las Animas 5 85, 128, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137,
140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851
Mesa 5 30, 31, 41, 42, 421, 60, 61, 62
Yuma 5 98, 101, 102, 103, 109

 

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Eagle 6 15, 25, 26, 34, 35, 36, 43,
44, 45, 47, 361, 444
Garfield 4 12, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31,
32, 33, 34, 42, 43, 231, 421, 444
Morgan 4 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951
Grand 4 14, 15, 18, 28, 181, 361
La Plata 3 74, 75, 741, 751, 771

 

Colorado Book Typicals 1990-2016 with precip
Colorado Book Typicals 1965-1989 with precip


Trending buck:doe ratio units

Mule deer taken with Little Creek Ranch

Mule deer taken with Little Creek Ranch — A goHUNT Business Member

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 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 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
 

Great mule deer taken with Powderhorn Primitive Outfitters
Great mule deer taken with Powderhorn Primitive Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

The preference point race

2017 maximum preference points for deer: 27

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.

COLORADO RESIDENT DEER PREFERENCE POINTS GOING INTO THE 2017 DRAW
Colorado nonresident deer preference points going into the 2017 draw

Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Colorado Mule Deer Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Find your draw odds

I have 0 deer points. What can I expect?

There a few different strategies you can follow if you’re just starting to apply in Colorado. Are you looking to hunt this year or build points for a future hunt?

If you’re looking to hunt this year, there are not a lot of “top tier” options for someone with zero points, but the hunts that take few points can still produce the buck of a lifetime, after all, this is Colorado we’re talking about.

To quickly see what is potentially available with zero points, go to Filtering 2.0 > Colorado > Mule deer > Draw Odds > Select Residency > Select First choice (or second choice). Then under Select Minimum Draw Odds you could place the slider to 100%. You will now see there are 77 hunts that you could draw with zero points. Here is the direct link to the example. If you’re looking for a specific weapon, you can also filter by archery, muzzleloader, 2nd or 3rd season for example.

Back to the talk about 2nd choice units, a lot of the 100% draw units can be drawn as a second choice which will allow you to build a preference point, while at the same time hunting in Colorado. You can see the list of 2nd choice units that can be drawn at 100% odds here.

Keep in mind that a lot of times these 2nd choice or easy to draw tags are like that for a reason. Some may have low animal densities, others might have private land issues or even lots of tags available making high hunter pressure. Be sure to study the Unit Profiles to give you the insight you need.

What can I do with 3 or 4 deer points?

The great thing about Colorado is that with four points, you actually have a chance to draw a tag. With the vast amount of quality units in Colorado, it is actually a good idea to burn your points in the 3-5 point range to ensure you’re actually hunting and not just hunting/building points your entire life.

Residents

A resident with four points has a plethora of options that they could draw. 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.

Some great options at this level are Unit 55 muzzleloader due to the 42:100 buck:doe ratio and 45% harvest success or even Unit 54 muzzleloader with 43:100 buck:doe ratio and 41% harvest success. Unit 54 3rd season is also a great option. Keep in mind the recent 2016/17 winter. Gunnison Basin has seen severe winter conditions that may impact the deer herds.

Nonresidents

Nonresidents should follow a similar plan to residents. If you’re willing to pick up a bow or muzzleloader, then you have a lot of quality options to consider. There are also a great deal of 2nd and 3rd season rifle tags that you can pick up. Like we stated above, you don’t need a ton of points to have a quality hunt. Do you really want to wait another five to 10 years to hunt mule deer in Colorado?

What can I expect with nine or 10 deer points?

With 10 preference points, you’ve been in the game for a long time. But, caution should be made when applying.

Residents

At this point in the game, you’re probably looking for a solid early, 3rd or 4th season tag. You could draw any archery hunt in the state, but is doing that a good option? You’ve been building points for so long and most archery tags could have been drawn at 5 points. The archery hunt for Unit 201 is now within reach, so keep that in mind.

At 10 you can also draw any muzzleloader tag in the state. The same can also be said for 2nd season, except for units 2 and 201. You are still a few years away from drawing Unit 44 3rd season, and the 4th season tag in Unit 44 is a long ways out. The stand by options for archery and muzzleloader in Units 55, 66 or 67.

