2020 Colorado Big Game Hunting: What’s New

The 2020 Colorado Big Game Brochure is now available and with the release of the brochure comes several significant changes for the Colorado big game hunting seasons.
2020 Colorado Big Game Hunting “What’s New” video. Video by © Jerry Neal/CPW.

The 2020 Colorado Big Game Brochure is now available and with the release of the brochure comes several significant changes for the 2020 Colorado big game hunting season. If you plan to apply for a limited-license or if you are an over-the-counter (OTC) archer, you will want to pay close attention to some important changes that affect this year’s hunting seasons.

Changes Affecting Limited-License Hunters

For the 2020 season, hunters will have increased opportunities to draw a license with the new secondary big game draw. This means the “unsuccessful options” that were available in the past have been removed from the draw application process. Details of the new two draw process are outlined below. A word of caution: Your best chance to draw a license is always during the primary draw when the largest quantity of licenses are available.

Primary Draw

CPW will begin accepting primary draw applications on March 1, 2020. Hunters can apply for deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain and Desert bighorn sheep licenses during the primary draw. The application deadline for the primary license drawing is 8 p.m. Mountain Time on April 7, 2020. Hunters are encouraged to submit their applications early. Applying early will guarantee that you avoid bottlenecks that can occur from the online traffic surge created by hunters submitting applications at the last minute.

2020 Preference Point Issue cover

Tip: Understand Preference Points

If you’re new to the limited-draw process, purchase Colorado Outdoors Magazine’s 2020 Annual Preference Point Issue for an explanation of preference points and easy to read preference point lists for each species. The raw data that is used in the Annual Preference Point Issue can also be downloaded for free from the CPW website.

Secondary Draw

CPW’s new Secondary Draw replaces the “leftover” draw and removes the “unsuccessful options” from the application process. The Secondary Draw is open to anyone — even if you missed the deadline for the Primary Draw. Elk, deer, pronghorn and bear licenses not issued through the primary draw will be made available through the Secondary Draw. A key difference from the Primary Draw is that the Secondary Draw does not use or award preference points. However, application fees and qualifying licenses are still required. In addition, youth hunters are given first preference on all hunt codes. CPW will accept applications online or by phone for the Secondary Draw beginning June 5, 2020. The Secondary Draw application deadline is July 7 at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Please see page 4 of the big-game brochure for more details. 

The Qualifying License Requirement

Continuing this year, hunters must purchase a qualifying license to participate in the big-game draws. Qualifying licenses include spring turkey licenses and small-game licenses. Colorado residents may also choose combination small-game and veteran lifetime combination licenses. All qualifying licenses are available beginning March 1, 2020 and must be purchased prior to applying for all big-game licenses. All annual small-game, fishing, combination licenses and Habitat Stamps are now valid for 13 months — from March 1 – March 31 of the following year.

information icon

When and why did CPW start requiring qualifying licenses?
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission added a qualifying license requirement for applying for the big game draw in November 2018. It is similar to other western states who require customers to purchase a base hunting license prior to applying for a draw. In addition to the qualifying license revenue, Colorado will receive additional federal match funds. The use of these funds will help CPW meet the ten priority goals for wildlife management.

Increased Bear Hunting Opportunities

archer with bear
Hunter Testimonial: “I normally don’t buy bear tags but I’m glad I did for 2019 archery season.” While elk hunting, T. Becker came across this black bear, initiated a stalk, and harvested him with a 20-yard shot.

In an effort to meet harvest objectives, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists and wildlife managers have increased bear hunting quotas across the state. For the 2020 big game season, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is offering expanded bear hunting opportunities for all hunters and reduced license fees for resident hunters. Non-resident bear license fees were significantly reduced for the 2019 big game season and those prices are in place again for the 2020 season. Also new for this year, all archery and muzzleloader elk and deer hunters can purchase an “add-on” OTC bear license.

bear paw symbol

Look for the bear paw symbol!
Find additional information about “add-on” licenses in the Colorado Big Game Brochure on page 20 for deer licenses, page 35 for elk licenses and page 66 for bear licenses.

New to bear hunting or considering a 2020 Colorado bear hunt? Read 10 Tips for Colorado Bear Hunters and avoid the most common mistakes that hunters make when pursuing Colorado bears.

Mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease Testing

Mandatory testing is free and it helps wildlife biologists monitor the health of Colorado’s deer herds and better track the spread of chronic wasting disease. In 2020, CPW will require mandatory submission of CWD test samples (heads) from all deer harvested during any of the rifle seasons from specific GMUs.

Mandatory Deer CWD Testing Game Management Units

Mandatory Deer CWD Testing Map
Mandatory chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing game management units are shaded in pink.

Game management units 1, 2, 6, 10, 16, 17, 21, 25, 26, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 40, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 63, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 110, 111, 118, 119, 123, 124, 128, 129, 133, 134, 135, 136, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 147, 161, 171, 201, 411, 444, 471, 481, 500, 501, 511, 512, 521, 551, 561, 581, 591, 681, 682, 711, 741, 751, 771 and 791.

There will be no charge for mandatory testing. Read Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Colorado Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan ​to see how our agency is addressing the problem. For more information, visit our website: cpw.state.co.us/cwd

Voluntary CWD Testing

Hunters not included in mandatory testing may choose to have their deer, elk or moose tested for CWD. Testing cost is $25. For more information about where and how to submit a CWD sample, please visit cpw.state.co.us/cwd.

Changes to Over-the-counter (OTC) Archery Elk Licenses

Successful Colorado Archery Elk Hunter.
Successful Colorado Archery Elk Hunter.

Hunters in the southwest region should be aware that archery elk licenses are now fully limited for antlered and antlerless elk. CPW has reduced license quotas to address declining elk populations in some GMUs. For a detailed explanation of how and why Colorado Parks and Wildlife made this change, please read Archery elk licenses now limited in Southwest Colorado.

2020 OTC Antlerless Elk Archery License Map
2020 OTC Antlerless Elk Archery License Map
 2020 OTC Antlerled & Either-Sex Elk Archery License Map
2020 OTC Antlerled & Either-Sex Elk Archery License Map

Need Help? Call a Hunt Planner!

Don’t get tripped up by the little details. If you need help figuring out where you can hunt with zero preference points or you need help setting up your CPWshop.com account, planning a hunt or applying for licenses, call center agents and Hunt Planners are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., (303) 297-1192).

Resources For Planning Your Colorado Big Game Hunt:

  • 2020 Colorado Big-Game Brochure
  • Find a Hunter Ed Course – Colorado law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1949, complete an approved hunter education course before applying for or buying a Colorado hunting license. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education Courses, led by certified volunteer hunter education instructors and/or CPW staff, are offered throughout the state year-round.
  • Big Game Quick G​​​uide – A step-by-step guide for planning Your License Purchase and Hunt
  • Big Game Hunt Planner – All of the important dates and contact numbers on a one-page document.
  • Plan Your Hunt – Step by step guide to beginners with purchasing and planning your Colorado big game hunt.
  • “My First Big Game Hunt” video series – A new 16-part video series from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, introducing nonhunters to hunting through the journey of Crystal Egli.
  • Colorado Hunting Atlas – Allows users to view big game concentrations and game management units on top of street maps, USGS topographic maps or high-resolution color aerial photography. The Hunter Resource Report allows hunters to create a list of important emergency and contact information, field office locations, campgrounds, CDOW license agents and more.
  • Hunting Statistics – These reports show how many licenses were available in all big game management units throughout Colorado, how many hunters applied for those limited licenses, how many of those hunters were successful drawing and how many preference points it took to be successful.
  • CPW Hunting E-News – Stay on top of Colorado hunting with year-round emails from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
  • huntingincolorado – The official Hunter Outreach Program Instagram account of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
  • Take a Friend Hunting Contest – Colorado Parks and Wildlife, along with our hunting partners, is encouraging hunters to take a friend into the field. As a reward for taking the time to teach a new hunter, CPW has created a contest for mentors who pass on their knowledge. 
Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat

Colorado Bighorn Sheep & Goats

For anyone interested in hunting bighorn sheep and mountain goats in Colorado, please read the “What’s New” pages in the 2020 Colorado Sheep & Goat Brochure. For video tips and tactics, please visit the Sheep & Goat Hunter Resources page on Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Thank You!

Colorado Parks and Wildlife thanks you for hunting Colorado, and encourages you to have a safe and successful fall season. 

Live Life Outside

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