“What’s New” for Colorado Big-Game Hunters in 2021

If you plan to hunt this fall, be aware of some important changes that affect the 2021 limited-license draw and the fall hunting seasons.


  • The first 19 pages have all of your basic hunting information: new changes, license information, options and sales dates, general information, hunting laws, application information and deadlines, and how to read the hunt code tables.
  • Pages 20–67 break out each of the five big-game species in this brochure into their own sections. Each section has species-specific regulation changes, season dates, how to get more than one license and hunt code tables.
  • The last few pages, 68–73, provide a GMU map and detailed descriptions of the GMU boundaries and specific land restrictions.

What’s New

Qualifying Licenses 

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.

Residents may also choose a combination small-game, veteran lifetime combination, First Responder lifetime Combination and senior combination licenses.

New for this year, fall turkey licenses are now a valid qualifying license for the secondary draw only.

And, seniors who possess a resident lifetime fishing license may purchase an annual small-game license for $22.18 as their qualifying license for the big-game draws.

All qualifying licenses are available beginning March 1 and must be purchased prior to applying for all big-game licenses or preference points.

Limited Licenses

Limited licenses are a set (limited) number of licenses available for specific hunting units and dates for each species (bear, deer, elk, pronghorn, moose), and are issued through an application and drawing process.

Primary Draw

The Primary Draw application deadline is April 6, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Hunters are encouraged to submit their applications early to avoid complications or delays. Colorado Parks and wildlife will begin to accept applications on March 1, 2021.  

Secondary Draw

The Secondary Draw application deadline is June 30, 2021, at 8:oo p.m. Mountain Time.

Continuing this year, CPW is offering a Secondary Draw. The Secondary Draw is open to anyone — even if you missed the deadline for the Primary Draw. Most elk, deer, pronghorn and bear licenses not issued through the primary draw will be made available here.

The Secondary Draw does not use or award preference points. However, application fees, qualifying licenses and a Habitat Stamp are still required.

CPW will accept applications online or by phone for the Secondary Draw beginning June 16, 2021.

Leftover Limited Licenses & OTC Licenses

Also new for this year, Leftover limited licenses and over-the-counter (OTC) licenses will go on sale the same day and at the same time, starting at 9 a.m. on August 3, 2021.

NEW Limited License Reissue Process

Beginning this year, CPW will implement a new process for reissuing returned big-game licenses. Starting Aug. 10, a reissue preview list will be posted online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Those licenses will then be moved to the Leftover List and may be purchased starting at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. This gives hunters the chance to see what licenses are available before they go on sale the following day. For more information about leftover licenses and the new reissue process, see pages 4 & 8 of the brochure and visit our website: cpw.state.co.us/refunds#reissue

More Ways to Purchase Big-Game Licenses

New for this year, hunters may purchase big-game licenses, even after the start of the season, by phone, online and through statewide license agents and CPW offices. This improvement in customer service now allows hunters to purchase licenses by all sales methods at any point in the hunting season. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Gift Certificates

CPW Gift Certificates make a great gift idea for any hunter. Beginning this year, hunters may now usegift certificates to purchase big-game licenses through CPW’s online system. CPW Gift certificates may be kept on file and combined with credit card purchases for all online license sales.

Chronic Wasting Disease Testing

New for this year, Chronic Wasting Disease(or CWD) testing is required for both elk and deer hunters who harvest animals in certain Game Management Units or by specific hunt codes. If you harvest deer or elk in these areas, you must submit your animal head to a CPW office for testing. Mandatory testing is free and it helps wildlife biologists monitor the health of Colorado’s big-game herds and better track the spread of chronic wasting disease. For more information, see the maps in the brochure and visit our website: cpw.state.co.us/cwd

Hunt Planners

If you have questions about setting up your 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.

Additional Resources

Colorado Parks and Wildlife thanks you for hunting Colorado. Your license fees fund wildlife management and conservation programs, ensuring that hunting opportunities will remain for future generations.

23 Responses

  1. Why does the Colorado Division of Wildlife stick it to out of state hunters? I had to purchase a “Qualifying License” before applying for a cow elk tag. I had 2 preference points going into the draw, so you figure i had a good chance at drawing. Nope! I spent over $100 that was non-refundable just to get to apply. I wasn’t successful at the draw, so i spent over $100 and I didn’t get to set foot in Colorado. Hunting in Colorado has turned into a racket for out of state hunters.

