The Air Force Academy uses hunting to manage the deer, elk, and turkey populations to protect habitat, promote animal health, and reduce vehicle-wildlife accidents or other human conflicts. Annual population and harvest objectives for the Academy (Game Management Unit 512) is closely coordinated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Hunter harvest data since 1959 is summarized here. Per USAFA Plan 31-1 (IDP) - Protection and Control of Privately Owned Firearms, hunters are not allowed to access Unit 511, west of the base, with a firearm or bow.
There is no small game, waterfowl, prairie dog, furbearer, black bear, or mountain lion hunting offered on the Academy.
Important! Deer harvested in 2018, 2019, and 2020 tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD); these are the first known occurrences of the disease on the base.
Detailed information on Colorado's hunting opportunities, regulations, and application process is available here. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has also assembled a useful list of other online resources, including instructions on field dressing game and field mapping tools.
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) must be purchased through iSportsman.
For safety and security reasons, deer and elk 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 big game throughout their scheduled hunt. Escorts do not instruct hunters to harvest a particular animal. The escorts transport hunters to the prime game areas in GOV vehicles, but public safety and security often dictates when and where hunting can occur. Escorts will provide helpful instruction, however, hunters are expected to understand how to operate their firearm and the basics of field dressing game.
Hunters (and any guests) receive a safety briefing from Natural Resources staff before going to the field. Hunters and guests must also complete an Assumption of Risk waiver form. Guests are only allowed on a space-available basis and must be 12+ years of age.
A firearm may be discharged only after the escort has determined the deer/elk presents a safe and reasonable shot based on distance, direction, and physical backstop. Hunters that do not not comply with the escort's directions, or are otherwise hunting in an unsafe or unethical manner, will have their access permit revoked.
Hunting areas available for deer and elk are shown here. The hunting areas cover many different types of habitat, terrain, and ease of walk-in or drive-in access. Hunters should be physically capable of pursuing game over steep, uneven ground. Natural Resources will provide assistance and reasonable accomodations for mobility-impaired hunters.
Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer (Rifle-only)
The Academy offers two December weekend hunts of TWO-DAYS each. This limited hunting period is intended to help emphasize the use of hunting as a population management tool, rather than encouraging a highly selective harvest of “trophy” buck deer. Hunters can harvest any deer they choose, including a “trophy” buck, but passing on deer with the intent of pursuing a larger-antlered animal could result in an unfilled tag. Doe hunters are also limited to TWO-DAY hunts, but this normally does not jeopardize the harvesting of a deer.
Hunters must draw a GMU 512 (Air Force Academy) deer license through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife application process. Hunters who successfully draw a deer license will receive a letter from the base (typically in June) with important instructions. In 2020, a minimum of 10 preference points was required to draw a resident buck license, and 4 points for a resident doe license.
American Elk (Rifle-only)
Cow elk hunting is offered October 1 through January 31, Monday-Friday. To enter a lottery drawing for an over-the-counter cow elk "B" license, sign up here between January 1st and May 31st and pay the $6 non-refundable fee. The first ten randomly drawn applicants are notified by letter in mid-June and contacted in priority order when the season begins. Successful applicants will receive a Colorado Parks and Wildlife cow elk voucher from Natural Resources to purchase a license through a state licensing agent. The cow elk licenses are additional tags that do not require preference points to be drawn. An average of 5 elk per year have been harvested in GMU 512 since 2001.
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.
Elk hunters are expected to be available on short notice (12-24 hours) when the herd of typically 30-40 animals is present on base. Hunters may decline an opportunity to hunt only once and still retain their priority ranking. Natural Resources tries to make reasonable accommodations for work schedules, vacations, illness, school commitments, etc.
Merriam's Turkey (Archery-only)
Unlike the deer and elk hunting, turkey hunters are not escorted, therefore hunters must comply with the safety and security requirements described below. The designated turkey hunting units are shown here.
Spring Season: To enter the lottery to hunt spring turkey with a state over-the-counter license, you must sign-up through iSportsman ($6 application fee) from January 1st - February 28. The first twenty (20) drawn applicants are notified with a letter in early-March that covers important information on hunting procedures, base access, and safety requirements.
Fall Season: To enter the lottery to hunt fall turkey with a state over-the-counter license, you must sign-up through iSportsman ($6 application fee) from June 1 - July 31. The first twenty (20) drawn applicants are notified with a letter in early-August that covers important information on hunting procedures, base access, and safety requirements.
Mandatory safety and security requirements:
- Hunters must schedule an in-person briefing with Natural Resources staff to review hunting procedures and the safety and security requirements.
- Hunters (and guests) without DoD identification must coordinate with Natural Resources staff for a Visitor Pass.
- Hunters must download the Avenza Maps smartphone app and upload a geo-referenced map of the Air Force Academy's turkey hunting areas. Since this is an unescorted hunt, the gps-based app helps ensure hunters, especially those unfamiliar with the installation, remain within the authorized areas. Natural Resources staff will provide assistance with uploading and utilizing the app at the in-prson briefing.
- Hunters must check-in and check-out of the hunting areas each day at Natural Resources. To enhance safety and limit interaction between hunters, only a single hunter may occupy a hunting unit at a time. Some areas may occassionally be closed for training exercises or other events.
For unescorted hunters, a hand-held bow meeting the state's requirement is the only legal method of hunting turkey on the Air Force Academy. The use of a cross-bow is allowed with a state-approved medical waiver. Rookie Sportsman hunters escorted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff may hunt with a hand-held bow or shotgun.
Wildlife Roadkill Salvage List
Numerous deer (and sometimes elk) are struck by vehicles each year and many of these animals are salvageable for human consumption. Natural Resources holds an in-person sign-up (one entry per household) at Building 9030 each August to create a salvage list. A new list of up to 30 names is collected each year to maintain up-to-date contact information. The 10th Security Forces or Natural Resources office's call people on the list in priority order to pick-up any salvageable deer or elk. Animals must be retrieved promptly as they are not field dressed. Follow the Events and Services section on the Home page for the August sign-up date.