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Why It’s Harder to Draw CO Licenses

PC: Mike Eastman

Thanks, to Eastmans’ Forum member ColoradoV, I got my hands on the 2021 Colorado recommendations. In it were some interesting charts that show the trends in Colorado elk, deer, moose, antelope, and bear applications and licenses. Let’s look at the first three.


Look at the elk chart. Even though applications were flat for a long time and recently went up 20%, the long term trend in licenses is down. The result is that it is now twice as hard to draw the average elk tag as it used to be. That’s all tags including cow tags, you know that the better bull tags have seen a lot more point creep. 

Take Unit 49 1st season rifle. Last year it took 13 points for a nonresident. Ten years ago it took 5. With licenses down almost 1/3, you can attribute at least 2 points in most units to lower license totals. However, with Unit 49, licenses are actually up since 2010, so here it is all point creep.

Remember, what drives point creep is that when there are more applicants than licenses, all those unsuccessful applicants have another point to use the next year. If there are more applicants next year  than what is drawn that year, min points will go up again. In a preference point system, you will always have point creeep when there are unsuccessful applicants that apply the next year and number more than licenses awarded. If you think about Unit 49, point creep should go up 1 per year, increasing the 5 points to 15 and then factor in that there are 20% more tags and you come out to roughly 13.


Now look at deer. Again, it is overall roughly twice as hard to draw. The application numbers continue to climb and I think the number for 2021 will turn out to be much higher than the preliminary estimate pictured because of the new later season dates, maybe as many as 250,000 applicants. Aside from the increasing demand, the number of tags is also still well below what it was before the winter of 2007-2008. And, with the higher success rates the later seasons are going to cause, licenses will probably drop in the next few years, making things more difficult.


Demand for Colorado pronghorn had been moving steadily higher but has accelerated the last four years while licenses are slightly down. It’s almost surely the result of not having to pay upfront anymore and while that does give the State more application fees, which is really not that much, it has made it a lot more difficult to draw. 

Anyway, I’ve never quite understood why people spend double-digit points to hunt Colorado pronghorn when they can hunt them next door in Wyoming for 1/3 or ¼ of the point cost and have much higher success. Maybe because it costs almost nothing to apply once you’ve bought a qualifying license, and resident licenses, as in most states, are cheap, less than an oil change, but don’t get me started on that.


The moose chart shows you a real Colorado success story. Here I had to put licenses on the right-side scale and you can see the incredible increase in moose licenses from 80 in 2003 to 532 in 2021. Don’t you wish sheep licenses had increased almost seven times! So, applications are way up but licenses have kept pace. 

Of course, moose licenses are drawn with Colorado’s trophy species’ weighted point system that starts giving weighted points in the fourth application year and divides a randomly assigned number by the number of points, with the lowest product drawn first. So, like any point system that has a random element, the lowest number to draw jumps all over. People actually drew last year with 0 weighted points. 

Back in 2010 the most points anyone had was 9, now it is 19, but again, it is not a preference point draw, so point creep comes into play, but not in the same way as minimum points. There is no other state where moose are rapidly increasing or where the ratio of applicants to moose licenses has held steady for 14 years. And, if you’ve been reading our MRS, you know that Colorado’s place in the record books for Shiras’ moose puts them right in the mix with Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, the big 3. At the very top end, Colorado is actually the leader over the last 10 years. Hopefully, it will be a few years yet before the wolves start eating into the number of licenses.

About Dave Hoshour

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  1. The problem with Colorado is that CPW refuses to address the point creep issue. They have many of us “trapped” in the points race and we can’t get out with a fair shake. If we apply for a unit with lesser points required, we lose all of our points….so we continue to accumulate points. In 2006 Colorado experimented with “points banking” whereby you could use part of your points to apply for a specific limited area. Not only did you lose some points, depending on the number required to draw that unit, but you didn’t gain a point of you drew. I participated and felt it was a great change. That points banking process was not used again for some reason that nobody in the CPW can explain to me. It was done on a “trial basis” and nobody can tell me what they found, though I’ve asked CPW many times. I and many people I know would GLADLY exit the points race if we were allowed to do so without giving up all of our points in one shot. How is it fair that I have to pay 18 points for a unit that someone else can draw with 7? Also, for sheep, goat, and moose fully 2/3 of the licenses are drawn by applicants with half or less of the maximum points due to Colorado’s failed “weighted points” system. The weighting gives very little preference to people who have been applying for those species for many years. Often applicants with 4-5 points draw while those of us with 15, 20, or more can’t draw.

  2. I hunted as a non resident in this state since the eighties with great success and with a love with the muzzleloader and back then it took 2 points for and elk tag. Since then i started the year after 92 and now have 29 points and was told by Dow for a unit 201, 2 or 10 it might take another 20 years if lucky to draw a early rifle or archery tag. With the point creep i will more than likely die of old age if this is the case. My heart is broken that I and my Children will never have a chance to hunt in a trophy class unit in Colorado.

  3. If you wish to hunt every year Colorado is not the place. Resident since 1966 and what was once fairly straight forward purchase is now a miasma of rules, regs, don’ts, which I doubt they themselves even have read it all. Having to buy small game license just get in to the drawing then habitat stamp purchase after that it gets expensive and then no luck in the draw.
    Their computer draw system I believe is faulty but I have no evidence yet.
    Years of transplants have changed what Colorado was and the push was everywhere to lose Colorado’s “cowtown” image and those precise words were used. They have completed that effort and goal has been reached.

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