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Big Game License Options
Big Game License Options
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Colorado offers several types of big game licenses and options for purchasing them. Hunters - both resident and nonresident - can select hunts from archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons by species and by Game Management Units, called GMUs.​​ Colorado offers nine big game species.

Licenses are sold from three main categories:

  1. Limited Licenses (through an application & draw process in early April)​
  2. Leftover Limited Licenses (available in early August​)​
  3. Over-the-Counter Licenses (available in early ​August)
To ensure you have a license to hunt this fall, review the options below.

Before You Buy or Apply: Required Information

  • Hunter Education: Everyone born on or after January 1, 1949, must hold a valid hunter education card/certificate before applying for or purchasing any hunting license or before applying for a preference point. Your hunter education card/certificate and the appropriate license(s) must be in your possession while hunting. For the most current information​, test out options and apprentice​​ license opportunities, ​see the Hunter Education pages.

  • Social Security Number: As required by the Colorado Child Support Enforcement Act, established by HB 97-1205 and implemented through 24-33-110 C.R.S., a valid Social Security Number (SSN) is required for anyone 12 or older to purchase or apply for all CPW licenses. Your SSN is not shown on your license. It is provided, when requested, to the Colorado Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement, as required by law and is used to enforce the law.

  • Photo I.D.: A photo I.D. is​​ required for all license purchases. 

  • Proof of Residency: Colorado residency is required for purchasing any resident license​. ​​If you have been issued a Colorado driver's license or have renewed your Colorado driver's license within the last 6 months, you will need to provide proof of residency. Acceptable​ forms of proof include:

      1. ​​​​​Income sources (pay stubs, Social Security check stubs)
      2. Utility bills (phone, gas, electric, etc.)
      3. Mortgage, Lease, Rent bills/receipts
      4. Voter registration card
For more information regarding proof of residency​, see our charts "May I Buy Resident Colorado Parks and Wildlife Products?" and "Residency by Type of Customer (including timing, rules and proof)​".

​Limited Licenses by Drawing

(Application deadline April 3, 2018. Online and phone applications accepted starting March 1, 2018.)​​​​

These are the big game licenses that are limited in number for specific units (GMUs) and hunting seasons. These are distributed through the license application and drawing process. There are limited licenses available for public land hunts, private-land-only hunts and Ranching for Wildlife (RFW) properties. Hunters can submit one application per species to participate in the draw and it can include up to four hunt choices.

​​​​Keep these points in mind when applying for a Limited License:

  • Applications are due before midnight (MST) ​on the first Tuesday in April each year (April 3, 2018).

  • You can submit your application online or by phone: 1-800-244-5613.

  • Apply early to avoid any last-minute online rush!

  • License prices, hunt codes, game management unit boundary descriptions and other requirements are published in the brochures.

  • The Big Game brochure contains elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, moose and bear information.

  • The Sheep and Goat brochure contains Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep and mountain goat information.

  • Applications allow you to request up to four hunt code choices to maximize your opportunity to draw a license and hunt.

  • All nonresident big game licenses purchased automatically include an annual fishing license, so bring your fishing rod when you're hunting or start planning a summer scouting trip.

  • Youth licenses (ages 12 to 17 years old) are at reduced prices. Youth can also benefit by receiving preference for many draw units (see the Colorado Big Game​ brochure, page 6, for details).

Other Types of Limited Licenses

  • Private-Land-Only licenses include private lands within GMUs listed on the licenses as well as State Trust Lands not leased by CPW, but which have an active private recreational lease through the State Land Board (hunters should ask the landowner if this applies). ​Permission from private landowners is always needed before hunting with a private-land-only license. Please get permission ​​before applying.

  • Ranching for Wildlife ​licenses are available to all Colorado residents. Resident hunters may apply to hunt a specific ra​​nch. Each ranch has specific rules. ​(see page 10 of the Colorado Big Game brochure and the Ranching for Wildlife page​​)

Leftover Draw Option - (elk and deer applications only)

Additional Draw Opportunity 

​​​Elk and deer applicants can have first choice of the limited licenses that are leftover or remaining from the April drawing process by checking the "Leftover Draw" option online​. 

If you check the box and are unsuccessful in the primary draw, you will be sent the list of the leftover limited licenses still available and an application. In June, b​y returning that application online​, you'll get first chance at any of the leftover licenses before they go on sale to everyone in August.

Between the primary application and leftover application, you can have eight chances (four choices on your primary application, four on your leftover application) to draw before limited licenses go on sale to the public on leftover day. 

If you don’t see anything you want on the leftover draw list, you can still purchase an over-the-counter (OTC) license or request a refund on the application.

If you do not draw a leftover license, the $3 application processing fee and $10 Habitat Stamp fee will be retained.

Preference Point Only Option (available on the application)

Preference points (see page 2 of the Colorado Big Gam​e Brochure) increase your chances of drawing a limited license and are awarded by species. Preference points are earned automatically when you don't draw your first hunt choice. They cannot be used the same year they are earned. If you can't hunt this year, but intend to in the future, you can apply for just a preference point by entering the "preference point only" hunt code in the "1st choice hunt code" boxes on the application and submitting it with the non-refundable $3 application processing fee and $10 habitat stamp fee, if applicable, for each species. If you do not qualify for a free preference point, a preference point fee will be charged. 

See the Colorado Big Gam​e Brochure (page 18​ for details).

Leftover Limited Licenses

(Available 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018 in person, by phone 1-800-244-5613 AND online)
NEW 2018: Online sales start on the same date/time as in person/phone sales! 

These are the leftover limited licenses remaining after the limited license draw. If you purchase one of these licenses, you will not use any of your preference points.

  • Leftover Limited Licenses: These are available to both resident and nonresident hunters. They are the limited licenses remaining after the draw and leftover draw processes. They go on sale online through the CPW Shop system, in person and by phone 1-800-244-5613 at 9 a.m. (MDT) on Aug. 7. If you plan to go to a license agent, please contact them first for ​​details.

​Over-the-Counter Licenses

(Available 9 a.m. August 9, 2018)

No application is necessary to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) licenses that go on sale Aug 9. These are sold online, by phone 1-800-244-5613, at license agents and at CPW offices and State Parks Offices around the state. See the big game brochure ta​ble of contents page which lists the maps and page numbers where over-the-counter licenses are available under each species.

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Unlimited Licenses: These are available to both resident and nonresident hunters starting at 9 a.m. (MDT) Aug. 9. They are sold online, by phone at 1-800-244-5613, at license agents and CPW locations around the state. There are an unlimited number of these licenses that may be purchased any time up until the day before your hunting season starts. After the season starts, they are available at CPW offices only, except for archery elk OTC licenses and plains elk OTC licenses, which can be purchased at any license agent.​

  • There are also OTC: Either-sex and cow elk archery licenses; either-sex pronghorn archery licenses; and either-sex and doe rifle white-tailed deer licenses that allow hunting in numerous units around the state. The applicable maps of these units are in the species sections of the brochure and can be downloaded online.​

OTC licenses can be purchased without an application; provide you the flexibility to discover new units; allow you to scout different habitat; and, potentially, combine your hunt with the opportunity to hunt another species.

  • Over-the-Counter Licenses with Caps: A preset number of licenses are available on a first-come, first-served basis for both resident and nonresident hunters. These are called licenses “with caps.” They are sold online, by phone at 1-800-244-5613 or at CPW locations and license agents starting at 9 a.m. (MDT) Aug 9.​​