the Colorado big game draw process

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Colorado Big Game Tag Types:

There are two ways you can get a tag through the Colorado big game draw process:

    1. Limited Tags (click HERE for dates)

    • Primary Draw
    • Secondary Draw
    • Leftover Limited License
    • Over the Counter Tags (OTC)

    2.  Over the Counter Tags (OTC)

Limited Tags – Colorado big game draw process

Colorado follows a very traditional preference point system with their draw process.  There’s one application per species and it can include four hunts in order of preference.  Like Arizona’s draw process there’s the ability for anyone to draw, even some high demand hunts through the Hybrid Draw.

Preference Points

If you get your first choice you’ll lose preference points .  The most important thing to know about Colorado’s preference point process is that “If an applicant fails to apply for a species or hasn’t purchased a license for that same species during any given 10-year period, all accumulated preference points for that species become void” (Big Game Brochure)

I repeat: set your alarm, put it on your calendar and make sure you NEVER miss a year applying if you’re trying to build preference points!  Even if you don’t want to risk being drawn, do it!  You also have the option to put a preference point code as your first hunt preference and this will ensure you gain a loyalty preference point.  You’ll only get drawn for your second through fourth choices.

Whichever application’s have the most preference points receive priority unless the non-resident cap is exceeded.  There’s one major exception to this.  The Hybrid Draw.

Hybrid Draw

The Hybrid draw is Colorado’s response to the downside of all preference points systems.  Points creep, or the inevitable escalation of preference points needed to draw, often to an unattainable level.  Colorado executes a hybrid draw of up to 20% of select Deer, Elk, Pronghorn and Bear tags.  These tags are for hunts that require at least 10 preference points to draw and listed annually.  This allows an opportunity for you to at least have a shot at some of the more desirable hunts.

Sort of reminds me of the trip you could win to a tropical island in the movie the Island to distract you from the fact that you lived in a prison.  It’s basically a way to appease the masses into thinking you still have a shot (when really you don’t).  Colorado takes the most popular hunts and slices off a measly 20% of the tags and allowed the general pop to go nuts over them.

Secondary Draw

The Secondary Draw is for all (Elk, Deer, Pronghorn and Bear) leftover Limited Tags that didn’t fill the quota in the Primary Draw.  The Secondary Draw is for anyone and there’s no pre-requisite to participate in the Primary Draw.  It’s important to note that this draw prioritizes youth hunters.  Meaning all youth hunter application choices get evaluated before adults.  There are also no preference points in the Secondary Draw.

Strategy for the Colorado big game draw process

1st – Understand that ONLY your number one choice uses your preference points.  So this is the hunt you need to strategize for and evaluate the preference point statistics on.

2nd – Your second through fourth choices don’t use preference points, thus: putting any hunt that historically needs preference points to draw is unwise and a wasted choice.

3rd –  Don’t miss a year or you lose your accumulated preference points.

Other takeaways:

  • Group application evaluations are based on the person with fewest preference points

Weighted Preference Points

  • Species that use this system: Moose, Big Horn Sheep, and Mountain Goat
  • All have a preference point fee of $100 for non-residents
  • After your earn 3 preference points if you’re still not drawn you earn a Weighted Preference Point.
    • Weighted preference points in effect act as way to make your preference points worth even more the more you have.  Think exponential instead of linear.  Reference Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife quote below:

“Hunters can only accumulate up to three points for moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat. If you have three preference points and you fail to draw a first-choice license, you’ll receive weighted preference. 4. 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. 5. This generates a new application number. Applications are sorted by this new number from lowest to highest, and low numbers for each hunt code are awarded licenses”
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