5 Big Reasons to Hunt Big Game in Colorado

Whether you’re an experienced or a complete beginner, here are five reasons why you should hunt big game in Colorado this fall.
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Bull elk. Photo by © Tim Christie.

Did you know that Colorado offers some of the best big-game hunting in North America? Whether you’re an experienced hunter seeking a new adventure or a complete beginner who is looking to participate in your very first elk hunt, here are five reasons why you should hunt big game in Colorado this fall:

1. Millions of Acres of Public Land

Archery hunter. Photo by © Nick Clement/CPW.

Wide open spaces. That’s what you’ll find here. With more than 23-million acres of public land, Colorado boasts some of the best hunting access in the nation. To put this into perspective: Colorado’s public-land acreage is equal in size to the entire state of Indiana. Here you can hunt national forests, state wildlife areas, state parks, state trust and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Hunting big game in Colorado truly epitomizes the spirit of fair chase in vast expanses of open terrain.

2. World’s Largest Elk Herd

Colorado elk herd. Photo by © CPW.
Colorado elk. Photo by © CPW.

Got elk? We do. With an estimated population of nearly 270,000 animals, Colorado’s elk herd is second to none. Elk hunters also have abundant choices when it comes to seasons and methods of take. In addition to the late-August and September archery and muzzleloader hunts, there are four separate rifle-elk seasons that span October through early November. The first and fourth seasons are by limited drawing and usually require a preference point or two to draw a license. However, licenses for the second and third seasons may be purchased over the counter, offering hunters the chance to pursue bull elk every year. Colorado is the only state to offer unlimited, bull-elk licenses to hunters during the second and third rifle seasons.

3. Big Variety of Big-Game Species

Mule deer bucks. Photo by Wayne Lewis © CPW.
Mule deer bucks. Photo by Wayne Lewis © CPW.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. And for big-game hunters, no other state offers as much “spice” as Colorado. From the majestic elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goat to moose, pronghorn, black bear, white-tailed and mule deer, Colorado’s big-game species are as diverse as the Rocky Mountain landscape. Colorado is truly the land of opportunity for hunters. Joseph Von Benedikt of Petersen’s Hunting magazine sums it up best: “If I had to pick one Western state to hunt, it would probably be Colorado. With the largest population of elk in the U.S., some of the best mule deer hunting, and better antelope (pronghorn) hunting than most people realize, Colorado offers more opportunity in a single year than most states do in several.”

4. Easy-to-Obtain Hunting Licenses

When it comes to big-game hunting, few states offer as many license choices as Colorado. In addition to hosting a drawing every spring where hunters may apply for limited big-game licenses based on a preference-point system, Colorado sells over-the-counter licenses for bear, bull elk and pronghorn. Over-the-counter licenses may be purchased at any retail license agent, Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices and most state parks. The application deadline to apply for a limited license in this year’s drawing is April 4, 2016. To make buying a tag even easier, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a team of Hunt Planners to help you select the best licenses and hunting opportunities.

5. It’s About the Experience

Elk camp. Photo by ©Wes Uncapher.
Elk camp. Photo by ©Wes Uncapher.

Excitement, adventure, epic scenery—it’s all here. There’s no better place to reconnect with nature and lose (or find) yourself in the great outdoors. From our acclaimed 14ers and secluded alpine wilderness areas to densely wooded forests and infinite skies of the open prairie, Colorado’s backcountry offers something for everyone. Big-game hunting in Colorado is truly about the experience and provides the ultimate escape from the daily grind. Spend one season here and you’ll take home a lifetime of memories. If you’re lucky, you may just experience the hunt of a lifetime as well.

Want more information about planning a big-game hunt? Visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s “Plan Your Hunt” webpage.

Written by Jerry Neal. Neal is an information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and is the editor of Colorado Outdoors Online.

6 Responses

  1. i was a real good shot with a bow but never hunted elk before.. When I was asked to go –one year ..I jumped at the chance .. What I didn’t know we would b spending 3 wks in the mountains in a dam tent. Living in pa. It also took a week of driving . 2 & half days out .. Plus 2 & half back .. U really have to like the guy next to u . Guess what I kill a 4 by 4 .. One arrow kill at 30 yards.. Went fifty yard & found dead .. Shot it with a two blade rage .. Had a long ways to carry the meat out with 3 other guys .. But that was all part of it.. Going back for the third time this year .My only warning to u is .. It’s habit forming !!

    1. Butch, Thanks for your comments, and congratulations to you on a successful hunt. Glad to hear that you’re coming back to Colorado again. Don’t hesitate to contact us here at Colorado Parks and Wildlife if you need any assistance in planning your next hunt or purchasing a license. Our Hunt Planners are happy to assist. Thanks!

    1. Johnny, If you’re looking for more information, click on the “Plan Your Hunt” link listed above. There is a phone number listed on this page for our Hunt Planners. They can assist you in buying a license or helping you plan a big-game hunt.

  2. Came out here in 2004. Scouted an area from my desk in Pennsylvania using ariel photos. Landed in Denver Friday night around 11PM. Drove all night to my spot. Stepped out of the car at 7AM and had a mule deer buck about 250 yards. Shot and missed. What a way to start out! Walked around the bend in the mountain slowly and came up to my spot. Guess what? I had snuck up on 4 bulls. Shot the biggest one, 5×5, and my elk hunt was over in 3 1/2 hours. 3 days later I killed a buck. Now I live out here. Warning. Hunting too much in Colorado may cause you to move out here.

  3. My husband has hunted Elk in Colorado for 33 years , he has got one every year but twice , He hunts near Pagosa Springs ( Wolf creek ) he takes a group of men on horses n pack mules , they live for October !
    I enjoy the Springs resort , they have THE BEST natural hot springs !

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