Guide to the 2017 Big Game Draw and How To Apply

The 2017 Big Game Draw Deadline is April 4th. Don’t wait, get it done soon. Procrastination is like a credit card, a lot of fun until you get the bill.

Apply online at the fish and game website HERE.

If you have contracted with us to do your applications, expect a call in the next two weeks.

The following is a guide for Unit 25 in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area for elk, deer, and bear. In the next couple weeks, I will put out a post that covers goats/sheep in the areas we guide. Apart from the functional aspects (hunt codes, chances of drawing, etc…), I provide some brief commentary on the different hunts below. If you have never applied for big game tags in Colorado, don’t fret. The state’s online system is straightforward.

Right of the bat, I will repeat my annual advice… get in the routine of applying every year. At a minimum, apply for points so in future years you have additional options. This goes for all you guys that usually only hunt the over-the-counter hunt units. I could write a book about it, but the short and sweet is that hunters that are hunting 1-4 point units/hunts are getting the most bang for their buck. High point hunts (10pp+) are over hyped and hunters who solely focus on OTC are missing opportunities. Get in the game! pun intended…

When I give a minimum preference point number below, I am making an estimated guess at how many points it will take for a non-resident to have a decent chance of drawing a tag. This is based on historical statistics, and incorporates any changes I have heard about regarding future quotas. We never know the actual probability of drawing until the draw occurs, but these estimates are pretty good year-over-year.

Definitions:

OTC – Over-the-counter – You can buy these tags online or in retail locations. Make sure to buy the tag before the season starts! You can not buy these tags after the specific season has started. You do not need to apply through the draw for these tags.

Slam Dunk – Almost 100% opportunity at drawing this tag if you apply. Things can always change, but this means in past years I have had close to all my hunters get this tag that wanted it.

PP – Preference points. You gain these when you do not draw your first choice hunt on your application and pay to gain a preference point. In future years, PPs give you a better chance of drawing hunts.

PP Gainer Hunt – These are draw hunts that you can usually draw, while retaining your preference points for future years. If you apply for these hunts with the hunt code as your first choice, you will certainly draw the hunt but will lose your accumulated points. If you put the species preference point code as your first choice and the hunt code as your second choice, you will likely draw the hunt and still keep your preference points. These are great hunts for hunters that are gaining points for a future, high-point hunt but want a decent hunt in the meantime.

    Hunters with many accumulated points, BE CAREFUL! You want to make sure these hunts are not your 1st choice on your app. You will be blowing high points when you really don’t need to. On the other hand, if this may be your only hunt of this species in Colorado or don’t care about points, go ahead and put the hunt as your first choice.

Preference point codes:
Deer – D-P-999-99-P
Elk – E-P-999-99-P
Bear – B-P-999-99-P

September Hunts

    Archery Bear – Sept. 2nd to 30th. Code: B-E-012-U1-A

OTC
Given the ease of drawing the rifle tag for these same dates (below), I do not recommend this tag. Draw the rifle tag. You can always shoot a bear with a bow on a rifle tag in Colorado.

    Early Rifle Bear – Sept. 2nd to 30th. Code: B-E-012-O1-R

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer Hunt
0 PP – 100%
The population of black bear is booming and tags have never been easier to get. There are a lot of bears in our area. The earlier you hunt in September, the more likely you are to harvest a bear.

    Archery Deer Either Sex – Aug. 26th to Sept. 24th. Code: D-E-025-O1-A

Slam Dunk
0 PP – 100%
Low harvest rate, but one of the best opportunities to chase monsters in the high country. Stalking to bow range in timberline terrain is tough. Be in good shape, ready for a challenge, and have fun.

    Archery Elk Either Sex – Aug. 26th to Sept. 24th.

OTC
Our most popular archery hunts. Hunters that have sharpened their early rut archery tactics will have good opportunities. Rut may or may not peak during the season.

    Archery Cow – Aug. 26th to Sept. 24th.

OTC
Get an either sex tag. Saving $150 just to have a bull walk by you can’t shoot… it’s your call and your wallet. The one exception is if you are rifle hunting later and want to hunt a bull during rifle season. For these seasons you can only have one bull (or either-sex) tag per year.

    High Country Buck Hunt – Sept. 2nd-10th. Code: D-M-012-E1-R

7-11 PP minimum (highly volatile due to a 10 tag quota)
One of the best opportunities in the West to both have a decent rifle opportunity at a 185″+ buck and do it in the most beautiful high country there is. This is a wilderness hunt, you are going to earn a big buck. Not a 100% success-rate hunt. Hunters do sometimes get skunked.

