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Big Game License Options
Big Game License Options
​​​​​Colorado offers several types of big game licenses and ways to purchase them. All hunters can select hunts from archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons by species and by GMUs (Game Management Units). Our state hosts 9 big game species.

There are four main types of licenses:

  1. Qualifying Licenses (available for purchase March 1)
  2. Limited Licenses (through an application & draw process in March)
  3. Leftover Limited Licenses (available in early August )
  4. 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: Were you born on or after January 1, 1949? If so, you must have a valid hunter education card/certificate before you apply for or purchase a hunting license. You'll also need a hunter education card before applying for a preference point. ​

    Your hunter education card/certificate and the appropriate license(s) must be in your possession while hunting. See Hunter Education for test out options, apprentice license opportunities, and more information.

  • Social Security Number: A valid Social Security Number (SSN) is required for anyone 12 or older to apply for or purchase all CPW licenses (as required by the Colorado Child Support Enforcement Act, established by HB 97-1205 and implemented through 24-33-110 C.R.S.)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 Identification: Secure and verifiable ID

  • Proof of Residency: Colorado residency is required to purchase any resident license. If you were issued a Colorado driver's license or renewed your Colorado driver's license within the last 6 months, you will need to provide proof of residency. See Colorado Resident Status for more information. 

Qualifying Licenses​​​

(Available starting March 1, online, by phone, and CPW locations.)

Prior to applying, all applicants will first need to purchase a qualifying hunting license. Online draw applications will not be accessible until you purchase your qualifying license. 

Limited Licenses by Drawing

(Application deadline April 2, 2019 at 8 pm MT. Online and phone applications start March 1, 2019.)

Big game limited licenses are limited in number for specific units (GMUs) and hunting seasons. CPW distributes limited licenses through the license application and drawing process. 

Limited licenses are 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. Applications can include up to four hunt choices.

Keep this information in mind when applying for a Limited License:

  • Applications are due before 8 PM (MST) on the first Tuesday in April each year (April 2, 2019).

  • Prior to applying, all applicants will first need to purchase a Qualifying License​, available starting March 1.​

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

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

  • CPW publishes license prices, hunt codes, GMU boundary descriptions, and other requirements in the annual brochures (available online).

    • 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.

  • You can request up to four hunt code choices on an application 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 (ages 12 to 17 years old) pay reduced prices on licenses. Youth can benefit by receiving preference for many draw units (see the Colorado Big Game brochure, page 7, 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 that have a 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 for a private-land only license.

  • Ranching for Wildlife licenses are available only to Colorado residents. Residents may apply to hunt a specific ranch. Each ranch has specific rules. (See Colorado Resident Status and the Ranching for Wildlife pages for more information.)

Leftover Draw Option - (elk and deer applications only)

Additional Draw Opportunity 

Elk and deer applicants can have the 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 "Leftover Draw" option and are unsuccessful in the primary draw, you will be emailed the list of leftover limited licenses still available and application instructions. In June, by submitting that application online, you'll get first chance at any of the leftover licenses before they go on sale to everyone in August.

The primary and leftover applications give you 8 total chances (4 on primary, 4 on leftover) 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 do not have to apply. 

Please note that application processing fees and the habitat stamp fee are non-refundable.

Preference Point Only Option (available on the application)

Preference points increase your chances of drawing a limited license. CPW awards preference points by species. When you don't draw your first hunt choice, you automatically earn a preference point. Points cannot be used in the same year they are earned.

If you can't hunt this year, but intend to in the future, apply for a preference point by entering the "preference point only" hunt code in the "1st choice hunt code" boxes on the application. Submit your application with the application processing fee. 

See page 2 and 18 in the Colorado Big Game Brochure for details.

Leftover Limited Licenses

(Available 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 in person, by phone 1-800-244-5613 AND online)  

These are the 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: Available to both resident and nonresident hunters. They are 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 August 6. If you plan to go to a license agent, please contact them first for details.

Over-the-Counter Licenses

(Available 9 a.m. August 8, 2019)

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 maps and page numbers where over-the-counter licenses are available under each species in the big game brochure table of contents page.

  • OTC unlimited licenses: Available to both resident and nonresident hunters starting at 9 a.m. (MDT) Aug. 8. They are sold online, by phone at 1-800-244-5613, at license agents and CPW locations around the state. An unlimited number of these licenses may be purchased any time up until the day before a hunting season starts. After the season starts, OTC licenses are available for purchase at CPW offices and state parks only (except for archery elk OTC licenses and plains elk OTC licenses, which can be purchased at any license agent).

  • Other OTC Licenses: 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; 
    • 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 all 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) August 8.