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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 has 9 big game species.

There are four main types of big game licenses:

  1. Qualifying Licenses (available for purchase March 1)
  2. Limited licenses (available through an application & draw processes in March and June) 
  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

  • 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. 

  • Photo Identification: See Identification Needed for License Purchases.

  • 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.

  • Qualifying license (see below)

  • 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.

Qualifying Licenses​​​

Available starting March 1

For sale online, by phone (1-800-244-5613) and at sales agents around the state.

Prior to applying in the big game draw(s), 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

Application periods and draws open to all hunters.

  • Primary draw application period: March 1 - April 9, 2021 at 8 pm MT (EXTENDED from April 6)
  • Secondary draw application period: June 16 - June 30, 2021 at 8 pm MT

Available online and by phone (1-800-244-5613).   

Limited licenses are a set (limited) number of licenses available for specific hunting units and dates for each species, and are issued through an application and drawing process: March (primary draw) and June (secondary draw). A qualifying license is required prior to applying for limited licenses.

Limited licenses include public-land, private-land-only, Ranching for Wildlife (RFW), season choice and leftover limited licenses. 

Hunters can submit one application per species to participate in the draw. Applications can include up to four hunt choices to maximize your opportunity to draw a license and hunt.​

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.

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 17, for details) in both the primary and secondary draws.

Types of Limited Licenses

Private-Land only licenses are licenses you can get through the draw(s) that are only valid on private lands in the specific GMUs listed on your license/in the Big Game brochure. Permission from private landowners is always needed before hunting with a private-land-only license.

Ranching for Wildlife licenses are available only in the primary draw for certain ranch properties and only for Colorado residents. See the Ranching for Wildlife pages for more information.

Please note that qualifying licenses, application processing fees and the Habitat Stamp fee are nonrefundable.

Preference Point Only Option 

This is available on the primary draw application only.

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, except with desert bighorn sheep. 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 “first choice hunt code” on the application. See pages 3 and 9 in the Big Game Brochure for details.

Leftover Limited Licenses

Available Tuesday, August 3, 2021

For sale online, by phone (1-800-244-5613) and at sales agents around the state.

These are the licenses remaining after the primary and secondary draws. If you purchase one of these licenses, you will not use any of your preference points. 

Over-the-Counter Licenses

Available Thursday, August 3, 2021 at 9 am MT

For sale online, by phone (1-800-244-5613) and at sales agents around the state.

Over-the-counter licenses are not limited in quantity (unlimited, unlimited add-on bear and leftover limited) by CPW and are available for specific species. Unlimited does not mean a hunter can purchase an unlimited number of licenses. See List A, B and C choice definitions on page 3 of the Big Game brochure for ways to purchase multiple licenses.

No application is necessary to purchase OTC licenses. 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.

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.