Colorado Hunting Properties for Sale--How to Research and Buy a Colorado Hunting Property

September 28, 2022

Colorado broker Gary Hubbell details how to buy a Colorado hunting property

Colorado Hunting Properties for Sale—How to Buy a Colorado Hunting Property


By Gary Hubbell, ALC

Broker/Auctioneer, United Country Colorado Brokers

Accredited Land Consultant


As a broker with United Country Real Estate, we have colleagues all over the country who sell hunting properties and we often see their listings. Our friends in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, and Missouri are selling hunting properties primarily to pursue whitetail deer, but also species such as ducks, squirrels, rabbit, and upland birds. Most of these properties are self-contained, with no public lands accessible nearby.


Whitetail deer live in a small area compared to mule deer and elk


It’s possible to buy a fairly small piece of ground—say 40 or 80 acres—and indeed have decent hunting on it. Whitetail deer tend to spend their entire lives in a small area, rarely migrating more than a mile in one direction or another, and a hunter might be able to take two or three bucks a year from a small parcel. That just isn’t the case with Western hunting for elk and mule deer. It’s not uncommon for a good elk hunter to cover 10-15 miles in a single day of hunting. That’s a lot of real estate!


Mule deer and elk can migrate over 60 miles in the course of a year—a good hunting property is often adjacent to National Forest or BLM lands


Since mule deer and elk are so wide-ranging in their yearly migrations, it can be a real trick to catch them on a parcel that measures a quarter mile by a quarter mile, so a 40-acre parcel may or may not work as a hunting property. The real question is, does the property have access to many thousands of acres of National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, or state lands? Public lands make up 43% of the land mass in Colorado, and much of that land offers good hunting. A well-located property with access to public land is the dream of many Western hunters. We recently listed a 40-acre parcel at 10,500 feet in elevation that was completely surrounded by National Forest lands, and it sold in two weeks in the middle of winter at a very high price. The snow was over 6 feet deep and we had to show it by snowmobile, but it sold fast, with many other disappointed buyers.


Mountain cabin subdivisions are common in Colorado, offering good hunting opportunities


Consequently, a strategically located hunting property that either borders public land or has direct access to it can greatly expand the acreage available to hunt. A 40-acre parcel that borders National Forest or BLM lands can offer access to many thousands of additional acres, making that a very strategic acquisition. On many occasions, these properties can also block off access to other hunters, giving the buyer a private reserve of hunting access. In many cases, mountain acreages have been subdivided into 35- or 40-acre parcels with a homeowner’s association, much like a suburban neighborhood, except the covenants are geared towards recreation and hunting. In many cases, an access easement, often with a parking area for ATV’s and 4WD vehicles, is reserved for all homeowners to access neighboring National Forest or BLM lands. These mountain cabin properties are often accessible only during the summer and fall by vehicle and inaccessible in the winter except by snowmobile or tracked vehicles. Pricing can be all over the board for these properties, depending on location, but often a nice mountain cabin on 35-40 acres will be priced between $300,000 and $600,000 in 2022 pricing, depending on the quality of the cabin.


Private landowner tags can increase hunting opportunities for hunting property buyers


Colorado (and some other Western states) reserves priority licenses for landowners through a draw system. Property owners must own 160 contiguous acres to qualify. However, these tags can greatly expand hunting opportunities. All mule deer buck tags are available only through lottery, and many Game Management Units (GMU’s) can take several years to draw a tag. Fully 15% of those coveted tags are reserved for landowners with 160-acre or larger tracts. Depending on the unit, a 160-acre parcel—or larger—can yield several tags for both elk and mule deer on an annual basis. In coveted units that take several preference points to draw, these landowner tags can greatly increase the value of the property and the opportunities to hunt trophy animals. Larger properties such as this consequently bring higher prices.

This mountain hunting property is a 160-acre parcel that is eligible for priority landowner tags. It is also bordered by National Forest lands (in green) and BLM lands (in yellow).


Migration corridors, springs and streams, Game Management Units, “honey holes”, and other hunting property features that bring value


The mountain West is an arid place, so properties that have live water of some sort are of course highly prized. There are many dry parcels that may or may not have game on them, but water in the source of a mountain spring, pond, or stream will always attract game. It’s a blessing to have a flowing spring providing water to your mountain cabin. Other properties may sit astride a historic migration corridor where the deer, elk, moose, and bear always come through at certain times of the year. Whether your hunting property is on such a corridor or near one makes it a much better hunting property. By the same token, a favorite meadow of lush grass, a berry patch, or a peaceful aspen grove can hold game consistently. I once listed a hunting property that had a fairly small meadow, maybe 20 acres, surrounded by oak brush, with a spring running through it. An outfitter had it leased for the season, and his hunters killed six bull elk in that meadow over the course of one hunting season. It was amazing how well it produced. Properties in trophy Game Management Units such as Unit 40 on Glade Park, Unit 66 near Lake City, Unit 76 near Creede, Unit 10 in northwest Colorado, and Unit 61 on the Uncompahgre Plateau offer hunters the chance of connecting on truly trophy-class animals, which makes properties located in those units even more valuable, especially if the owners can reliably obtain landowner tags.


Large (and expensive) hunting properties for wealthy buyers


An entirely different class of hunting property exists for those wealthy buyers who can afford to pay millions for the dream mountain hunting retreat. These properties are most often managed exclusively for hunting, though sometimes they are also used for cattle grazing and summer recreation. It’s not uncommon for the trophy hunting ranch to be comprised of several thousand acres including forests, meadows, ponds, and streams; high-quality improvements such as a luxury lodge, cabins, and large barns and outbuildings; carefully managed habitat and maintained road systems; security systems and fencing; possibly an airstrip or helicopter landing pad; and carefully managed game herds. Buyers of such properties are very discerning, and attributes such as high-speed internet and proximity to jet landing strips are just as important as the size of the trout in the ponds. On the low end, such a ranch might be found for $5 million, and the sky is the limit on the upper end.


At United Country Colorado Brokers, we are hunting property experts


You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for brain surgery, and you wouldn’t ask a tax lawyer to represent you in a divorce. It’s the same way with hunting properties. We are active hunters, outfitters, guides, and mountain property and hunting property specialists. Our agent Loren Williams is one of the most respected outfitters in Colorado and sit on an advisory board to Colorado Parks & Wildlife. He has guided hundreds of hunters to trophy elk. Scott Reece has taken dozens of elk, deer, and bear with his bow and knows Western Colorado hunting land like the back of his hand. Jake Hubbell has taken monster elk on public land and is Colorado’s newest Accredited Land Consultant—one of only 35. Gary Hubbell is a former outfitter and fly-fishing guide and has been published in dozens of outdoor magazines and newspapers as an expert on Colorado elk hunting. Gary is also one of 35 Accredited Land Consultants in Colorado, out of a total of 50,000 real estate agents and brokers. If we don’t have the right property listed ourselves, we work with you as a buyer’s agent to access our network of 120 qualified ranch brokers through the Realtors Land Institute to help you find the right hunting property. Bottom line, if you’re looking for a mountain hunting property, we are your experts and we can guide you through the process of finding and purchasing the right property. Call 970-872-3322 for more information. 

Jake Hubbell, Broker Associate at United Country Colorado Brokers, with a 2021 bull elk taken on public lands near Gunnison, Colorado.