Colorado Hunting Overview
Annually, Colorado sees around 250,000 big game hunters. Of these hunters, around 80% are residents of Colorado and the remaining 20% come from out-of-state. Despite the popularity of big game hunting in Colorado, there are many units that can be drawn with few preference points, especially for muzzleloader or archery hunters. For those looking to secure a tag, landowner vouchers are also available.
When it comes to elk hunting, Colorado has the largest elk herd in the country. The elk population in the state is estimated to be around 276,000 animals, allowing for ample hunting opportunities. With over-the-counter tag options for archery and multiple rifle seasons, Colorado is a top destination for elk hunting. While there may be years-long waiting lists for some of the more popular units, there are still many lesser-known areas where hunters can find success.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages all applications and draws in the state, and more information is available here.
Big Game Species
Colorado offers a variety of big game hunting species, including elk, deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. The state has a large population of elk, with an estimated 287,000 individuals, making it the most popular species for hunting. Colorado allocates approximately 180,000 elk tags for hunters each year. The population of pronghorn, another popular species, stands at around 85,000, with 14,500 tags allocated for hunters. Bighorn sheep and mountain goat populations are smaller, with around 7,000 sheep and 3,000 goats in the state. Colorado only allocates a small number of tags for these species each year, with bighorn sheep hunters receiving around 200 tags and mountain goat hunters receiving around 24 tags.
Draw and OTC Sales and Dates
|Colorado Big Game Draw||Deer, Elk, Antelope, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat, Black Bear||March 1st, 2023||April 4th, 2023|
|Colorado Secondary Draw||Deer, Elk, Bear, Pronghorn||June 21st, 2023||June 30th, 2023|
|Colorado Leftover and OTC Tags Available||Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, Elk, Antelope||August 1st, 2023||N/A|
Colorado Hunting Point System
Colorado uses a true preference point system for elk, deer, antelope, and bear. This system awards tags to the applicants with the highest preference points within the non-resident quota, with no maximum number of preference points for these species. However, desert sheep do not have a preference point system in place.
Colorado utilizes a weighted point drawing system for rocky mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat and moose hunting tags. Additional details on this system are covered in the Colorado Big Game Draw summary.
Colorado Point Types
|Mountain Goat||Preference Point||Both|
|Rocky Montain Bighorn Sheep||Preference Point||Both|
|Black Bear||Preference Point||Both|
How to build points
Points are acquired through the annual big game draw, and there is no opportunity to acquire them outside of that draw. Points are not used in the secondary draw, nor can be acquired at that time. A valid hunting license is required to acquire points, as detailed in the license section of this article.
Tags, Licenses, and Pricing
A valid hunting license and Habitat Stamp are required to apply for Colorado draws, including for purchasing points only. An application fee is applied per species applied for, including for points purchases. Alternate general licenses are available to satisfy the license requirement, but cost more than the annual small game license.
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price|
|Annual small game license||$33.96||$93.78|
|Application Fee (per species)||$8.00||$10.00|
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price|
|Mountain Goat License||$346.86||$2,544.04|
|Desert Bighorn Sheep License||$346.86||$2,544.04|
|Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep License||$346.86||$2,544.04|
|Point Only Fee (Sheep, Moose, Goat)||$50.00||$100.00|
Colorado Hunting Regulations
- Hunters Education is required for individuals born on or after January 1, 1949.
- Hunters must be 12 years of age.
- Mechanical broadheads and lighted nocks are allowed in Colorado.
- Draw weights must be 35 pounds or greater.
- Crossbows are not allowed in archery seasons.
- Bow mounted scopes and electronic devices such as rangefinders are prohibited
Colorado’s big game hunting group application system allows groups to apply for all species, except for moose or Desert bighorn sheep, with an unlimited number of members for deer, elk, and antelope. However, for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat, the maximum number of group applicants is two. Non-residents and residents may not apply together for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep or mountain goat, and if they do and draw, the permits will count against the nonresident allocation. Group applicants go into the draw with the lowest number of points of any individual in the group. Additionally, group members must apply for the same species, hunt code, order, season, and method of take.
Refunds, Point Restoration, and Modified Applications
In Colorado, it is possible to modify your application prior to the closure of the draw. However, once the draw has ended, changes cannot be made. Individuals who have already purchased a small game hunting license are not eligible for a refund. Nonetheless, they can switch their hunt preference to a less affected unit or select the point-only hunt code for their first preference.
If an individual draws a tag but chooses not to purchase it, they have two options. They may either obtain a refund and forfeit their points, or they can pay for the tag but not receive it, and maintain their points. It is essential to note that it is not possible to obtain both a refund and retain points, even if the tag has not yet been paid for. To qualify for a refund or preference point restoration, the license must be surrendered at a CPW location or postmarked 30 days before the commencement of the season. For turkey licenses, the deadline is 14 days. You can read more about refunds and exchanges here.
Colorado Hunting FAQ
Landowner Tag Options
Return / Transfer Tags