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Colorado Application Explosion

Please Welcome All Your New Friends

The Colorado numbers are out. In 2018, applications for sheep and goat are way, way up and your future draw odds will drop dramatically for bighorn sheep and goats.

If you applied for Colorado Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep as a nonresident in 2017, you were 1 of 3,728 applicants going after 28 licenses. For 2018, you are now 1 in 14,134 applicants. That is not a misprint. That is 504 applicants for every license. If they cut off all new applications forever, it would take 504 years for everyone to get a license. Not planning on hunting that long? Bummer.

If you put in as a nonresident for Colorado mountain goat in 2017 you were 1 of 1,951 nonresidents going after 20 tags. Man, those are steep odds! Well, in 2018 you became 1 of 11,054. Cut off applications forever and you’re looking at 550 years.

Wait, it gets worse. If you put in for desert bighorn sheep, you are now 1 in 1,732 nonresidents going after 1 tag in a random draw. “So, you’re saying there’s a chance!” Yes, 0.058%, surely the world’s worst odds on a sheep license. Remember that Methuselah lived 969 years, one lifetime too short to be guaranteed a Colorado desert sheep tag.

Bad News for Residents Too

Don’t smirk if you’re a resident. Your odds will be going down too because total resident applications for goats more than doubled in 2018 and total resident applications for RM bighorns went up 90% this year, from 14,011 to 26,859.

In fact, all these jumps are probably just the beginning of sorrows, because how many hunters in America know that Colorado cut the price of applying for trophy species by 99%? What happens when they find out with a $10 habitat stamp, they can apply for as many seven Colorado big game species as they want for $3 apiece? Many more are likely to jump in next year and the year after. Heck, at $3, might as well put in for the wife and kids too!

The Fine Print

The competition doesn’t really start for three more years because it takes that long to accumulate three preference points and start earning weighted bonus points, without which you cannot draw a Colorado sheep or goat tag. Those currently in the system will always have more points than the new kids.

You can also argue that in Colorado’s weighted points draw the random #s assigned will just be spread out among more applicants so odds don’t really change when you divide the random #s by weighted points to find who has the lowest result and gets the license.

The problem with both those ideas is that random numbers will become far more important and hard-earned points less so because there will be so many more people at each point level. And, all those new applicants will have chances to draw low random numbers. Points will become less valuable. It distorts the draw to the disadvantage of those already in it and that’s a problem. For those just starting out, this is a disaster.

Not Just Sheep & Goat

The same rule change on payments went into effect for deer, antelope, elk and moose. From what I’m hearing, resident applications may have gone up 25%-50% and more than 100% for nonresidents in 2018.  What’s more, the point jump will begin immediately. Many hunters are going to be very disappointed come June 4-8.

Points needed will jump mainly on the lower end this year and it will be worst for 0-point hunts, but they won’t be the only ones. Next year, the flood of applicants will swamp 1-point hunts and so on each year. You’re going to see points go up like you’ve never seen in your life as tens of thousands of new applications roll in over the next couple years.

If you have a low-point home unit you like to hunt often, you should be very nervous about this. I am especially concerned about elk and moose, but I expect to see a noticeable impact on deer and pronghorn too.

Be nervous too if you have a lot of points, because as soon as you cash them in, you go back to zero and get stuck behind this new pig in a python with more points than you. Good luck drawing a good hunt again.

What the Heck Just Happened?

Answer – a well-intentioned change in regulations that allows everyone to put off payment for a license until they are drawn and allows the State to avoid the millions in credit card merchant fees from all those applications that were not drawn. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but apparently no one predicted the mass influx that occurs when you cut the price of something by 99%, from $2,234 to $13 on RM bighorn sheep and goats. I guess no one studies microeconomics anymore. I know that CPW wants to expand the number of hunters, but when the vast majority of licenses are oversubscribed it makes no sense.

Little did we know that when the CPW petitioned the State last year to allow it to operate as a business that it would mean not only raising license costs for hunting and fishing and park entrance fees, but they would unwittingly destroy future nonresident trophy species odds and double the future competition for resident applicants in just the first year.


