Colorado Big Game Hunters, You Have Post Draw Options

If you have the desire to hunt and a sense of adventure, there is a very good chance that you can be hunting big game in Colorado this fall.
Colorado Big Game Hunting Brochure Cover

For many Colorado big-game hunters, June is a time of celebration or sadness. By early June, the big game draw results will be final. For successful applicants, the planning process will continue. Summer scouting trips will be planned, valuable shooting range time will be scheduled, and diets and exercise can all be optimized in preparation for exciting fall outdoor adventures. For those that were unsuccessful in the draw, don’t be discouraged. If you have the desire to hunt and a sense of adventure, there is a very good chance that you can acquire a license and be hunting big game in Colorado this fall.

While a successful draw is ideal, there are a number of “Plan B” options that will get you out in the field and provide a great chance for you to put some wild game in your freezer. And developing an alternative to your current big game draw strategy can be a positive experience that exposes you to new areas of this great state and possibly even new methods of hunting. With many opportunities still available, I think it’s best to look at license options on a species by species basis.

Three Ways to Purchase an Elk License

Bull Elk

1. OTC Archery Elk

Without question, some of the best options for hunters who did not draw their desired big game license are the archery options. While these options may apply to a smaller number of hunters, over-the-counter (OTC) either-sex and antlerless archery tags are unlimited in number and can be purchased beginning in early August. The OTC Archery tags are valid for a large number of units (see map links below) and the licenses provide hunters with the ability to get out in the field from late August to late September (see Big Game Brochure for details).


If you are already an archer or have any interest in archery, this is the option to consider. And as every ethical archer knows, to be successful, you need to spend time at the range. Committing to an OTC archery license means you will have time to scout and perfect your shooting skills before the season arrives.

View OTC Elk Maps to find a GMU that works for you:

2. OTC Rifle

For rifle hunters, the OTC bull elk licenses are a great option. These licenses are unlimited in number, so the only questions you have to answer are where and when you want to hunt. Second season bull elk licenses are valid from October 20-28, 2018 and third season licenses are valid from November 3-11, 2018. The OTC rifle licenses are valid to hunt in more than 90 game management units (GMUs), so there are plenty of public land options that you can start exploring this summer. Multitask and do a little elk scouting – use this license choice as an excuse to get outdoors and plan some summer camping with family and friends.

View OTC Elk Map to find a GMU that works for you:

3. Leftover and Reissued Elk Licenses

Bull elk
Michaela Modlish proudly poses with a bull elk harvested on a reissued muzzleloader tag.

Another great option for elk hunters is to search the leftover and reissued limited licenses when they become available in August. Leftover big-game limited licenses go on sale in August and can be purchased in-person at CPW office/park locations and authorized sales agents, by phone AND online! As with the OTC options, you should start your preparation now. Use the off-season to improve shooting skills, raise your fitness levels and make sure that you are prepared to take advantage of some great hunting opportunities.

Two Ways to Deer Purchase a Deer License

Buck in brush.

1. Leftover and Reissued Deer Limited Licenses

While the deer license options are not as plentiful as elk, there will be some leftover options available in August. For those that were unsuccessful in the draw, I hope you took advantage of the “Leftover Draw” option. The leftover draw option gives you first crack at the remaining limited deer licenses.

Leftover draw applications MUST be submitted by the deadline in early July. If you did not select the unsuccessful option of the leftover draw, you’ll still have two more chances before the seasons arrive.

Option 1: Prepare for leftover day. Leftover limited deer licenses go on sale in early August –  in-person at CPW office/park locations and authorized sales agents, by phone AND online! And if history is any indicator, deer licenses will be gone quickly, so be ready with your hunt codes at 9 a.m.

Option 2: Keep an eye on the leftover and reissue list. The reissue of big game limited licenses will begin in August. All returned licenses that take 4 or fewer Preference Points in the current year’s draw will be available for purchase the week after processing is complete. And the hunt codes will randomly be placed on the current leftover and leftover OTC with cap lists on Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2. Whitetail Only OTC

Another great option for deer hunters is the Whitetail Only OTC license. These licenses are unlimited in number and go on sale starting in early August. The license is valid for hunting in multiple GMUs in the south central part of Colorado (see map). OTC Whitetail Only hunting season begins on early December and continues through the month (check brochure for details).

While the season length is long, hunters are cautioned that whitetails are at low-density populations in this area and are found mostly on private land. White-tailed deer are commonly found along lower elevation river bottoms.

Hunters interested in obtaining an OTC Whitetail license should focus their efforts on locating a public land hunting location or obtaining private land permission before purchasing the license.

To learn more about identifying white-tailed deer in the field, please read A Quick Guide to Differentiate Mule Deer From White-tailed Deer.

Two Pronghorn Opportunities

Pronghorn buck

1. Pronghorn OTC

Much like elk licenses, there are some outstanding archery options for pronghorn hunters. OTC pronghorn licenses are unlimited in number and they are available over the counter, starting at 9 a.m. on August 9. This OTC license is valid in more than 120 GMUs (see map below) and provides plenty of opportunities to get out in the field. The OTC archery pronghorn season opens August and continues into September (check brochure for details).

Archery GMU map for ​over-the-counter either-sex Pronghorn licenses

2. Leftover and Reissued Pronghorn Licenses

Pronghorn license will also be available on the leftover list. Again, the reissue of big game limited licenses will begin in August. And the hunt codes will randomly be placed on the current leftover and leftover OTC with cap lists on Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Need More Help?

Hunt planner bob

Do you still have questions about applying for a big-game license? CPW offers a team of Hunt Planners and call-center representatives to assist you. Knowledgeable and professional, these folks are the best in the business at leading you step by step through the license application process and helping you plan the hunt of a lifetime. Give them a call today at: (303)291-PLAN or (303)291-1192.

Prepare for the season with ‘Higher-Ed’ for Elk Hunters

Elk hunters looking to expand their “wapiti wisdom” can do so by participating in “Elk Hunting University,” a hunter outreach program offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Developed by CPW “Huntmaster” volunteers who teach and mentor novice hunters, EHU provides an entertaining and educational look into the exciting world of Colorado elk hunting. Elk Hunting University features how-to articles, videos and other resources to help hunters become more successful in their pursuit of Colorado’s most revered big-game animal — the Rocky Mountain elk.

Remember, there is no substitute for the experience gained by time in the field. So take advantage of Colorado’s numerous big game license options and spend this fall out in the field.

For more information, please see the Colorado Big Game brochure.

Written by Doug Skinner. Skinner is an editor for Colorado Outdoors Online and is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

4 Responses

  1. i received my Deer draw info #17-595554 but not my Elk draw info#17-595553 , WHATS UP????

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