Colorado Big Game Hunting – Post Draw Options

Colorado big game hunter
Photo by © Wayne Lewis/CPW.

The 2019 Colorado big game draw results are now available for elk, deer, moose and bear. And by now, all applicants should have received an email revealing your Colorado big game license fate (results can also be found by logging into your account at CPWshop.com). If you successfully drew your license, you’re probably daydreaming about your upcoming hunt. However, for many of us – me included – luck was simply not in the numbers this year. But fear not! Failing to draw a limit license does not mean that you won’t be hunting big game in Colorado this year. Trust me, there is a lot of positive in that negative-sounding statement.

Not drawing a big game limited license (or didn’t apply) can actually be a good thing. Sometimes the challenge of finding a new hunting area is just what’s needed to add a new sense of adventure to your hunting routine.

Choose to Hunt

I have a personal goal to get out hunting every year. And with zero to a couple of preference points, I’ve been in a bit of a new Game Management Unit (GMU) hunting cycle for the past few years. In the past three years, I’ve hunted three ‘new to me’ GMUs and can honestly say I’ve not once been disappointed by the backcountry public land opportunities. While it’s difficult to leave a familiar area, there’s something rewarding about learning a new hunting area. It definitely takes more time to prepare for your hunt, but once you’ve learned the new area, you’ll have more options when planning future hunts.

The worst decision you can make is to not hunt big game simply because you did not draw a limited license. Hunting takes practice and years skipped collecting preference points for that once in a lifetime hunt often leads to a deterioration of essential hunting skills. I get the frustration of a failed limited license draw in June. But I’m not willing to sit out a season, knowing that the fall’s colors and cooler weather always awaken my hunter instincts and desire to be out in nature. There’s still time to plan for a fall adventure. We just need well-thought-out post draw options!

Three Remaining Colorado Big Game License Options

There are three Colorado big game license options that will become available over the next couple of weeks and months. And understanding the license types, availability dates, and deadlines will guarantee you a number of great options to get out hunting this season.

Ways to Research Available Hunt Codes

Finding a new GMU that’s a good fit can be easier than you think. One approach is to check if there is a license available for a game management unit near the one you may have listed in your draw application. This strategy should put you near an area you’re already familiar with. If you were hoping to try a new area, finding something close by will allow you to get familiar with the same general region, local community and terrain.

Another approach is to look for an unlimited unit that is in a completely different area of the state. (This will also broaden your knowledge of potential units for coming years.) Far too many hunters hunt the same unit every year because they just do not know other places to try, and feel there isn’t enough time to locate and scout a completely different area. ​Colorado is a big state and has a lot of options for hunters!

Pre-scouting

Pre-scouting with powerful online maps can help you identify public land access and take some of the guesswork out of what we will encounter when our boots hit the ground.

Modern mapping tools provide hunters with a variety of map layers, including road, satellite, and topographic views that combine to provide a valuable preview of the landscape. The maps allow hunters to focus in on potential hunting locations by identifying water sources and habitat that might appeal to elk and deer.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Colorado Hunting Atlas, pictured below, goes a step beyond providing terrain details and adds layers that display species-specific data. Even if you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the GMU for which you purchased a license, the atlas can help you identify where you can expect to find animals; how animals move during periods of migration; and where the animals summer and winter concentrations can be found. Admittedly, these sophisticated mapping tools take some patience and practice to master, but the benefits provided are game-changing.

Big game hunting atlas
If you are new to the Hunting Atlas and are looking for a little guidance, I’d recommend taking a look at the tutorial video.

CPW Hunt Planners

If virtual scouting with complex online maps is not your thing, try working with one of Colorado Parks and Wildlife hunt planners. Hunt planners are real people from Colorado who can answer your questions about the licensing process, public land access, seasonal behavior of big game and much more.  To reach a CPW hunt planner, call 303-291-PLAN (7526) or 303-297-1192, 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Mon–Fri. Hunt Planners are a free service provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and they are experts when it comes to using and explaining the wealth of information contained within the Colorado Hunting Atlas.

