Colorado: 2023 Hunting Application Details

Another Western state that tops the bucket lists of many hunters, Colorado leads the way for opportunity elk hunts with true over-the-counter tag options for archery as well as multiple rifle seasons. Colorado issues two sets of regulations–one for big game (antelope, bear, deer, elk, and moose) and a separate one for sheep and goat. Be sure to obtain the correct version for your hunting plans from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Mule Deer tags hunts are all issued via the drawing, but Colorado is known for its trophy deer genetics and generally healthy herd numbers making it a must-apply-for state if you are a mule deer enthusiast. Because Colorado uses a pure Preference Point drawing system, it can be a bit easier to plan and predict draw success compared to other states. But expect point creep to continue year over year—especially for the higher demand hunts that take more points to draw.

TopRut draw odds

Note: As of February 6, 2023, the new 2023 Colorado regs, season dates, and hunt codes have not yet been published (Big Game Brochure). The big game application period begins around March 1, 2023, and ends April 4, 2023 (tentative) with draw results available by mid-May (elk, deer, antelope, moose). Draw results for sheep and goat are released mid-April.

Hunters may apply for tags with Colorado Parks and Wildlife here.

Huntin’ Fool’s Colorado page is an excellent, updated resource for ongoing Colorado draw changes.

Colorado hunting application season species

Colorado Draw Process FAQs

Application Dates and Deadlines: Huntin’ Fool lines out Colorado dates and deadlines.

Free for onX Elite members, Hunt Reminder’s Colorado page is also an excellent resource for timely application season reminders.

Hunting license and species costs for tags usually include:

  • Application Fee
  • Hunting License Fee to apply (usually need a qualifying license before you can apply)
  • Species Fee (This is what you pay for the animal you want to hunt. Some you pay upfront at application, some you pay for once you get the tag.)
  • Points-Only fee (fees for people just buying points and not actually applying for a hunt)
2023 Colorado hunting season Application Deadline Dates

Point System

For elk, deer, and antelope, Colorado uses a Preference Point system:

  • Preference Points are like a place in line: first in, first out. The applicants with the most Preference Points draw before those with less.
  • If you apply for and are unsuccessful drawing your first choice limited license, you’ll receive an additional Preference Point for future drawings.
  • Applicants may apply for Preference Points only during the primary application window that begins in early March, but you must first buy a qualifying license.
  • Preference Points are considered for your first choice only. If you draw your first choice for a species and it is a limited license, your Preference Points are purged back to zero.
  • If nonresidents fail to apply or buy a Preference Point for a particular species in 10 consecutive years, they will lose all accumulated Preference Points for that species.

For moose, sheep, and mountain goat, Colorado uses a Preference Point + Weighted Point system:

  • Effectively, you must accumulate the maximum of three Preference Points before you have any chance to draw a tag. So if you’re new, you will not have any chance for three years.
  • After you have three Preference Points, you accumulate Weighted Points. Weighted Points are a fancy way to effectively implement Bonus Points in an otherwise random drawing.
  • Participating in the Weighted Point program is now optional. Once you have three Preference Points, you can opt out of paying the additional fee ($100 for nonresidents, $50 for residents) to accumulate Weighted Points.
  • There is no Point System for desert bighorn sheep; the very few available tags in Colorado are issued randomly.
  • Preference Points are considered for your first choice only. If you draw your first choice for a species and it is a limited license, your Preference Points are purged back to zero.
  • If nonresidents fail to apply or buy a Preference Point for a particular species in 10 consecutive years, they will lose all accumulated Preference Points for that species.

onX Elite benefits

To help increase your success, we’re adding new benefits to your Elite subscription—including access to Toprut.

Tag Allocation

  • For elk and deer hunt codes that required six or more points for a Colorado resident to draw, up to 20 percent may go to nonresidents.
  • For hunt codes that required fewer than six points for a Colorado resident to draw an elk or deer license, up to 35 percent may go to nonresidents.
  • There is no maximum nonresident tag allocation for antelope.
  • Nonresident allocations may increase if licenses remain after all Colorado resident first choices have been drawn for that hunt code.
  • License allocations do not apply to private-land only and Ranching for Wildlife licenses.
  • In a group of applications made up of both residents and nonresidents, all nonresidents in the group will count against the nonresident allocation.
  • Up to 10% of the available moose, sheep, and mountain goat tags can be issued to nonresidents.

Useful Links:

  • Access the onX Complete Package for Western Application Research
  • Log Into Toprut Today to Start Your 2023 Application Season
  • View Colorado Hunting Regulations Here
  • Apply Here for Your Colorado Hunting Tags
  • Check Your Colorado Draw History Here
  • Read Colorado Hunting News and Updates Here
colorado draw odds for rifle elk

Toprut’s Top Four State Application Tips

  • If you’re a rifle elk hunter, Colorado offers a number of second, third, and fourth season tags that are limited in number but must be drawn. Some of these tags can be drawn with zero preference points (first year applying), even for nonresidents.
  • For moose, sheep, and goat, in nearly all cases Colorado’s point system requires you to apply for three years prior to being eligible for success in the drawing. But once eligible, you can draw one of these tags with only a small number of points if you’re lucky enough.
  • For over-the-counter archery elk hunts, expect crowds and hunting pressure. Have a backup plan (or two) in case your primary hunting area is a bust and think outside the box when scouting for potential unpressured areas (i.e. further from the road may not always be better).
  • In a lot of areas a bear tag can be purchased over-the-counter and will provide a bonus opportunity for the elk or deer hunter (see this Bear Hunt Code Matrix for 2022 example codes).
Elk Hunting in Colorado

The Complete Service for Your Western Application Needs

To maximize your time spent researching and applying—and to help you build your strategy to successfully draw in 2023 and beyond—we’re providing onX Hunt Elite Members with FREE services in one comprehensive package:

Toprut: In-Depth Draw Odds and Application Tools

Huntin’ Fool: Boots-on-the-Ground Research and Insight

HuntReminder: Worry-Free Text and Email Reminder Service

onX Hunt: Map Your Hunt With Application Research Layers


Jess McGlothlin

Before taking the role of onX Communications Writer, Jess McGlothlin worked as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor and fly-fishing industries. While on assignment in the past few years she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, stand-up paddleboard down Peruvian Amazon tributaries and eat all manner of unidentifiable food.