Elk Hunting In Colorado

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Elk Hunting In Colorado

Whether you are an experienced huntsman or huntswoman looking for a new adventure or a complete beginner aiming to shoot your first elk, Colorado is the land of opportunity for any hunter. With its more than 23 million acres of public land -an area equal to the state of Indiana- distributed into national forests, state wildlife areas, state parks, state trust and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, Colorado offers some of the best big-game hunting places in the country.


The abundant natural diversity, plus the varying weather conditions, elevation, topography, and vast expanses of open terrain, also make our centennial state one of the best hunting spots in North America. The state’s public lands are managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), which among its many other tasks, monitors herd populations and provides the regulations and guidelines to ensure that all hunting activities statewide are legal, ethical, and serve their conservation and species management purposes. Thus, mandatory licensing is required to hunt any small or big game animals.


The Biggest Elk Herd in the World!


Colorado is home to the largest population of elk on the planet, with approximately 270,000 animals. One of the reasons why elk hunting is so popular here is because the large herd numbers provide plenty of opportunities; however, elk are still one the most difficult animals to hunt due to their keen senses and naturally elusive habits.


So, your chances of finding a suitable target are higher than in other states, but that doesn’t mean elk are an easy kill just waiting for you out in the open. All your hunting instincts, skills, patience, and the willingness to go scout areas where most hunters don’t want to go are required to find the elk, making your hunting season always exciting and never boring!  


Elk Hunting Options in Colorado


To ensure that big-game population ratios are met and that hunting pressures help manage their numbers and distribution, the CPW has divided the state into 185 Game Management Units (GMU). This system allows them to offer a wide variety of licensing options for both residents and non-residents, which are only valid for a specific hunting season (archery, muzzleloader or rifle), species, sex, and GMU.​​


There are several fall elk hunting seasons in Colorado. The first one is for archery hunters and usually, runs for about a month from late August through the end of September. Muzzleloader hunts are also available within that same month for about 9-10 days. Then four separate elk rifle seasons are open from October through early November, of which the second and third last about 9 days each, and the first and fourth about 4-5 days. A plains rifle season (east of I-25) is also available from September all through January of the following year.


The licenses for the first and fourth rifle seasons are issued through limited drawing, for which you need to apply in early spring. However, the second and third rifle season licenses are for bull elk, unlimited, and available over the counter (OTC), hence generally being the most popular and crowded.

For specific season dates for each year, please visit the CPW’s Big Game Season Dates and Fees section of their website.

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Elk hunting unit mapA beaver pond on the Grand Mesa Colorado