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Plan Your Hunt
Plan Your Hunt
Hunting on Colorado's Public Lands

​​Resources to help you get started!  

Steps to Planning a Successful Colorado Hunt 

Colorado's hunting regulations can seem complicated at first. The methods we use to manage harvest of big game populations allow us to have the most robust and abundant populations of big game in the world. Use the resources above and follow the steps below. We want your Colorado hunting experience to be successful and enjoyable. If you have any questions concerning applications, regulations or finding a place to hunt, please call one of our Hunt Planners at 303-291-7526​.

  1. We offer a variety licenses. See the big game license options and the drawing process page to familiarize yourself with the process before proceeding with the next steps.

  2. Decide which big game species you intend to hunt: elk, deer, bear, pronghorn or moose. This will help you focus on when and where to hunt.

  3. Decide your method of take. Will you hunt archery, muzzleloader or rifle season? As the big game hunt planner shows, the method of take affects your season dates. Each season offers different benefits:

    • Archery season is the longest season, running from late August through September. The weather is generally milder during archery season. The elk rut typically occurs during archery season. Either sex deer and elk licenses are available through the draw process. Either-sex elk and pronghorn licenses are available over-the-counter.

    • Muzzleloader season is one week in mid-September. It is generally around the elk rut. Muzzleloader licenses are all limited draw licenses.

    • First Rifle Season is fully limited and elk only, so this season offers the least crowded hunting option for elk hunters.

    • Second and Third Rifle Seasons have elk and deer draw licenses and offers over-the-counter elk licenses. The availability of over-the-counter elk licenses makes second and third rifle an easy option for hunters that missed the draw, didn't draw, are saving preference points, or are just looking for a no-fuss hunting opportunity that allows you to "buy and license and go hunt" in more than 90 GMUs. 

    • Fourth Rifle Season is in mid-November and is limited draw for deer and elk. The winter weather has set in so there are fewer hunters in the field but the animals are generally concentrated and moving toward winter range so they're often easier to locate. 

  4. Select your hunt location. We refer to hunt locations as "Game Management Units" (GMU's). 

    • Some GMU’s have special regulations - see the big game brochure.

    • If hunting public land will you be on Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or state land? Each land management agency has different rules for things like camping and off-road travel so you'll want to check with the appropriate agency.​

    • If you are hunting private land, you'll need landowner permission to access the property.

    • Examine past success rates on our harvest statistics page​.​

    • View historic big game migration movements on the Colorado Hunting Atlas.

    • Look for tips and stats about your GMU in the regional hunt guides​ (published each July).

  5. ​Some GMUs require that you have preference points to draw a license. Research the preference points needed to apply for limited licenses before the early April application deadline. Learn the basics of preference points here​.

  6. Applying online is best but if you miss the deadline or don't draw, consider buying an Over-the-Counter, Over-the-Counter with Caps or Leftover license which do not require an application. Colorado is the only state that offers an unlimited quantity of over-the-counter (OTC) elk licenses for two rifle seasons. These licenses cover about 50 percent of the GMU's and don't limit your hunt to one unit. They are a great "general" license option and don't require preference points.The list of OTC licenses available are on the maps printed in the Interactive Big Game Brochure​. OTC and leftover licenses go on sale in early August each year.​