COVID-19 Update: Due to possible installation and personnel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, hunting access, procedures, and seasons are subject to change. Drawing a state license (deer) or base access permit (elk, turkey) does not guarantee that you will be allowed to hunt.
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 local Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists. The Academy's 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! A single buck deer harvested in December 2018 and 2019 tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). These are the first known occurrences of the disease on the base; to further assess its prevalence in the area Colorado Parks and Wildlife is requiring testing of all deer. CPW is currently waiving the CWD testing fee for deer harvested on the Academy.
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 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 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. 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 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 that 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.
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 should be physically capable of pursuing game over steep, uneven ground.
Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer (Rifle-only)
Natural Resources 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 prevent a hunter from harvesting a deer.
Hunters must first 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 detailed instructions. In 2019, a minimum of 10 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 October 1 through January 31, Monday-Friday. To enter a lottery drawing for an over-the-counter cow elk 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 (State "B" license) that do not require preference points to be drawn. An average of 5 elk per year has 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.
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)
There will be no drawing for fall 2020 turkey access permits. Hunters drawn for the spring season that were unable to hunt due to COVID-19 restrictions will be allowed to hunt the fall season.
Unlike the deer and elk hunting, turkey hunters are NOT escorted by base personnel, therefore hunters must comply with the additional safety and security requirements described below. The available turkey hunting areas are shown here.
Spring Season: To enter the Academy 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 29. The first twenty (20) drawn applicants are notified with a letter in early-March that also covers important information on hunting procedures, base access, and safety requirements.
Fall Season: To enter the Academy 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 also covers important information on hunting procedures, base access, and safety requirements.
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 base 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, stay within the authorized areas. Natural Resources staff will provide instructions for uploading and utilizing the app at the face-to-face briefing.
- Hunters must check-in and check-out of the hunting areas each day at Natural Resources. To promote safety and limit interaction between hunters, only a single hunter may occupy an area at a time. Regulations specific to the Jacks Valley training area, and hunting unit closures due to training exercises and other events, are updated periodically and posted here.
For unescorted hunters, a hand-held bow meeting the state requirements is the only legal method of hunting turkey on the Air Force Academy. With a state-approved medical waiver, the use of a cross-bow is allowed. 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. 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 calls 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 an announcement of the next August sign-up date.