5 Big Reasons to Hunt Big Game in Colorado

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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


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. Largest Elk Herd in the World

Colorado elk herd. 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.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. And for big-game hunters, no other state offers as much variety 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, 2017. 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.

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 Wildife’s “Plan Your Hunt” webpage.


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


One comment

  • Colorado is beautiful and the wild life it holds is astonishing, however I’ve hunted Colorado for 36 years as a resident, and I’ve seen and had good times hunting big game but recently the pressure of hunters on wildlife is counter productive in and on public ground, so if your including private property in this then yes I’m sure there is another sentiment, however for the average hunter on public land that doesn’t take 25 years to draw I believe we have another discussion. I have 20 points for an antelope, 20 points for elk, the same for moose, so I hunt over the counter public land.
    And the elk herd in southern colorado is just a mess on public land, you’re be better off to hunt late season eastern plains tags. That’s just my own observation from a long time resident hunter.

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