Guide to the Colorado 2020 Mule Deer, Elk, Bear Draw and How To Apply

Booking Update

Going into March, we have the following draw sensitive hunts open. Please contact us as soon as possible if you are interested.
2-3 Open Guided Lodge Spots 1st Rifle Season – Elk/Bear – Great hunt for those focused on elk or interested in adding the bear opportunity. More comfortable weather than later rifle hunts.
2 Open Drop Camps 2nd Rifle Season – Elk/Deer – Good combo hunt. Chances of drawing buck tag are close to 100%.
2-4 Open Guided Lodge Spots 2nd Rifle – Elk/Deer – Good combo hunt. Chances of drawing buck tag are close to 100%.
1-2 Open Guided Lodge Spots 3rd Rifle – Elk/Deer – This has been a phenomenal hunt historically. Opportunity of harvesting both species has been 65%+. Harvest rate of either species has been 85%+. Must draw buck tag.
2 Open Drop camps 3rd Rifle – Good combo species drop camp. Must draw deer tag.
2-3 Open Guided Lodge Spots 4th Season – Elk/Deer – Elk tags are easy to draw. Deer are 5-6 preference points for a non-resident. Opportunity on bulls historically has been 75%+.

2020 Draw Guide

The 2020 Big Game Draw Deadline is April 7th at 8:00pm. You can apply online starting March 1st and the results will be out by the first week in June. It is best to complete your application a couple weeks before the deadline. The last couple days of the application period can bog down the state’s website and make the process slower.

Before you start, you will need the following handy:
1. The hunt codes you wish to apply for.(they are below for all of our hunts)
2. Your Hunter’s Safety card
3. Payment Method

The CPW launched a new application system in 2018. You now need an email to apply, and you will need to create an account. To start the process and create an account go here:
Apply online at the fish and game website right HERE.

Please note that since 2018, non-residents and residents are required to buy a “qualifying license” when they apply for the draw. The cheapest option for non-residents is a small game license. If you try to checkout online without purchasing this, the CPW online system will force it down your throat. Some non-residents will not see the option to apply for big game tags, until they have added the small game license to their cart.

If at any point you run into a bug in the system or confusion, call a regional CPW office. They are proactive in solving issues. The contact info for these offices is here.

For all OTC hunts, please purchase your tags in July/August via the online system. This mitigates any logistical issue that are common for folks that attempt to purchase the tags when they arrive in Colorado. The CPW sends out tags purchased online quickly.

The guide below covers the units we hunt for bear, elk, and mule deer. It covers all of our 2020 deer/elk/bear bookings. I also annually write recommendations for rocky mountain goats and an overview on Colorado’s big horn sheep units. Those articles will be out this next week. There are some substantial unit changes, so if you are applying for sheep/goats in CO, check them out.

My application mantra: “Apply every year, even if you aren’t planning to hunt”. With several elk units moving from OTC to draw each year in CO, this is even more important going forward. The OTC->Limited-Draw trend is not going to stop. More and more tags will be limited in Colorado from now into the foreseeable future. Gaining preference points is essential to optimizing your future opportunities. Don’t get discouraged if you feel behind on preference points. Particularly for elk and deer, 1 preference point is 10x better than 0 points. However, 10 preference points is only marginally better than 1-4 points. The sweet spot for deer and elk hunters to maximize year-over-year opportunities is to apply every year and utilize those points on 1-5 point hunts. When not using points, focus on OTC and 2nd choice draw opportunities. Many phenomenal deer and bulls have been taken on those hunts.

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 incorporate 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. Please note that this year may be fairly volatile when it comes to draw probabilities, especially for deer. The later 2020 season dates are going to draw more applications.


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 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 PP Gainer Hunts are not your 1st choice on your application. 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.

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%
Great opportunity tag for deer/elk hunters. We also offer high success dedicated Fall bear hunts. CPW has reduced nonresident tag prices to only $100 for adults and $50 for youth hunters!

    Archery Deer Either Sex – Sept. 2nd to 30th. Code: D-E-025-O1-A

Slam Dunk
0 PP – 100%
Low harvest rate, but a great opportunity to chase big deer 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 and ready for a challenge.

    Archery Elk Either Sex – Sept. 2nd to 30th.

Our most popular archery hunt.

    High Country Buck Hunt – Sept. 5th-13th. Code: D-M-012-E1-R

7-11 PP minimum (volatile due to low 10 tag quota)
One of the best opportunities in the West to relive Mike Eastman’s “Hunting High Country Mule Deer”, but don’t think it’s going to be easy. This is a wilderness hunt, you are going to earn a big buck. Not a 100% success-rate hunt. This is a trip for a hunter looking for a true mountain hunt and adventure. The hunt is physically difficult and can be physiologically trying due to low deer density. Plan to hunt the first part of the season. Deer are easier to locate while they still have their velvet.

All muzzy hunts are Sept. 12th through the 20th

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

2-3 PP minimum
One of our highest success-rate hunts.

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

Slam Dunk
0 PP – 100%
75% 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. 10-14

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

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
This is a newer hunt started 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.

    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. 24-Nov. 1st

    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.

    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%
In the past, this has been the hardest rifle seasons to harvest a big deer. However, the later dates in 2020 should help that out quite a bit. Deer-focused hunters have always been able to pull off good hunts, given the ease of drawing the tag.

3rd Rifle Season – Nov. 7-13

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

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
Bears are sleeping.

    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%
The later season dates are should make this a great 2020 tag. I would also suspect the draw odds to tilt slightly tougher going forward. My best guess is most only 50-60% of zero points applicants will draw.

4th Rifle Season – Nov. 18-22

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

OTC as long as you have a big game tag.
99% of the bears are hibernating.

    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 is almost always a productive hunt.

    Buck – Code: D-M-025-O4-R

3-6 PP minimum non-resident. 1-2 PP Resident
Trophy hunt. Points fluctuate some given the lower quota. I would expect the non-resident points to creep up to 6-8 points going forward.

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