Hunting Tips - Preference points – Understanding the System

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Published Saturday, October 28, 2017
Outdoors - Colorado Parks Wildlife Mountains Baca National Wildlife Refuge - USFWS
by Colorado Parks and Wildlife

When applying for a limited license, a preference point is awarded when an individual is unsuccessful in drawing their first-choice hunt code. Preference points provide a mathematical advantage when applied to future drawings. 

Some things to remember: 

  • Preference points are awarded by species, not hunt code. A point can be used to apply for any type of license available for that species. 

  • A preference point is awarded only for unsuccessful applications for a first-choice hunt code. 
  • Use a preference point hunt code as your first choice if your goal is to accumulate points for use toward a future quality hunt. Points needed can change significantly from year to year. 
  • For bear, elk, deer and pronghorn, you will accumulate preference points until you are successful in drawing a first-choice license. If you draw your first choice, your preference points drop to zero. There is no "banking" of preference points. 
  • If you do not apply or hold a license for that species at least once within 10 consecutive years for a bear, elk, deer or pronghorn, your preference points for that species will be lost.
  • For bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat, an applicant can accumulate a maximum of three points. Future applications are pooled with other three-point applicants. If you are unsuccessful in the pooled drawing, a "mathematically weighted" point is awarded to increase the probability of drawing a future license. You must apply at least once in a consecutive 10-year period to keep your points. 
  • Nonresident allocations are determined by the average number of preference points a Colorado resident needs to draw a specific license during a 3-year period. For hunt codes that required six or more points for a Colorado resident to draw an elk or deer license, 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. 
  • A Colorado Habitat Stamp is required to buy or apply for a license. The Habitat Stamp may be purchased online, by phone or at any Wildlife Service Center or license agent.  

How long will it take to draw a license? 

Statistics from previous years may be used to estimate the approximate time required to successfully draw a license. For example: If a unit allowed 20 licenses with 60 applicants, zero preference points required, 40 were unsuccessful. These 40 would be awarded a preference point. 

Assuming that the quota for this unit remained the same for 2017, and these 40 apply, 20 will draw a license using their preference point and 20 will be awarded a second point. An applicant with no points could expect to draw a license in three years. 

Preference-point requirements can be found at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. Go to the Big Game hunting page at may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

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