Nonresidents

Either follow a similar strategy as residents, or continue to wait to draw that dream tag. Remember, you now have 10 points... would you rather cash those points in now and start to build your points back up? There are a lot of great hidden gem options in Colorado that take far less points.

What can I expect with 15 or 20 deer points?

At 15 points, for both residents and nonresidents, any archery or muzzleloader season is yours if you want it (except Unit 61 muzzleloader might be tough to draw for a nonresident). If you have waited this long you are probably holding out for a late season rifle opportunity. Like we stated above, the Gunnison Basin units are historically the units people are holding out for, but keep in mind the recent hard winter and how that might impact your hunt.

Keep in mind that with 20 points, you could draw any season/unit in Colorado. Carefully study Filtering 2.0, the Unit Profiles and Draw Odds to find a hunt that meets your personal hunting style. A great option is the 3rd and 4th season hunts in Unit 44 if you’re a resident. Another great option is Unit 21 3rd season. If you are closer to 15 points, then look to Unit 68 as a fourth season choice.

A nonresident will still need to wait a few more years if they’re looking to draw a 3rd or 4th season tag in Unit 44. With point creep happening, Unit 66 might take a few more years if you’re sitting at 15 points.

Study the standalone draw odds details page if you’re at this point level. Sometimes it might be worth waiting for that dream tag, otherwise you could just cash in your points for a different unit so you can go on a quality hunt and then start to build points again.



Colorado's 2017 whitetail deer breakdown

Colorado really is a hidden gem state when it comes to whitetails. That is mainly due to the amount of fantastic mule deer hunting the state holds (if that seems backwards… you’re not alone) which keeps people focused on applying for mule deer. Keep in mind that whitetail tags are far easier to draw, but you can quickly run into private land issues. With the majority of eastern Colorado being private land, it is highly recommended to get access to private land before applying.

Of the 75 whitetail units, 53 of them have the potential to produce a 150” or better buck. With the genetics of the plains… it might be hard to overlook hunting whitetails in this state and it might be the perfect time to skip hunting mule deer and go after a giant whitetail.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

The eastern plains are home to agricultural fields and plenty of irrigation. This keeps the general population of whitetails very healthy on the plains and also helps reduce any winter mortality.

The seasons

The seasons on the eastern plains whitetail hunts are different than western Colorado’s mule deer seasons. The dates are also completely different. You can check out the season dates for eastern plains whitetail units here.

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.

The season choice units are: Units 91, 92, 96, 89, 90, 95, 93, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102. Note: 91, 92 and 96 season choice hunts are for doe only.



goHUNT’s hit list units for trophy Colorado whitetail deer in 2017

When it comes to whitetail hunting in Colorado, it’s really true that the property you’re hunting is more important than the unit. What we mean by that is although a unit can hold decent whitetails, if the management isn’t there, the quality will decrease. Some of the best properties in Colorado manage for the proper age that allows a buck to reach true trophy potential.

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

As stated earlier, it is really the private ground that makes a whitetail unit worth checking out. In regards to hidden gems, the biggest would be the multiple deer tag option.

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 3 98, 101, 102, 103, 109
Prowers 2 126, 127, 132, 139, 146
Baca 1 137, 138, 139, 144, 145
Boulder 1 NA
Kit Carson 1 107, 109, 114, 115, 116, 117
Morgan 1 95, 96, 97, 99, 100, 951

 

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

County* No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Cheyenne 1 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 121, 122
Larimer 1 94
Yuma 1 98, 101, 102, 103, 109
 
 


The points system

Either species points in Colorado

The preference point that you accumulate is good for either mule deer or whitetail. They are not separate points. Keep in mind that most land east of I-25 is private. Obtaining landowner permission prior to applying is highly recommended.

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. A resident and nonresident can draw 22 different unts that all have the potential for producing 160"+ whitetails. Nonresidents can find this filter result here and residents here.

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.

Comments

50 States for 50 Bucks
Tried and True Hunting Gear
Get Hunting Gear for Less