Over 200,000 applicants each year put their name in the hat to draw a Colorado limited entry elk license and it turns out that many of those folks throw away their application. What do I mean throw away? Well, they apply for a hunt they have no chance of drawing because of Colorado's preference point system. Below we'll break down how the system works and what you can do to increase your chances of drawing.
Colorado's draw takes place throughout March and the first part of April for all big game species. So whether you want to hunt elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep or moose, you'll need to apply during this period. Also, there is not seperate period to purchase preference points so you'll need to purchase a preference point during this time as well. Not sure what a preference point is? Let's dive in!
Depending on the species, Colorado has a couple different draw systems that they employ. The systems are described below:
- Preference Point Draw: this system is used for the majority of big game species and hunt codes. In this system, applicants are awarded a point each year they are unsuccessful in the draw or when they choose to purchase a preference point only (you buy a point instead of applying for a hunt). Applicants who have the greatest number of points are considered first when awarding licenses. If there were 10 licenses available for a hunt code, all applicants would be rank ordered by preference point and then licenses would be allocated from the highest point holder on down. What happens when applicants have the same number of points and there aren't enough licenses for all the applicants at a given point total? Applicants with the given point total are chosen randomly until the license quota is reached.
- Hybrid Draw: there are a few hunt codes for deer, elk, antelope and bear tags which have a hybrid draw system. For these hunt codes, up to 20% of the license quota will be awarded randomly to those applicants with 5 or more preference points. The applicant must select the hunt as their first choice and generally all hybrid license quota is allocated to residents so nonresidents shouldn't bank on this approach. For a hunt code to be eligible to be placed in the hybrid draw, the hunt must have averaged a minimum of 10 points to draw over the prior 3 year
- Weighted Point Draw: Moose, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat all use a weighted point system. The weighted point system acts essentially like a bonus point draw system where applicants with more than 3 preference points get an additional entry for each point. Officially Colorado uses the following procedure:
- Weighted preference is calculated by converting your application number into a different, random application number, then dividing that new application number by the number of weighted points you have, plus one. Individuals with three preference points and no weighted preference will have their application number divided by one.
- This procedure ends up having the same effect as if applicants were given a random number for each point in excess of 3 and then the lowest random number was selected for the applicant
- Random Draw: For Desert Bighorn Sheep there is no point system and all applicants have the same opportunity of drawing.
License quoats for deer, elk, antelope and bear hunt codes are set at the time of the draw. So you'll want to research if there was significant drought or weather events that may impact the overall quota. License quotas for moose, sheep and mountain goat are set in the regulations prior to the draw. Residents first choice hunts are drawn first in Colorado followed by nonresident first choice hunts. Because of this the quota for nonresidents can change based on how many or few residents apply for a hunt. Below are the official splits for species and hunt code types:
- Resident Quota
- Residents are eligible to draw up to 80% of elk and deer hunt codes that required six or more points for a Colorado resident to draw
- Residents are eligibile to draw up to 65% of elk and deer hunt codes that require fewer than six points for a Colorado resident to draw
- Nonresident Quota
- For elk and deer hunt codes that required six or more points for a Colorado resident to draw, up to 20 percent may go to nonresidents.
- For hunt codes that required fewer than six points for a Colorado resident to draw an elk or deer license, up to 35 percent may go to nonresidents.
- Nonresident allocations may increase if licenses remain after all Colorado resident first choices have been drawn for that hunt code.
- Youth Quota
- Some hunt codes are youth preference eligible or youth only hunt codes
- A minimum of 15 percent of limited licenses for doe pronghorn, antlerless and either-sex deer, and antlerless elk for each GMU shall be available for youth ages 12–17
- If youth enter more than one hunt code on their application, ALL HUNT CODES must be youthpreference-eligible hunt codes (doe pronghorn, antlerless or either-sex deer, and antlerless elk) and/or youth-only hunt codes (such as D-F043-K2-R or E-E-851-K2-R)
- Landowner Quota
- GMUs WEST OF I-25: 10 percent of the quota of public licenses may be issued as a voucher valid for a specific hunt code. An additional 10 percent of the public quota may be issued as a private-land-only voucher.
- GMUs EAST OF I-25: 15 percent of the quota of public licenses may be issued as a voucher valid for a specific hunt code. An additional 10 percent of the public quota may be issued as a private-land-only voucher and may only be transferred to a youth or an immediate family member.
Hunters can choose up to 4 hunt codes per species. Each species requires a seperate application. Since there are two species of sheep, bighorn and desert, applicants can only apply for one or the other in a license year. There are some important points to keep in mind when applying:
- Preference points are only used for 1st Choice selections. If a license quota isn't fully allocated after the first choice, 2nd through 4th choice allocations are all done randomly
- If you have far fewer points than the minimum required to draw, do not select that as your first choice hunt. Research hunts for which you likely have enough points to draw.
- For 2nd, 3rd and 4th choice hunts, be sure to make sure the hunt codes you select are likely to have quota still available in those rounds
- If you draw in the 1st choice round, your points will be set to zero. If you draw in subsequent rounds you will retain your points!
LIST A, B & C
It is possible to draw multiple licenses for a species in Colorado. So if you'd like the opportunity to harvest multiple deer or multiple elk, then make sure you select the appropriate hunt codes. Below are the following List categories:
- List A: You can only get ONE List A license = A
- List B: If a hunt is List B, you can get up to TWO licenses
- one List A license and one List B license, or
- two List B licenses
- List C: If a hunt is List C, you can get ANY number of List C licenses as well as
- one List A license and one List B license, or
- two List B licenses
- example license combinations would be :A+B+C+C+C, etc. or B+B+C+C+C, etc
Landowner Preference Program
Colorado's Landowner Preference Program (LPP) gives landowners with 160 contigous acres or more the opportunity to draw limited license tags before the general public. There are a number of additional qualifications and rules governing the program that can be perused here. Applications are drawn just before CPW’s public limited drawing. Successful landowners receive a voucher for each winning hunt code. Landowners will be notified at the same time as public applicants. Deer, Elk, and Pronghorn are the only species eligible for landowner preference. Landowner preference is only available in a Game Management Unit (GMU) that is totally limited for ALL rifle licenses for the eligible species
Youth Draw Preference
A minimum of 15 percent of limited licenses for doe pronghorn, antlerless and either-sex deer, and antlerless elk for each GMU shall be available for youth ages 12–17 who meet hunter education requirements (see page 6). These licenses are available by draw for all seasons and methods of take, including early and late rifle seasons. Licenses not drawn by youth are available to the public.