Every person who has ever picked up a bow and took on bowhunting has once or twice fantasized about venturing into the mountains after big game. Living in Central Kansas I have an extremely limited diversity of big game to hunt. With the severe decline in mule deer in this area the whitetail buck is our last big game resource, and while that resource is thriving, one longs to learn about other species. Our friends in Western Kansas are lucky enough to have not only whitetails, but mule deer and antelope. The true mecca of a big game hunter’s world is the Rocky Mountains. With seven different species including mule deer, elk, moose, Sheep, mountain goats, black bears, and antelope on the plains, Colorado has much to offer. Most people have this dream of chasing one or all of these species but are uneducated about how one would get the oppurtunity to hunt them. There is the obvious choice of using an outfitter to fulfill your goals. While very effective, it is much more expensive and takes what is in my opinion the most fulfilling part away, planning and executing the hunt by yourself. This article is aimed at helping other bowhunters learn about the process that the State of Colorado uses to divy out their trophy unit tags for non-resident bowhunters. One will find after reading this article that the person that is in a hurry to achieve success in the mountains need not bother with this process and hire an outfitter. To go solo and take on this goal without an outfitter will take years of commitment and patience. The wait can begin to wear on a guy after awhile but just remember, nothing in this world worth having comes easy.
Within the different species there are some differences in the process but bottom line, if you ever want to hunt any species in a trophy unit then you will have to have preference points. What the State of Colorado does is actually an ingenious plan on their part to produce revenue for them while minimizing the cost of application for the hunter. Preference points are the system that they use to give some hunters the advantage over others when applying for tags. Simply put, the longer you have been applying the better chance you have of drawing. Only one preference point per species can be awarded each year and to obtain one is as simple as loaning the State of Colorado some money for a couple months. Sounds funny huh? What actually happens is for a preference point you send half the cost of a tag for that animal to them. They hold your money in an account for a few months drawing interest on it and then send it back to you minus a small application fee. You then have a preference point. For example I sent them $1050 dollars this year for a preference point each for deer, elk, and bear. I only had to pay half the price of a tag because I only applied for a point. If you apply for a licence then the full fee is charged. To know how many points it requires to draw the tag that you want, it is as simple as referencing websites like www.hunterstrailhead.com. This site is as simple as it gets. Pick your state, weapon, unit, and species and it will tell you exactly how many points you will need to draw and even trend the last couple years for you.
Now, back to why it takes so much patience to get your hands on a trophy unit tag. The unit that I have been waiting to hunt takes 9 preference points for a non-resident to draw a bull tag. Yes I just said 9! That means I will have to apply for nine years before I get the chance to go chase my dream bull through the pines. This link will show you how they break it down and show you your chances of drawing. http://www.hunterstrailhead.com/huntresults_detail_CO.php?unit=3953&weapon=1&species=5&resident=Non-Resident&points=&type=Either+Sex&year=2009. For this reason it is imperative to get started early in life applying. This website will let you know when it’s time to switch from applying for preference points to applying for a tag. There are many units that are considered trophy units that have decent percentages and take less points, but we have spent time in unit 76 and like the title of this article says “Knowing is Half the Battle”
My older brother and Uncle both have very good chances of drawing this unit for mule deer this year and it has been years in the making. When it has taken years to get this chance you can only imagine the amount of preperation that they will put into this starting right now. Last Sunday was spent studying maps and planning a scouting trip for July. They will have a big leg up to find where the bucks are summering because they will still be in that general area come late August when the season opens. That means an 11 hour drive one way to spend a couple days glassing to hurry home and get back to work. Quick scouting trips like this can be the difference in filling a five year old tag.
The State of Colorado has a very nice and simple online application process. Just visit this link and right on the front page will be a button for applying for liscences online. http://wildlife.state.co.us/
With some persistence any person can get their hands on an awesome tag with great chances of harvesting a great animal. Bottom line though, If you don’t start now you will never get to sit behind a velvet antlered giant!
Note: Colorado applications for 2010 are due April 6.
-Matt White, avid bowhunter and member of Heartland Bowhunter