All muzzy hunts are Sept. 9th through the 17th

    Muzzy Either Sex Elk – Code: E-E-025-O1-M

4-5 PP minimum
One of our highest success-rate hunts.

    Muzzy Cow – Code: E-F-025-O1-M

0 PP minimum – 95%
Apply if one member of a party has enough points for the either sex tag and other members have 0 or only 1-2 points. In this case do not apply as a group on the application. Apply individually.

    Muzzy Buck Code: D-M-025-O1-M

Slam Dunk
0 PP – 100%
50% chance as 2nd choice
Not a popular hunt, but could be fun for someone wanting to hunt big deer in the high country but won’t be able to draw a high country rifle tag.

    Muzzy Doe Code: D-F-025-O1-M

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer
0 PP – 100%
Existence proves that Colorado has no idea how to manage mule deer. We are way below carrying capacity of mule deer in Colorado, yet some how it makes sense to harvest the breeding females. If you are incredibly hungry, apply for this tag.

1st Rifle Season – Oct. 14-18

    Concurrent Bear – Code: B-E-012-U5-R

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
This is a new hunt started in 2015 in an attempt by the Colorado Fish and Game to handle the overpopulation and associated problems of black bears in Colorado. A great idea on their part. The 1st rifle version of this tag is the latest bear tag that I recommend. You don’t have the same opportunity as the September hunt, but you still have a decent opportunity.

    Cow – Code: E-F-011-O1-R

0 PP minimum
0 PP – 80%
1 PP – 100%

    Bull – Code: E-M-011-O1-R

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer
0 PP – 100%
1st season elk hunts are the most popular elk hunts in Colorado. In high elevation areas like ours, it is a great time to hunt bulls in their summer range in reasonable weather. This hunt is the least weather dependent of the rifle elk hunts.

2nd Rifle Season – Oct. 21-29

    Concurrent Bear – Code: B-E-012-U5-R

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
By late October, we see few bears. It can happen.

    Cow – Code: E-F-025-O2-R

0-1 PP minimum
0 PP 30%
1 PP 100%
Bull – OTC
More weather dependent than 1st rifle season. With later season dates this year the hunting should be good due to colder temps and deeper snow.

    Buck – Code: D-M-025-O2-R

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer
0 PP – 100%
The toughest rifle season to harvest a large deer. Big deer are typically holding to the timber. The later season dates in 2017 might improve deer hunting due to snow and lower temps.

    Doe – Code: D-F-025-O2-R

0 PP – 100%
3rd Rifle Season – Nov. 4-12

    Concurrent Bear – Code: B-E-012-U5-R

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
Not recommended.

    Cow – Code: E-F-025-O3-R

0-1 PP minimum
0 PP 30%
1 PP 100%
Bull – OTC
Cold temps = elk out more during shooting light. Should be a good hunt, but be ready for cold temps and snow!

    Buck – Code: D-M-025-O3-R

0-1 PP minimum.
0 PP – 90%
1 PP – 100%
Later season dates are presenting a golden opportunity to hunt muleys during the beginning of their rut with only 0-1 preference points.

    Doe – Code: D-F-025-O3-R

0 PP – 100%

4th Rifle Season – Nov. 15-19

    Concurrent Bear – Code: B-E-012-U5-R

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
They’re hibernating.

    Cow – Code: E-F-025-O4-R

0-1 PP minimum
0 PP 30%
1 PP 100%

    Bull – Code: E-M-025-O4-R

0 PP – 100%
Typically Slam Dunk, volatility towards 0-1 PP minimum due to low quota.
An almost guarantee of deep snow and great elk hunting. As long as you can deal with the elements, this will be a productive hunt.

    Buck – Code: D-M-025-O4-R

4-5 PP minimum.
5 PP – 80%
6 PP – 100%
Trophy hunt.


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Cliff Gray Hunting Guide

By Cliff Gray

Cliff is a registered outfitter in the State of Colorado, guiding and outfitting over 80 hunters a year for elk, bighorns, goats, bears and mule deer across wilderness areas in Colorado and British Columbia. He has years of experience hunting big game via remote backpacking and horse/mule packing. He is a private pilot and a certified wilderness first responder.

Starting March of 2018, all new content not directly related to our Flat Tops Wilderness Deer/Elk hunts will be published on our TrueHunts.com website.

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