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Colorado Hunting Guide

elk in colorado mountains

Colorado is home to more than 23 million acres of public land. The mountainous and open areas of Colorado support a diverse group of species. Combined with Colorado’s permissive firearm regulations, the state is a popular destination for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

What to Hunt

Colorado supports a diverse and healthy population of game species. Hunters can find these species all across the state at varying elevations and in varying habitats.

mule deer


Deer is one of the most popular game species in Colorado, and aspiring deer hunters must enter a draw for a big game hunting tag. Colorado is home to well-distributed mule deer and whitetail deer populations. Migration for the winter usually happens during the fourth rifle season (mid-November) or late season (through mid-January). This helps hunters find deer at lower elevation. The rut for deer in Colorado is usually the first day of fall.



The Rocky Mountains in Colorado are home to a stable population of elk. Elk can mostly be found in the north and northwest regions of the state. Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in the country, and there are about 280,000 elk in the state. If hunters are not able to obtain a big game license through the tag, they can get over the counter tags through elk hunting game management units. These licenses go on sale in early August.



Pronghorn licenses are distributed by draw in Colorado. The species is most commonly found in the northwest region, though some herds and trophy bucks may also be distributed in the east. Hunters may benefit from taking a trip out before the season begins to identify hunting spots, find landowners, and obtain permission to hunt.

black bear


Black bear in Colorado enter hyperphagia (“feeding frenzy”) in mid-August, and their diets change from leaves and flowers to fruits and nuts. In September and even into early October, bears are extremely likely to be in lower-elevation areas where fruit and nuts are most abundant. Hunters should note that bear positions in mid-summer are not relevant by the time hunting season begins. It is not permitted to kill a black bear accompanying cubs, or the cubs themselves.



Colorado is home to both Rio Grande and Merriam’s turkeys. Colorado also offers free turkey hunting clinics for new hunters. Wild turkeys can be found in several areas around the state, including west of Fort Collins in Lory State Park and the foothills of Rist Canyon. Turkey are also distributed in the Greeley and Windsor areas, as well as Fort Collins near the Poudre River. Turkey licenses are given through drawings in the fall and the spring.


Small Game

Colorado is home to many different species of small game, including fox, coyote, dove, geese, rabbit, and squirrel. These small game animals can be found across the state. Each species is subject to its own unique set of regulations.



Several species of waterfowl are supported by Colorado’s ecosystems. Potential hunters must have a small game license, youth small game or combination license, federal duck stamp, and a Colorado Waterfowl Stamp​ to hunt these animals.


Mountain Lion

The mountainous regions of Colorado support a healthy population of mountain lion at various elevations. Hunters may only harvest one mountain lion each year. Hunters must complete course and an exam in order to purchase a mountain lion hunting license. Hunters most report mountain lion kills within 48 hours, and must bring the lion for inspection by a Colorado Parks & Wildlife officer within five days.

Other Colorado game species include: Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Band-Tailed Pigeon, Chukar Partridge, Crow, Doves, European Starlings and English or House Sparrows, Greater Prairie Chicken, Grouse, Pheasant, Quail, Sandhill Crane, Sora and Virginia Rail, Teal, White-Tailed Ptarmigan, Wilson’s Snipe, Abert’s Squirrels, Beaver, Bobcat, Snapping Turtle, Cottontails, Snowshoe Hares, White-Tailed and Black-Tailed Jackrabbits, Coyote, Fox and Pine Squirrels, Marmot, Prairie Dogs, Prairie Rattlesnake, Wyoming Ground Squirrel, Badger, Mink, Pine Marten, Gray Fox, Red Fox, Swift Fox, Raccoon, Ring-Tailed Cat, Skunk, Long-Tailed Weasel, Short-Tailed Weasel, Opossum, Muskrat, Goose, Duck and Coot, Teal, etc. found in the "Hunting Seasons" section at bottom of the page

Where to Hunt

Colorado has many different types of hunting lands. The state also publishes a yearly hunting atlas with extended information on where to hunt in Colorado.

State Wildlife Areas

Colorado features over 300 state wildlife areas, which total over 650,00 acres. These areas provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities to residents and nonresidents.

State Recreational Lands

A valid hunting or fishing license is required for anyone over 18 wishing to access Colorado’s state wildlife areas. Approximately 775,000 acres of land has been designated for hunting and outdoor recreational activities. This area is part of the Public Access Program, and its size increases every year. Most of the areas in the Public Access Program are only accessible by foot.

Licensing Fees

It is required to have a hunting license to hunt in Colorado.