Regional Hunting Guides

Colorado Parks and Wildlife produces annual regional hunt guides, which contain valuable information for planning a big game hunt. These booklets provide harvest statistics, herd estimates, directories and some great hunting tips. Hunters will also find useful information on terrain and weather for the units. The guides also include important phone numbers and websites for state and federal offices, guides and outfitters, and road and weather conditions. Plus, there’s important information about how to prepare in case of an emergency.

What and When to Buy

Option 1 – Leftover Draw

Important Dates and Time

  • June 5, 2019 – Leftover draw applications accepted.  Apply for the leftover draw online the same way you applied for the primary draw. Or call 800-244-5613 to apply by phone.
  • June 26, 2019, 8 p.m. MT – Leftover draw application and correction deadline.

The leftover draw license option gives applicants who were unsuccessful in the initial draw the first chance at any of the leftover licenses before they go on sale to everyone in August. You will get four additional opportunities to draw before limited licenses, so make sure you research the available Game Management Units (GMUs) before submitting your leftover draw application. If you checked the “Leftover Draw” option and were unsuccessful in the primary draw, you should already have received an email with the list of leftover limited licenses and application instructions. PREFERENCE POINTS are NOT accumulated or used during the leftover draw.

Leftover Draw License List and application instructions by species:

Not all hunt information is displayed in this list; check the Colorado Big Game brochure for specific hunt details and restrictions. If you don’t see anything you want on the leftover draw list, you do not have to apply.

Leftover lists are available for both public land hunts and private land only hunts, so make sure you are paying attention when you select your hunt codes. To participate in the leftover draw, hunters can submit one application per species. And to maximize your opportunity to draw a license and hunt, you can request up to four hunt code choices per application.

private land and species specific license hunt codes

Option 2 – Leftover and Reissue Limited Licenses

Important Dates and Times

  • August 6, 2019, 9 a.m. MT – Leftover limited licenses on sale
  • August 13, 2019Reissue of limited licenses begins. All returned licenses that take 4 or fewer Preference Points in the current years draw will be available for purchase the week after processing is complete. Hunt codes will randomly be placed on the current leftover and leftover OTC with cap lists Tuesday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM MST.

If you were not eligible for the leftover draw or you did not see a license that you wanted on the list, you still have limited license options! Wait for the remaining licenses from the leftover draw to go on sale August 6 at 9 a.m. MT; these licenses will be available online, in person or by phone. The leftover day list will include all leftover licenses and all licenses that were returned, required under 5 points to draw and were processed back into the system prior to the leftover list being generated. The licenses on the leftover list will be released for public purchase on a first-come, first-served basis. Leftover licenses go on sale to the general public at 9 a.m. MT on August 6 online, in person and by phone.

Option 3 – Over-the-counter (OTC) and Over-the-counter with Caps Licenses (OTC w/ Caps)

Important Date and Time

  • August 8, 2019, 9 a.m. MT

A large number of GMU options included in OTC licenses make these licenses the perfect option for hunters looking to expand their opportunities. With both rifle and archery OTC licenses options, simply purchasing the license guarantees you an opportunity to hunt big game in Colorado every year. And choosing an OTC license allows you to begin your planning today. You’ll have the summer to get your boots on the ground and build a level of comfort with your new location before the season arrives. ​

Use the following maps or the Colorado Big Game brochure to review the Game Management Units that are included in each OTC license. For elk, unlimited rifle season hunters have options that can put them in the field during the second and third rifle seasons. And archery hunters will have ample time to explore with an almost month-long OTC Elk season.

OTC Archery Maps

OTC Rifle Maps

archery hunter
Photo by © Doug Skinner/CPW.

Live Life Outside!

When purchasing a license, don’t fall victim to paralysis by analysis. Find an option that works for you and spend your fall exploring Colorado’s beautiful backcountry. As most hunters know, a successful hunt is not measured by pounds of meat in the freezer, but by the memories we create during our time in the field.

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