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. The base presently has resident herds of approximately 200 deer and 45 elk. Beginning in 2019, Natural Resources will also administer an over-the-counter, archery-only spring and fall turkey hunt. Limited turkey hunting opportunities is also available 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 hunter 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.
Important! A buck deer harvested on the Academy in December 2018 tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). This is the first known occurrence of the disease on the base, so to further assess its prevalence in the area Colorado Parks and Wildlife will require CWD testing of all elk and deer harvested on the Academy starting in 2019.
A full description of Colorado's hunting opportunities, regulations, and game application process is available here. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has also assembled a useful list of other website resources, including instructions on field dressing 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 the iSportsman website.
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, but are encouraged to harvest an animal as soon as possible. The escorts direct hunters to the prime game 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 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 deer/elk 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 deer and elk 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.
Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer (Rifle-only)
During the 2019 deer hunting season, Natural Resources will offer two December weekend hunts of TWO-DAYS each, with approximately an even number of doe and buck hunters escorted each weekend. This limited hunting period is intended to help emphasize our use of hunting as a population management tool, rather than encouraging highly selective harvests 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 will not prevent a hunter from harvesting a deer.
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 (typically in June) with detailed instructions. In 2018, a minimum of 11 preference points was required to draw a resident buck license, and 3 points for a doe license.
American Elk (Rifle-only)
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 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 (State "B" license) that 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.
Merriam's Turkey (Archery-only)
Spring and Fall over-the-counter, archery-only, turkey hunting is being offered on the Air Force Academy (GMU 512) in 2019. Unlike the deer and elk hunting, turkey hunters will not be escorted by base personnel, therefore hunters must comply with the additional safety and security requirements described below.
To enter a lottery drawing for installation access to hunt Spring 2019 turkey with a state over-the-counter license, you must sign up between January 1st and February 28 and pay a $6 non-refundable fee. The first twenty (20) randomly drawn applicants will be notified by early-March with a letter that has information on hunting procedures, base access, and safety requirements. When drawn, hunters must contact Natural Resources to schedule on a first-come basis one of the hunting periods offered during the season: April 13-May 3 or May 4-May 26. The intent of having split dates, with only ten (10) hunters scheduled at a time, is to minimize conflicts for the limited available hunting areas.
A separate application and drawing process will be held for the Fall 2019 turkey season.
Mandatory safety and security requirements:
- Hunters must schedule a face-to-face briefing with Natural Resources to review the hunting procedures and safety and security requirements.
- Hunters (and guests) without DoD identification must coordinate with Natural Resources for a Visitor Pass to access the base.
- 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 will help ensure hunters - especially those unfamiliar with the installation - stay within the authorized areas. Natural Resources staff can provide instructions for uploading and utilizing the app and map at the face-to-face briefing.
- Hunters must check-in and check-out of the hunting areas each day at Natural Resources. To help promote safety and limit hunter conflicts (such as calling birds), only a single hunter may occupy an area at a time. Natural Resources and hunters will not reserve areas in-advance.
For unescorted hunters, a hand-held bow meeting the state requirements is the only legal method of taking turkey on the Air Force Academy. A cross-bow is not allowed due to base safety and security concerns. Rookie Sportsman 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. 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 to keep the contact information up-to-date. 10th Security Forces or the Natural Resources office contacts people on the list in priority order to pick-up any salvageable animals. All animals must be retrieved promptly as they are not field dressed. Watch the Events and Services section of the Home page for announcement of the next August sign-up date.