Colorado offers many types of big game licenses and options for purchasing them. Hunters—resident and non-resident—can select from rifle, muzzleloader, and archery seasons by species and by specific units (or "hunting units", "Game Management Units", "GMUs").
Licenses are sold from three main categories:
- Limited Licenses (through application & draw process in April)
- Over-the-Counter Licenses (available in July)
- Leftover Limited Licenses (available in August)
To ensure you have the license you want come this fall, apply in the spring!
Over-the Counter Licenses (Available Starting July 9)
- Over-the-Counter Unlimited Licenses: These are antlered (bull) elk licenses available to resident and non-resident hunters for 2nd or 3rd rifle season. These licenses can be used to hunt in 92 GMUs across Colorado.
The OTC either-sex, archery, pronghorn licenses allow hunting in numerous units around the state. The applicable maps of these units are in the species sections of the brochure and can be downloaded online. (Map of bull elk units offering OTC licenses 9MB )
No application is necessary to purchase OTC licenses—they go on sale at 9 a.m. MST, July 9. These are sold online, by phone (1-800/244-5613), at license agents, and at DOW offices around the state. OTC licenses provide you the flexibility to discover new units, scout different habitat, and, potentially, combine your elk hunt with the opportunity to hunt another species.
- Over-the-Counter Licenses with Caps: A preset number of bear, antlerless elk, and either-sex elk licenses are available for specific units and specific seasons on a first-come, first-served basis for resident and non-resident hunters. These are called licenses "with caps". They are sold online, by phone (1-800/244-5613) or at CPW offices and license agents starting at 9 a.m. MST, July 9.
Leftover Limited Licenses (Available Starting August 6)
- Leftover Limited Licenses: These are the limited licenses remaining after the limited license draw and leftover draw processes. They go on sale to the public at 9 a.m. MST, August 6. They are sold at license agents, CPW offices, and by phone (1-800/244-5613). They are available for online purchase starting August 7.
Before You Buy: Required Information
- Hunter Education: Everyone born on or after January 1, 1949, must hold a valid hunter education card/certificate before applying for or purchasing any hunting license or before applying for a preference point. Your hunter education card/certificate and the appropriate license(s) must be in your possession while hunting. For details, see the Hunter Education pages.
- Social Security Number: As required by the Colorado Support Enforcement Act, established by HB 97-1205 and implemented through 24-33-110 C.R.S., your Social Security Number (SSN) is required to purchase or apply for all DOW licenses. Your SSN is not shown on your license. It is provided, when requested, to the Colorado Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement, as required by law and is used to enforce the law.
- Photo I.D.: Be aware, also, that a photo I.D. is required for all license purchases. Proof of residency is also required for Colorado residents.
Limited Licenses by Drawing (Application Deadline is April 1, 2014)
These are big game licenses that are limited in number for specific units (GMUs) and hunting seasons. These are distributed through the license application and drawing process.
- The first opportunity to purchase big game licenses is through a "drawing" (lottery-like drawing) that comes after the application deadline.
- Applications are due before midnight on the first Tuesday in April, each year (April 1, 2014).
- You can submit your application online or by mail (a mail-in application comes with the Colorado Big Game Brochure (9MB) ; available in mid-February each year). Sheep, goat and moose non-resident applications can only be accepted by mail. See the Sheep and Goat Interactive Brochure. Moose is included within the Big Game brochure.
- Application allows you to request up to four hunt code choices, and other license choices (see Additional Application License Choices, below).
- License prices are published in the Colorado Big Game Brochure (9MB) (page 2) and on the Big Game Season Dates and Fees page. Apply early to avoid any last minute online rush!
Youth (youth are 12 to 17 years old) limited licenses are available at a reduced cost. Youth can also benefit by receiving preference for many draw units (see the Colorado Big Game Brochure (9MB) , page 4, for details).
Other Types of Limited Licenses
- Private-Land Only Licenses: These licenses are limited in number for specific units and are to be used only on private land and State Trust Lands that are not leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They have specific season hunt dates. You must obtain landowner permission before hunting on private land.
- Ranching for Wildlife Licenses: Available only to Colorado residents, hunters may apply for these licenses through the application and drawing process for specific seasons and ranches. Each ranch has specific rules for hunting on their property; these are not private-land-only licenses. Check the Ranching for Wildlife restrictions before applying.
Would You Rather Hunt Than Get a Refund?
If you are unsuccessful in getting your first choice in the application and drawing process—you have options! To use one of the following options, check the appropriate "If unsuccessful, send me . . ." option on the application (available for elk, deer, and pronghorn).