At this point, some readers are saying, what’s the problem? Sheep and mountain goat hunting should not be just for those that can afford to put thousands of dollars on their credit cards every spring. Give everyone a chance.

I’m somewhat sympathetic to that because I refuse to put much money on plastic. I also spent several years working construction, driving a truck and raising four kids. Believe me, I know what a low checkbook balance looks like.

The problem is that this is another example of a draw system collapsing under the weight of tremendous demand for a very limited number of tags. When there is no more hurdle than $3, a fourth the price of a movie ticket, to apply for bighorns and you can apply for big game hunts in Colorado for $3, so many people with little real interest or commitment flood the system that it destroys the weighted point system and basically turns it into a messier version of Idaho’s random draw system. When ten times the number of nonresidents apply (up 4-5 times this year and probably again over the next couple years), the 10% nonresident cap on sheep and goats ends up looking like a 1% cap for an individual applicant. Surely, requiring some sort of commitment to cut down the number of applications is reasonable. And if a person can pay the $2,217 when they draw the tag, they can certainly afford a refundable $2,217 to apply.

What’s Going to Happen Next?

The CPW has got to halt the stampede. So, the next step may be requiring that people buy a nonrefundable general license up front. Every other state either requires that or payment for the tag upfront. That is, except Montana on sheep, moose and goats. You could also see the CPW charge for preference points regardless of whether an applicant held a license the previous year. That would be in line with other states, though it would have little effect on skyrocketing applications. Neither change would be good.

A Better Way

A better option is for them to admit that they missed a huge issue and reverse a bad, though well-intentioned regulation. On merchant fees, 1) just budget for it, maybe use part of the increase in license fees they got in March or 2) pass the small charge on to the applicant and give them the option of an ACH bank draft for no fee.

If the CPW wants to run itself as a business, it needs to learn that when a mistake is made, it must own up to it quickly, apologize and correct it. Don’t defend, make excuses or drag it out.

If you live or hunt in Colorado, you need to raise hell with the Commissioners and CPW senior staff.

You will find the dates and places of upcoming Commission meetings here. http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/pages/commission.aspx On the left there, you will also see a link to the names of the Commission members with their contact information.

Is Wyoming Next?

Remember that Wyoming is considering the same change right now. If you’ve hunted in The Cowboy State lately you probably got a survey on this. Of course, you probably didn’t know then what you know now. Make sure you contact them and let them know what you think, even if you returned their survey.

If you live or hunt in Wyoming, https://wgfd.wyo.gov/About-Us/Game-and-Fish-Commission will give you the names, contact information and scheduled meetings of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Speak up now or deal with the same mess as Colorado.


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  1. Hit the nail on the head.

  2. Just go back to total luck of the draw and ditch the preference point debacle all together. Species such as sheep, goat, moose move to once in a lifetime if not already. I’ve got eighteen PP’s as a non resident for elk. No way in hell I can ever draw that tag as a NR with point creep that continues to get worse by the year.

    • David L Hoshour

      Even worse, when you do finally draw, you back to zero and this huge new group of new applicants that will grow again next year will always be in front of you as you gain points.

    • The problem with going to luck of the draw is there would be some who would draw every other year/every year and you wouldnt draw for 3, 5, 8 years. Thats why they have the PP in place. Just go back to pre-pay and you will solve a ton of the issues.

  3. Andrew R Brown

    How about the team at Eastmans draft a letter to the commissioner that we can all use to let them know how we feel about the subject. Many political groups do this to send letters to their congressmen.

    If we want to see change action will be required.

  4. Maybe just make pp count for the number of times your name is in the draw. That way you always have a weighted chance of drawing but not a strict off the top draw. Sorry but when you have a limited number of tags utters will always be point creep. This way you always feel like you have a chance even if a small one. I’m 54 yrs old and have no way to catch up. At the rate it is going none of my sons have much of a chance. I live in S.D. and we have 6000 or so applicants for the 3 sheep tags they give out.

  5. There will be no admittance of a ” mistake”. The CPW seems to be all about the money these days. Just using your app numbers, it seems that they generated north of 6 figures in revenue due to all the new applicants and now they don’t have any cc refund fees to deal with either. Sure makes it appear as CPW only cares about the money.

