Guide to the Colorado 2018 Big Game Draw and How To Apply

The 2018 Big Game Draw Deadline is April 3rd. Don’t wait, get it done soon. Procrastination is like a credit card, a lot of fun until you get the bill. You can apply online starting March 1st.

The CPW has launched a new application system. You now need an email to apply, and you will need to create an account. You should first read over this pdf to setup your account. The pdf also gives you a detailed overview of the steps to apply for tags/preference points: CPW Account Setup and Draw I personally ran into a couple bugs when I went through the process right after the system was launched. It sounds like those small issues are worked out, but call a regional CPW office if you have a problem. They are proactive in solving issues.

Apply online at the fish and game website right HERE.

This guide is for Unit 25 in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area for elk, deer, and bear. It covers all of our 2018 deer/elk bookings. In the next few days, I will put out an additional guide out for rocky mountain goats and then an overview on Colorado’s big horn sheep.

To start, I will repeat my annual advice… apply every year even if you aren’t planning to hunt. Gaining preference points is essential to optimizing your future opportunities. This even goes for folks that historically have focused on hunting over-the-counter units. I could write a book about it, but the short and sweet is that hunters that are hunting 1-4 point units are getting the best, consistent opportunities. High point hunts (10pp+) aren’t worth the wait, and hunters who solely focus on OTC are missing opportunities to have higher quality hunts every 1-3 years. Get in the game! pun intended…

When I give a minimum preference point number below, I am making an estimated guess at the number of points it will take for a non-resident to have a 95%+ chance of drawing a tag. These guesstimates are 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 close year-over-year.

Definitions:

OTC – Over-the-counter – Purchase these tags online or in retail locations. Tags must be purchased before the season starts! You do not need to apply through the draw for these tags.

Slam Dunk – Close to a 100% chance you will draw 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.

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 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 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 must make sure these hunts are not your 1st choice on your app. You will be blowing points when you really don’t need to.

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.

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. 25th to Sept. 23rd. Code: D-E-025-O1-A

Slam Dunk
0 PP – 100%
Low harvest rate, but a great opportunity to chase slammers in the high country. Stalking to bow range in timberline terrain is tough and don’t expect to see a lot of bucks. Be in good shape, ready for a challenge, and have fun.

    Archery Elk Either Sex – Aug. 25th to Sept. 23rd.

OTC
Our most popular archery hunt.

    Archery Cow – Aug. 25th to Sept. 23rd.

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. 1st-9th. Code: D-M-012-E1-R

8-11 PP minimum (volatile due to low 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. 8th through the 16th

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

3-4 PP minimum
One of our highest success-rate hunts.

    Muzzy Cow – Code: E-F-025-O1-M

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer Hunt
0 PP – 100%
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%
65% chance as 2nd choice
Fun hunt for someone wanting to hunt big deer in the high country but won’t be able to draw a high country rifle tag.

1st Rifle Season – Oct. 13-17

    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

2 PP – 80%

    Bull – Code: E-M-011-O1-R

Slam Dunk
PP Gainer
0 PP – 100%
1st season elk hunts are 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. It is not uncommon to catch the tail-end of the rut during this season.

2nd Rifle Season – Oct. 20-28

    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.

    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 late 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.

3rd Rifle Season – Nov. 3-11

    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 – 80%
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.

4th Rifle Season – Nov. 14-18

    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.

If you have any questions, just give us a call or shoot us an email.

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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 100 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.

Cliff is a private pilot, certified wilderness first responder, and an official measurer for both Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young records programs.

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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