Elk hunting was not in my plan this year. Of course, that’s usually when good stuff happens, like two cows on the ground within minutes, followed by the sudden realization that we’re gonna need another chest freezer.
Back in April, I swore off elk for the year and didn’t put in for the draw. I was ready to sit back, build another preference point and let the mojo fester. I was getting discouraged. I’ve read a lot about “tag soup” and I knew well how that tasted. With never an elk in my crosshairs, I’ve been served big, steaming bowls of it in the five years I’ve been hunting the wily creatures.
Which brings us to the Tuesday before first-rifle season opened — the day I changed my mind and decided to give it another try. If you’re not out there, the magic can’t happen, right?
There are some states where an impromptu decision like this wouldn’t be possible. But Colorado Parks and Wildlife has built in a clause for people like me — called the Leftover Licenses. These are licenses for units all over the state that were remaining after the draw and are now offered for purchase throughout the hunting seasons. They are a great resource for those who get the bug at the last minute. They can even be purchased (at CPW offices) after your season of choice begins.
“Leftovers are an extra opportunity to hunt,” explained CPW’s Limited License Draw Coordinator Devon Adams. “Maybe you didn’t draw a license in the draw, or maybe you’d like a second (or third!) license. Leftovers allow you more hunting opportunity in a variety of units and seasons across the state.”
These licenses are posted in an online list that updates hourly. The list is sorted by species and displays the game management units where licenses can be used, the number available, season dates and the hunt code to ask for when you purchase it. Currently, there are licenses on the list for third, fourth and late season, for pronghorn, deer, bear and elk hunts.
My husband and I checked the list on the Tuesday before first-rifle season opened and found lots of leftover cow licenses for the North Park area we’ve hunted in years past. He even bought a license, “just in case.” We packed the wall tent, camp kitchen and coolers into the truck, our hopes shoved willy-nilly into the nooks and crannies.
By the following Tuesday, we had endured snowstorms, 20-degree mornings, miles on foot, and found ourselves glassing two cows grazing on private land. It was noon, 70 degrees, they were a half-mile away in a meadow but slowly coming our direction. (Roll the Esurance commercial: “That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!”)
Yet, by some magic, there they were as we watched in disbelief. They meandered to the fence, then over the fence! They were onto public land and still coming toward us. We crouched, eyes wide, whispering madly about which one each of us would line up on. After five years, we were finally in the right place at the right time — there was an elk in my crosshairs, and one in his.
Adventures are waiting out there, and the spontaneity that goes with a leftover license can stir up some memorable hunting. Just be sure you have a good line on a chest freezer you can pick up on your way back into town.
How to apply online and get your choice of leftover licenses
Ready to ditch paper apps and apply online? If you check the box in the application process to be entered into the Leftover Draw, you’ll get first pick of licenses on the leftover list (with a larger selection than what you see now), after the April draw.
In this video, draw coordinator Devon Adams explains how to apply online for the draw and also ensure you get into the Leftover Draw to secure your opportunity to be among the first to choose from hundreds of Leftover Licenses.