  6. No surprise…all of us longtime Colorado hunters knew there would be an application explosion from the time they announced it. We haven’t been happy about it. Now the proof has arrived.

  7. Ah you missed the boat……..years back in the late 60’s we would roll into down from Cally find a watering hole still open and buy your tags right across the bar counter………

  8. Don’t forget. CPW lobbied the legislature HARD to get fee increases passed this year as well. CPW also upped the number of licenses in sheep units to increase revenue (directly to me from a CPW employee). CPW has been nickel and diming hunters with gimmicks like application fees, SAR fee, Education fund, Habitat stamps (first $5 then $10), and Preference point fees. In 1983, a single deer license cost $13 for a resident. Today with all of the fees, it’s $64 and going up next year.
    CPW could care less about hunters, application success, or quality of experience. Their paradigm is the wildlife are their personal cash crop and they will do as they please. CPW is a monopoly with no restrictions. Until hunters do something as a group, CPW will continue to do what it deems is in it’s personal best interest. Hickenlooper is NO help either.

    • David L Hoshour

      I don’t think CPW is all about money. If you were paying millions of dollars in credit card merchant fees, you would want to offset those. This is just the wrong way to do it.

  9. While I hear your comments, anything we can do to get more people involved with hunting – is a very good thing. All the limitations and distractions will have us losing ever more hunters until we have dwindled away to nothing. Spend some time building our future – invite a novice to go hunt with you and your group.

    • David L Hoshour

      I also advocate bringing in new hunters and anglers where there are licenses available, which for the most part is small game hunting and fishing.

      When there are far more applicants than licenses available, the new regulations do zero to bring in new hunters. That happens in the OTC hunts, which are not covered by the new regulation.

    • The promotion of the youth hunter program is a joke. My son has applied for the past three years and hasn’t drawn as much as a deer tag. If you want to foster the future of hunting you need to get them in at a young age and my experience is that isn’t happening.

  10. I feel your pain. I apply in 10 states for everything. I live to hunt and be in the backcountry. I have drawn “1” tag in 12 years I had a sure bet on a tag with 10 points in CO this year. Maybe not to be?!? I am too old to wait. In 10 years I will be in my late 70’s. This is another hole in game departments wanting new hunters. Habitat loss and access may not be the biggest issues. Game departments mismanagement, may be the real issue. Now you can understand a poachers reasoning. The whole point system is flawed. Make it random like Idaho and New Mexico, and 21 year olds, and 75 year olds, have the same chance. I will be 500 years old till I draw my tags in most states. All for naught. I will drive to Wyoming from WA state to testify in front of the game commissioners, or the state legislature, but they could give a crap!


      I think I understand all the concerns now a days, but I just want to remind you that us ” old Guys” have got to stick together. I just turned 79, and am looking forward to hunting some where. You wander how many more years do we have left. It can be depressing thinking about it, but you got to hang in there. I heard that theres one guy who,s 92 and still hunting.
      Well, anyway try to keep your spirit up, and keep moving one step at a time.
      Good luck

  11. I reviewed the totals for Sheep and Goat and it appears that the huge surge in NR apps is for Preference Point Only apps. The number of first choice apps is up but not so dramatic. In CO, anything other than a first choice is moot.

    • David L Hoshour

      The reason for that is that you have zero chance of drawing in Colorado’s sheep and goat draw until your fourth year, so you might as well just buy a PP.

  12. How about separating applicants out by age brackets. I know that if I have 20pts and I’m 60, i’m ahead of the game but I’m also worse for the wearer as I age and try to hunt Bighorn, Goats, etc. I happen to have 18pts for sheep and goat, thanks to my father for starting early and helping me out, I’m mid 30’s now. All I’m saying is with this new system, I might be mid 60’s or worse before I’m drawn.

  13. Tavis Rogers

    I have gone to a number of wildlife commissioners meetings and sportsman’s round tables over the last two years. Every meeting was kicked off with the CPW going into great detail about sustainability. That hunter numbers were decreasing rapidly and they were running out of money with no way to keep up with the demands on the department.