    1. 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 their ten priority goals for wildlife management. Learn more – https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Qualifying-Licenses.aspx

      1. You and all the other bureaucrats know that an out of state hunter is not going to travel to Colorado just to utilize a small game, or as you refer to it, a “Qualifying License”. Why don’t you make the “Qualifying License” refundable if the hunter is not successful in the draw? Colorado still gets to keep the proceeds from the Habitat Stamp.

      2. Considering all the divergent pressures, opinions, desires and other competing perspectives regarding how to manage Colorados big game I think CPW does a pretty decent job balancing all of them. And the job is a thankless one apparently. I’d like to see some of those with such negative comments do a better job.
        I may not always like what they decide to do regarding management but trust they know more than I do. It is their primary focus and area of expertise. Have a little faith and get involved in the planning process. CPW offers many ways for us hunters to influence game management decisions but you have to get involved. Its the very least you could do if you choose to hunt here. Become informed.

      3. Great point! One of the most important ways that hunters can get involved is by following what’s on the agenda for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meetings. The commission counts on input from the public. The time to get involved is before policies are put in place. Visit https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/CommissionMeetings.aspx for information about the upcoming meetings and rule-making changes.

  2. After hunting area 66 for over 20 years I was surprised to find loggers working near the Big Blue portion of area 66. Piles of logged timber as high as 40 ft were plied up, many stumps left under the snow that made walking dangerous. We would arrive around 4:00 AM and the loggers started up at 5:00 AM in the morning finding idling tractors with lights on, blaring radios, and loggers cutting down trees all day during the fourth season.

    CO Fish and Game was happy to collect my $600 + in out of state fees, it would have been nice to know ahead of time this activity was going on before arriving on site a day before season started. For those that say logging doesn’t have a affect on the animals you are wrong! Our group of three outdoorsmen/ hunters that have taken many animals in area 66 in the past, last year we saw ZERO elk. The first time in 20 years zero animals were spotted in 5 days of hunting on foot.

    It only seems right that a major change in a hunting area should be made public ahead of the draw so hunters can decide if they want to take a chance in that area or go to a different area to hunt. Or better have them stop logging during the elk/deer season.

  3. i will not apply until you get rid of quallififying license bull. why should i sit in minn. with a co small game license and not leave home.big ripoff !t

  4. This process seems to become more complicated every time you change it ! I have hunted 50yrs in colorado and now feel as though I need to hire an attorney in order to fill out my license . I have friends that quit hunting big game years ago for this reason ” I thought that was silly ” now I am starting to feel just like them and at a time when I am trying to introduce grandkids and several younger people into hunting and fishing !

  5. This is why I quit hunting and fishing. Tired of the rules and cost. I have Lots of other hobbies that are more fun and cheaper.

  6. You’ve been driving people away from hunting and fishing for years. You hold everyone hostage by closing parks until you the get fee increase from people. Now you want to collect lost revenue by forcing people to buy a license many won’t use. Fees have been added to boats that never come in contact with zebra muscles or fish in lakes that have them. You’ve raised license fees on seniors back to the old regular license fee. Now make antler collecting an easier way to fine and collect more license fees. Even for someone who might be lucky enough to find 1 a year. Run by bureaucrats , Taught by tax and spend Democrats.

  7. my son comes here from florida to hunt with me and if he didn’t i wouldn’t get to go,i’m 70 and still all the tenting and camping the out of state fees are a hiway way robbery.i’m trying to get my grand kidsa into hunting but can’t afford the out of state fees,soon there will only be rich big city hunters in our state

  8. Great points from 2 people that don’t have to pay out of state fees but can still utilize a “qualifying license”. (Doug and Joshua) Honestly, how would you two feel having to shell out $110 just for a chance to hunt somewhere knowing if you’re unsuccessful you’re going to lose the $110? I would feel better is they wouldn’t blow smoke up my butt and just tack on an additional $100 to the price of the tag. Also, do you really think the opinion of an out of state hunter matters to the faction that sets the fees? Come on, guys. Get real.

    1. Just a reminder. You can hunt elk every year in Colorado with an Over-the-Counter (OTC) elk tag. And with an OTC license, you do not need to purchase a qualifying license.

  9. Been there, done that. That’s why I apply for a cow tag every year, but I now have 3 preference points for the next draw. We have a party of about 7 hunters that used to go every year, but we’ve decided that because Colorado is constantly increasing and tacking on fees we’re only going there maybe once every 4 years. I’m sure there’s other out of state hunters doing something similar. Good luck to Colorado with trying to make up the difference with the fees from the resident hunters,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

✉ Follow for Updates

Never miss a post! Enter your email address and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More Posts