License Resident Nonresident
​Annual Small Game Hunting ​$31.41 ​$86.50
​Furbearer Only ​$31.41 ​$86.50
​1-day Small Game Hunting ​$14.46 ​$17.64
​Additional Day Small Game Hunting ​$7.05 ​$7.05
​Fall Turkey License ​$26.12 ​$160.67
​Spring Turkey ​$31.41 ​$160.67
​Youth Turkey License (under age 18) ​$16.58 ​$107.69
​Youth Annual Small Game Hunting License (under age 18) ​$1, plus surcharge ​$1, plus surcharge
​Deer ​$42.01 ​$420.23
​Elk ​$57.90 ​$700.98
​Pronghorn ​$42.01 ​$420.23
​Bear ​$40.45 ​$103.60
​Mountain Lion ​$52.60 ​$358.23
​Moose ​$319.58 ​$2,343.10
​Mountain Goat ​$319.58 ​$2,343.10
​Desert Bighorn Sheep ​$319.58 ​$2,343.10
​Youth Big Game (deer, elk, pronghorn under age 18) ​$16.32 ​$107.43

Hunter Education

Anyone born on or after January 1, 1949 is required to complete a hunter education course before applying for a Colorado hunting license. Classes are available as in-person instruction or as a combination of online instruction and field day(s). A bowhunting class is also available.

Youth Hunting

Youth hunters must be 12 years of age or older to hunt big game. Youth hunters must also have a hunting license and meet the relevant hunting education requirements. Youth hunters 12-17 years old must be supervised by a hunter who is 18 or older and also meets hunter education requirements.

A youth small game license is available for hunters under the age of 12. These hunters must also be supervised by an adult, licensed hunter.


Colorado considers the following animals “furbearing mammals” for the purposes of trapping: mink, pine marten, badger, red fox, gray fox, swift fox, striped skunk, western spotted skunk, beaver, muskrat, long-tailed weasel, short-tailed weasel, coyote, bobcat, opossum, ring-tailed cat and raccoon. A furbearer license is required to take these animals be means of trapping.

Hunting Seasons

Game Season
Deer/Elk* Sep 2 2023 - Nov 26 2023
Moose* Sep 9 2023 - Oct 14 2023
Pronghorn* Aug 15 2023 - Oct 15 2023
Bear* Sep 2 2023 - Nov 26 2023
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep* Aug 1 2023 - Jan 10 2024
Desert Bighorn Sheep* Nov 1 2023 - Nov 30 2023
Mountain Goat* Sep 5 2023 - Oct 31 2023
Band-Tailed Pigeon Sep 1 2023 - Sep 14 2023
Chukar Partridge Sep 1 2023 - Nov 30 2023
Crow Nov 1 2023 - End of February 2024
Doves Sep 1 2023 - Nov 29 2023
European Starlings and English or House Sparrows Season Open Year-Round
Greater Prairie Chicken Oct 1 2023 - Jan 31 2024
Grouse* Sep 1 2023 - Nov 26 2023
Pheasant* Nov 11 2023 - Jan 31 2024
Quail* Nov 11 2023 - Jan 31 2024
Sandhill Crane Sep 30 2023 - Nov 26 2023
Sora and Virginia Rail Sep 1 2023 - Nov 9 2023
White-Tailed Ptarmigan* Sep 9 2023 - Nov 26 2023
Wilson’s Snipe Sep 1 2023 - Dec 16 2023
Abert’s Squirrels Nov 15 2023 - Jan 15 2024
Beaver Oct 1 2023 - Apr 30 2024
Bobcat Dec 1 2023 - End of February 2024
Snapping Turtle Apr 1 2023 - Oct 31 2024
Cottontails, Snowshoe Hares, White-Tailed and Black-Tailed Jackrabbits Oct 1 2023 - End of February 2024
Coyote Season Open Year-Round
Fox and Pine Squirrels Oct 1 2023 - End of February 2024
Marmot Aug 10 2023 - Oct 15 2023
Prairie Dogs Jun 15 2023 - End of February 2024
Prairie Rattlesnake Jun 15 2023 - Aug 15 2023
Wyoming Ground Squirrel Season Open Year Round
Badger, Mink, Pine Marten, Gray Fox, Red Fox, Swift Fox, Raccoon, Ring-Tailed Cat, Striped Skunk, Western Spotted Skunk, Long-Tailed Weasel, Short-Tailed Weasel, Opossum, Muskrat Nov 1 2023 - End of February 2024
Goose* Sep 1 2023 - Apr 30 2024
Duck and Coot* Sep 30 2023 - Jan 31 2024
Teal* Sep 9 2023 - Sep 17 2023
Turkey Apr 8 2023 - May 31 2023
Sep 1 2023 - Oct 27 2023
Dec 15 2023 - Jan 15 2024
Mountain Lion Apr 1 2023 - Apr 30 2023
Nov 27 2023 - Mar 31 2024

*Hunting dates for this species may vary by zone, method of take, or subspecies of animal. Visit the state’s website to find out more.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice or acted upon as if it is legal advice: it is provided for informational purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the information.