    They told long sad stories about how they were not making enough to cover all the things that Colorado outdoors people were demanding of them (even though ther is no mechanism to generate revenue from a lot of them).

    They advertised extensively that wildlife watching brought significantly more money in to the economy than hunting, fishing or state parks even though they could not justify the numbers (study was done by a consultant out of California) and then pushed to double all resident license fees – hitting hunters the hardest. Most of the costs they claimed were for hatcheries, facility upgrades, and dam maintenance – nothing to do with hunting.

    All of the Colorado sportsman’s groups drank the coolaid and actually went to the state legislature en-mass to voice support for doubling license fees last year! The legislature didn’t pass that bill (thank God) so CPW immediately revised it to raise all resident fees by $8 and change the application system to get more people to apply.

    Very interesting when you look at the Federal Fish and Wildlife license sale data to see that Colorado is consistently top of the list for hunting revenue – like double any two other western states! Fishing license revenue is consistently above the mid-point as well.

    Obviously significant mismanagement somewhere!

    Problem is, all our sportsman’s groups have gotten in bed with CPW and sold us down the river.

    • David L Hoshour

      The decline in hunter numbers is a moot point when there are not enough licenses to go around as it is. The only place it makes any difference is in the leftover and OTC licenses and if you look at the figures in our MRS tables, the pressure in those OTC units is huge.

      As far as needing additional revenue, having a huge number of new hunters that don’t get drawn does nothing for revenue except for selling more habitat stamps, assuming that the $3 application fee is about the cost of processing an application.

      • I may be wrong but I think every new applicant is buying a fishing and small game license or else they have to pay for PP in the next year. The result is a huge increase in revenue for CPW any way you figure it. I can’t say if they will manage this influx wisely only time will tell, but the income should be verifiable in future state income reports. The danger is if CPW runs a surplus rest assured there are plenty of agencies in the state that would love to get there hands on anybodies surplus.

        I am a CO resident and was disparaging about the old system and thought an increase in resident fees was in order as well as limiting the applications to only one of the big 3 (sheep, goat or moose) in order to give sportsmen a real chance at drawing 1 of the 3 in a lifetime.

        I can acknowledge that there is an issue with getting the younger generations involved in outdoor activities however I am not sure that the limiting factor to them is cost of fishing or hunting. My guess is that most new applications were really instigated by current sportsmen for themselves or for a family member in hopes that they will appreciate a much sought after tag.

        I will make every effort to attend CPW meeting this year to offer some solutions or sportsman insight, hopefully someone is listening!

  14. Steve, for goat and sheep you can only apply for preference points for the first three years so of course that is where the increase is. In three years the odds to pull a tag go from difficult to near impossible.

  15. It’s crazy that many people are applying and it is frustrating to see the odds drop. That being said, I completely disagree with this quote from your article: “And if a person can pay the $2,217 when they draw the tag, they can certainly afford a refundable $2,217 to apply.” As a hunter that applies for most western states, I can’t afford to put in for all these tags in every state. I would be sitting on $20,000-$30,000 on my credit card. And when states take months to refund that money, a lot of interest is charged. At least now I can afford to put in. Even if the the odds are slim at least now I have a chance.

  16. I was not moved by this argument. It sounds like the author feels entitled to hunt in CO and doesn’t want more competition in drawing tags. No one wants more competition for tags, but the only way to decrease competition is to make it more expensive. I personally believe wild game should not just be for the rich. The “if you can afford a 2k tag you can afford a 2k refund” argument is disingenuous. I don’t like fronting the government thousands of dollars every year, and I certainly wasn’t able to do it as a student. However, I would have put in points as a poor college student if they were $3 knowing that a) it takes several years to draw a tag and b) several years from then I would likely be able to afford an actual tag. Colorado just made the chance to hunt in the state more affordable and more popular while cutting a cost for them and a burden for the applicants. I’m sorry your odds of drawing a future tag, after you cash in your current points, will be lowered by people new to the sport.

  17. David L Hoshour

    Read my replies above. I welcome and encourage new hunters. I’ve brought in several myself. I hope you do bring in new buddies to hunt with.

