2017 Colorado Sheep/Goat Draw Thoughts
We all dream of opening that envelope containing a coveted tag. The chances are so low, the dream so huge. Unfortunately, the far-fetched nature of putting in for sheep/goat tags leads many hunters to “pick out of a hat” when it comes to choosing the units they apply for. Combine this with the volatility in sheep/goat quantity and quality by unit, and you can end up with frustrations once the tag is drawn.
The below overview is meant to help you understand some of the units we guide in. I have added my personal opinion on each unit in hopes of setting the proper expectations. Some of these units we guide through our own permits, other we guide through partnering outfitters. Joe Boucher and Horn Fork Guides is primarily who we guide with along the continental divide. I live in S59 and the furthest one of all these units is two hours from my home.
Give us a ring if you want to talk sheep or goat hunting, especially if you are in the double digits of weighted points. Also, here is a link to the recent Jay Scott Outdoors podcast I was on. We cover the draw (elk/deer and sheep/goat), predator politics in Colorado and several other subjects.
- Most of the higher number tag (5+) units for rams have deteriorated in terms of quality and quantity over the past 3-6 years. It’s important not to rely on historical information in many of these units. There are still healthy sheep populations, but you will have to work for the big guys.
- Some of the 1-2 tag ram units have sneaker rams in them and great opportunity.
- On the other hand, some of the smaller units may not even have sheep in them during the season.
There are different groups of sheep dispersed across the unit. Keep in mind that the sheep inhabit less than 5% of the unit and population isn’t robust anywhere. The larger rams are not easily accessible.
There is both a resident tag and non-resident tag in the unit for 2017. If you draw this tag, call us as soon as possible. Killing a large ram in this unit is a personal priority in 2017. You need to be prepared for a horseback based wilderness hunt.
This unit took a breather from 2009-2016 due to a big winter kill. Because of that break, there are some higher age class animals in the unit and the genetics are here. Heavy scouting to find older age class rams in both the National Forest and Wilderness Area. This is rough country so be prepared physically. There is a highway distance restriction in this unit. You have this massive unit all to yourself, one resident ram tag.
This unit is located next to our primary outfitting area. Some of these sheep are highly visible from I-70 part of the year. Nasty, nasty terrain in the areas more prone to having shooting opportunities. DIY hunters should make a concerted effort to know where they are at all times, and recognize there is a lot of other human activity in the area. This unit contains many 160”+ rams. An added bonus is that you have the unit to yourself. Resident tag only for 2017.
Great early archery season in August. 2016 archery harvest was higher than normal, but still good rams in the area. One of the highest population units in Colorado. I would like to dedicate a large portion of August to making sure a guided archer kills the largest ram in the unit.
Non-resident and resident tags for both an August Archery season and rifle season.
S11, S17, S66 – Leadville to Salida East Units
Each of these units has a nonresident rifle tag in 2017.
Like S12, there are large sheep herds in these areas. However, sheep are disbursed in rough terrain. S66 is holding quality, but S11 and S17 are not what they use to be. These are still great sheep units but you should temper expectations based on historical harvest. We will find you the best ram in these units.
This unit covers the rugged terrain around the Frying Pan River, outside of Basalt. Great opportunity unit, particularly for an archery hunter. Quality sheep are typically taken. Success rate here is based on persistence, scouting, and knowing how to get around. Terrain is accessible but steep. Resident and non-resident archery tags, resident only rifle tags.
- Colorado’s goat population is doing well. Small accessible populations have deteriorated while harder to access groups have grown.
- I always recommend you choose your unit based on physical ability. Goat units vary a lot and most goat terrain is not forgiving. All of our units are high elevation, expect to harvest goats at 11k+
- In most units, a reasonable expectation is a 3-4yr old billy. 95% of horn growth occurs by 3.5 years old, so size is mostly related to genetics. Consider hunting the later part of the season to see the beauty of goats in their winter coats. I’d argue there is nothing more majestic on this planet than a billy wearing his full winter suit.
G2 – This unit has varying levels of access. We know of some great pockets for the fit hunter, and some more accessible areas for the more average guy. Resident tags only in 2017. I would love to dedicate some time to guiding a hunter capable of backpack hunting in 2017. While guiding in 2016, I located several nice goats in backpack-only pockets.
G13 – This unit is similar to G2 with slightly less access and a much larger area. It does have a split season that can help get people spread out.
G3 – Mt Harvard – This unit sits between G13 and G2 so expect similar goat density. However, the goats are primarily in the rugged Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This means you need to be capable of a horseback or extreme backpack hunt.
G12 – Maroon Bells – This unit has lots of goats but also a ton of human activity. Because you are primarily hunting a wilderness area this hunt fits hunters capable of a short backpack hunt. There are both resident and nonresident tags in this unit for 2017.
G6 – This unit is in the rugged Gore Range outside of Vail. Hunters need to be capable of horseback or extreme backpack hunting. There are good goats in this area but numbers have declined over the past few years.
G18 – This is a rough wilderness hunt in a spectacular area. Be in good shape, physically and mentally. My family had outfitting and large grazing permits in this area during the 80s. Your expectation should be to work very hard to see goats. After we kill a goat we will work on finding the The Lost Dutchman’s Mine which is rumored to be in the area.
Let us know if you have any additional questions before the draw. Good luck!
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.