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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—resident and non-resident—can select from rifle, muzzleloader, and archery seasons by species and by specific units (or "hunting units", "Game Management Units", "GMUs").

Licenses are sold from three main categories:

  1. Limited Licenses (through application & draw process in April)
  2. Over-the-Counter Licenses (date of availability TBD)
  3. Leftover Limited Licenses (date of availability TBD​)

To ensure you have the license you want come this fall, apply in the spring!

Limited Licenses by Drawing

(Application Deadline is April 7, 2015)

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. They include public land hunts, private land only licenses and Ranching for Wildlife (RFW) licenses. 

  • Applications are due before midnight on the first Tuesday in April, each year (April 7, 2015).

  • Apply early to avoid any last minute online rush!

  • You can submit your application online or by mail (a mail-in application comes with the printed brochure). Non-resident sheep, goat and moose applications can only be accepted by mail.

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

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

  • Applications allow you to request up to four hunt code choices to maximize your opportunity to hunt.

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

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

Youth (youth are 12 to 17 years old) limited licenses are available at a reduced cost. Youth can also benefit by receiving preference for many draw units (see the Colorado Big Game Brochure, page 4, for details).

Other Types of Limited Licenses

  • Private-Land Only Licenses: These licenses are limited in number for specific units and are to be used only on private land and State Trust Lands that are not leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They have specific season hunt dates. You must obtain landowner permission before hunting on private land and we strongly suggest having permission prior to applying.

  • Ranching for Wildlife Licenses: Available only to Colorado residents, hunters may apply for these licenses through the application and drawing process for specific seasons and ranches. Each ranch has specific rules for hunting on their property; these are not private-land-only licenses. Check the Ranching for Wildlife restrictions before applying.

Would You Rather Hunt Than Get a Refund?

  • Leftover Draw Option (elk and deer applications only)
    Elk and deer applicants can have first choice of the limited licenses that are leftover from the April drawing process by checking the "Leftover Draw" option box on the application. In June, you will be mailed the list of the leftover limited licenses still available and an application. By returning that application, you'll get first chance at any of the leftover licenses before they go on sale to everyone in August.

  • Remember: between the primary application and leftover application, you have eight chances (four choices on your primary application, four on your leftover application) to draw before limited licenses go on sale over leftover day. Skip the line and use all of yor choices!

    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 this application.

  • Preference Point Only Option
    Preference points (see page 7 of the Colorado Big Game Brochure) increase your chances of drawing a limited license and are awarded by species. Preference points are earned automatically when you don't get 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 license payment for each species. The license portion of the payment will automatically be refunded to you. (If you do not qualify for a free preference point, a preference point fee will be taken from the refund; see the Colorado Big Game Brochure for details).

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 details, see the Hunter Education pages.

  • Social Security Number: As required by the Colorado 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.: Be aware that a photo I.D. is required for all license purchases. Proof of residency is also required for Colorado residents. ​​​

Over-the Counter & Leftover Limited Licenses

(Available Starting TBD)

No application is necessary to purchase OTC and leftover limited licenses— date of availability TBD. These are sold online, by phone (1-800/244-5613), at license agents, and at CPW offices and Parks around the state.

  • Over-the-Counter (OTC) Unlimited Licenses: There are antlered (bull) elk licenses available to resident and non-resident hunters for 2nd or 3rd rifle season. These licenses can be used to hunt in 92 GMUs across Colorado.

    There are also OTC: Either-sex and cow elk archery licenses; Either-sex pronghorn archery licenses; and Either-sex and doe rifle whitetail 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 provide you the flexibility to discover new units, 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 bear and either-sex elk licenses are available for specific units and specific seasons on a first-come, first-served basis for resident and non-resident hunters. These are called licenses "with caps."

  • Leftover Limited Licenses: These are the limited licenses remaining after the limited license draw and leftover draw processes.