    But, probably 99% of these new applicants are not new to the sport, they hunt elsewhere and find that there they have to front the cost of either the $150 license which is nonrefundable, and/or the cost of the tag, while in CO they can apply for $3 a species. They are just choosing another, cheaper place to hunt. And since 99% of the licenses in Colorado are oversubscribed already, there is no expansion of the hunting population when it comes to drawing a license.

    My objection is to a 400% increase in applications in just one year, which just floods the system and dramatically worsens the odds for tens of thousands of hunters already applying.

  18. I believe there is a critical error in this article. The $3/species pref point is only available after you buy a license (any big game license or an ANNUAL fishing or small game license which is a minimum $56 for non-residents) in the previous year. So, CPW made this change not only to avoid the credit card fees/hassle, but to increase the number of licenses sold, which increases revenue via the license fees, but also via the Pittman-Robertson and Dingall-Johnson dollars.

  19. The article also fails to mention the Colorado bill that was just signed into law that allows for increases to the application fees. Up to $10 for R and $20 for NR.


    • Dave Hoshour

      The article is about the 2018 explosion in applications and the low 2018 fees as the reason for the increase. The fee this year was $3. Whether the increased fees reflect current costs in processing applications, including paying for the new systems technology, I’ll have to ask when I talk to my contacts at CPW.

      It is extremely annoying that it is higher for nonresidents since they use the same system. States have really pushed costs into nonresidents so much that the discrepancies are now extreme at 10 times the resident price for as little as 10% of the licenses, much less in some states. That may be a good follow up piece because it is starting to really tick me off. Nonresidents are the largest source of revenue, ie the best customers, and they getting treated the worst.

  20. Dave Hoshour

    Paying for a small game and fishing license is optional and only pertains to those that did not hunt or fish at all in Colorado the prior year and don’t want to pay PP fees if not drawn this year. So it pertains to only a portion of the applicants, but you’re right, those are new revenues to the State, so thanks for pointing that out. I’ll see if I can get that number from CPW once the draws are completed in June. Good catch.

  21. Denny C. Behrens

    Makes no diffeence what the CPW claims about funding. Colorado Sportsmen have been screaming about declining elk and deer populations. Demanding more predator controls. More lion quotas, One bear license that’s starts Sept 2nd and runs continually thru the 3rd Rifle season. All we get is NO Just take the famous D7 herd. Back in 2005 the population of that herd was 105,000. Now it’s down to 35,000, and that’s with an over all 10% success rate. Go Figure!

  22. What is being over looked with the whole thing is the state does not care about how long it could take you to draw a tag or if you will even draw a tag ever all they care about is the funds that could come from it. So I highly doubt that they will go back to the old ways!

    • David L Hoshour

      It is easy to make simplistic caricatures, but the people I know at CPW do care about the hunter experience and from an economic point of view they have to, but not like you might think.

      Airlines are often seen as not caring about their customers when they charge for every little thing but the best customers, the business traveler is catered to. It works differently in a Fish and Game Dept because the best customer is the nonresident who pays a ridiculous price in comparison and so provides most of the revenue. But it is the resident that is highly favored in comparison. As long as the resident doesn’t get greatly upset the Dept. feels safe. Even though residents overall pay less in fees than nonresidents overall, they are far greater in number and political clout. For this regulation to change it has to be residents taking up arms.

      Again this time, it is the nonresident that is taking most of the hit on the skyrocketing applications. Not having seen the deer and elk application breakdown yet, I don’t know if there is enough of an increase to get resident hunters angry. We’ll have to see.

      • I am a CO resident and I am not upset at all. I have taken two Pope & Young bulls with over-the-counter tags, a Rocky Mountain Bighorn ram with 1 weighted point and my kids have had opportunities to kill elk on youth OTC and RFW tags. The amount of energy that some people put into playing the preference point game is astounding. I think CPW does a great job of balancing quantity and quality of opportunity and you don’t need to draw some impossible tag to enjoy a hunt. However, I still say “Thank You” to all the non-residents that donate point and license fee dollars to keep my State full of awesome wildlife.

