Hunting

See the Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer section for important changes to the USAFA hunting program.

Since the mid-1980's, the Air Force Academy has used hunting to manage the deer and elk population to protect habitat, promote animal health, and reduce vehicle-wildlife accidents or other human conflicts.  Presently, the base has resident herds of approximately 200 deer and 45 elk.  Limited turkey hunting is also offered through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Rookie Sportsman program for novice hunters.  Annual population and harvest objectives for the Academy (Game Management Unit 512) is closely coordinated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists.  The Academy's harvest data since 1959 is summarized here.

There is no small game, waterfowl, prairie dog, furbearer, black bear, or mountain lion hunting offered on the Academy.

A full description of Colorado's hunting opportunities, regulations, and game application process is available here.  

General Guidelines and Procedures

Hunting is open to the general public; there is no license preference given to active duty military, veterans, youth, or disabled hunters.  In addition to a State game license, a base hunting access permit ($25 elk, $15 deer, $10 turkey) is required and must be purchased by going to Login/Register on this website.

For safety and security reasons, hunters are escorted by Air Force Academy, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff, or other approved volunteers.  Under the direction of an escort, hunters may pursue game throughout their scheduled hunt, but are encouraged to harvest an animal as soon as possible.  The escorts direct hunters to the prime hunting areas, but public safety and security often dictate when and where hunting can occur.  Escorts can provide helpful instructions, however, hunters are expected to know how to operate their firearm and the basics of field dressing game.

Hunters will receive a safety briefing from Natural Resources staff before going to the field.  Hunters, and their guests, must also complete the Assumption of Risk waiver form.

A firearm may be discharged only after the escort has determined the target presents a safe and reasonable shot based on distance, direction, and physical backstop.  Hunters not complying with the escort's directions, or otherwise hunting in an unsafe or unethical manner, will have their access permit revoked.

Hunting is not allowed at Farish Recreation Area, which is within Game Management Unit 511.  Areas open for hunting on the Air Force Academy are shown here.  The hunting units cover many different types of habitat, terrain, and ease of walk-in or drive-in access.  Hunters must be physically capable of pursuing game - especially wounded animals - over steep, uneven ground while still demonstrating appropriate hunting skills and safety procedures.

Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer

Beginning with the 2018 hunting season, Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is making significant changes to the way the deer hunting program is administered on USAFA.  These changes are intended to emphasize the use of hunting as a population management tool, rather than as an opportunity to selectively harvest “trophy” buck deer.  This objective will be accomplished by CPW extending the deer season from October 1 - December 31, in combination with USAFA limiting hunters to ONE-DAY hunts on a GMU 512 deer license.  Buck hunters can still harvest any deer they choose, including a “trophy” buck, but they will not be allowed to pass on deer with the hope of returning another day to pursue a larger-antlered animal.  Doe hunters will also be limited to one-day hunts, but normally that should not prevent a hunter from harvesting a deer.  Natural Resources has the discretion to extend the number of days a hunter is escorted, but this will only be considered for situations where unforeseen circumstances (for example, highly unfavorable weather) may have limited hunting opportunities.

Hunters must draw a GMU 512 (Air Force Academy) deer license through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife application process.  Typically, 15 buck and 15 doe licenses are available annually for GMU 512.  Hunters who successfully draw a deer license will receive a letter from the base with detailed instructions.  In 2017, a minimum of 11 preference points was required to draw a resident buck license, and 3 points for a doe license.

A centerfire rifle meeting the state requirements is the only legal method of deer hunting on the Air Force Academy.

American Elk

Cow elk hunting is offered from October 1 through January 31 if the herd exceeds the Academy's population target.  To enter a lottery drawing for an over-the-counter cow elk license, you must sign up here  between January 1st and May 31st and pay a $6 non-refundable fee.  The first ten randomly drawn applicants are notified by letter in mid-June and then contacted in priority order when the season begins.  Successful applicants will receive a cow elk voucher from Natural Resources to purchase a State license through a licensing agent.  The cow elk licenses are additional tags (State "B" license) and do not require preference points to be drawn.  Since 2001, an average of 5 elk per year have been harvested in GMU 512.

There is no guarantee if you are one of the first ten drawn applicants that you will receive a license voucher.  Elk hunting is only conducted as-needed to meet population and habitat objectives.

In most cases, hunters are expected to be available to hunt on short notice (12-24 hours) when the elk are observed on base.  Hunters may decline an opportunity to hunt only once and still retain their priority ranking.  Natural Resources tries to accommodate work schedules, vacations, illness, school commitments, etc., to the extent possible.

A centerfire rifle meeting the state requirements is the only legal method of cow elk hunting on the Air Force Academy.

Merriam's Turkey

A limited number of over-the-counter spring turkey licenses are available for the Air Force Academy.  To be eligible, applicants must participate in the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Rookie Sportsman program for novice hunters.  All of the Academy's permit fees, guidelines, and procedures discussed above are applicable to this State-sponsored hunting program. 

A shotgun, hand-held bow, or crossbow meeting the state requirements is the only legal method of turkey hunting on the Air Force Academy.

Wildlife Roadkill Salvage List

Numerous deer (and sometimes elk) are struck by vehicles on the base, and many of these animals are salvageable for human consumption.  Each August, Natural Resources holds an in-person sign-up (one entry per household) at our office (Building 9030) to create a wildlife salvage list.  A new list of up to 30 names is collected each year to keep the contact information up-to-date.  The 10th Security Forces or Natural Resources office contact persons on the list in priority order to pick-up any salvageable animals.  All animals must be salvaged promptly as they are not field dressed.  Watch the Events and Services for the date of the next August sign-up.