  23. Well, here’s my take,, SCREW colorado draws. Its now just like “Opportunity Oregon’s” jacked up system with crappy odds. Its on the wall fellow hunters. All cpw cares for is the $. They saw a great way to get alot of cash into this system and not have to deal with refunds and transaction fees. If I hunt CO its OTC anyway so It wont effect me.

  24. I find this absurd. Recently on TV in Grand Junction a representative of the CPW claimed they needed more numbers to apply for licenses. Well, as usual the CPW has created a buzz storm and they usually do. No surprise though if anything seems to work they make a change to screw it up, they succeeded again. Disgusting to say the least… JMO

  25. I am one of those CO residents that are pissed. Our draw odds on many species just dropped beyond substantially while the CPW stick the funds created from hunters where? It sure isn’t going back to the hunters, year after year there are more roads and trails being closed granting less access to the hunters while nation wide bow hunting is one of the fastest growing sports. CPW lobbied for higher cost on tags and sbsequentely we will be incurring those fees as well in the years to come but we get nothing back in return. It’s definately a money game to the CPW so the commissioners along with fellow hunters need to stand up against the lobbiest and politicians in an effort to get some sort of resolution to a mistake that is only going to get worse for the huge population on resident and nonresident hunters. I have several pp points for RM Bighorn, Mountain Goat and moose but now wonder if realistically at the age of 40 if I’ll ever successfully draw a tag here in CO?

  26. The only thing I know for sure is that when I do apply with my points (And I’m ahead of this pig in the tube) that I will NEVER again apply for points in this state. From there on out I will only hunt OTC Archery Units.

    I have been bitching about Colorado and how they screw non-resident hunters and only care about the money for years…. This is icing on the cake.

  27. Being a CO resident and hunting this state for 30+ years…anyone who tells you the deer and elk numbers are holding steady or are increasing is either 1) blind or 2) quite gullible! CPW “is” only about the $ and care less if you have success! I actually had a warden tell me for every one animal you see, there is ten you don’t! And that my friends is how “they” do their counts…straight from a horses mouth. I agree with the “pay before you play” method. As far as you that put in for 10 states and “can’t afford” it, here’s an idea… pick a couple states and don’t be so greedy! Concentrate on a hunt and enjoy it while working hard at it. Only you feel proud to tell your buddies, “yup, I drew 6 elk tags this year!” Only get to hunt 3 days…but I got 6 tags! I’m not a fan at all of what the CPW has created, but if you truly are pissed about it…do us a favor, keep your $3 and leave CO alone!

  28. Hunting is a sport that is catering more and more to the rich. If I never get the opportunity to hunt sheep or goat so be it. I like the fact that your average guy can now afford an opportunity to apply for these hunts. Just my two cents. Yes it reduces my chances from slim to none on getting a tag but you shouldn’t have to loan the government 2k a year for 15 years for an opportunity.

  29. All I can tell from the comments is that most people are selfishly upset because now more people can apply. Make big game tags available to any person, not exclusively for the rich.

    • its not for the rich you still have to pay for the tag when you draw so whats your freakin point.your paying either way

  30. Being a Colorado resident i see major problems now after the draw results and the leftover system.One, they put in for everything they can because it costs 3 dollars for each,but if they draw and cant pay the license then goes from what i seen to the leftover licenses,which sucks i did not draw for an area then it pops up on the leftover license,same area same season.now i have to wait in line at a license agent hoping to get a license i had put in for .what a joke.Two the lottery for the sheep,goat,and moose is not working,people as my self have double digit weighted points and someone draws with 5 this is not fair at all.The elk ,deer,bear,antelope still go by the most weighted points so thats still good.i have a solution charge
    us the 2.9%fee for using the credit card on top of our license fee,instead of our license going up double.but i said once the D.O.W.merged with the parks and wildlife we were screwed,they were broke before they merged because the parks cant manage money for beans just look at what a parks pass and camping fees went to.I use to love to hunt my great state and still do but here lately i find it easier going to other states where they are more accommodating sorry colorado but you are ruining our great state to hunt in.

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