Elk Hunting Seasons in Colorado


Familiarizing yourself with the Elk Hunting Seasons in Colorado can help you determine which Colorado Elk Hunting Season is Right for You? This simple post will help you know the times and dates of all of the possible hunting times in Colorado to help with planning your next public land elk hunt.

hunting seasons for elk in colorado

Colorado is a prime spot for public land elk hunting. When planning your elk hunt, reviewing each season will help you narrow down the best time for you to plan your hunt. There are seven elk hunting seasons in Colorado:

  • Archery Hunt
  • Early High Country Rifle Deer
  • Muzzleloader
  • First Season Rifle
  • Second Season Rifle
  • Third Season Rifle
  • Fourth Season Rifle

While the early seasons focus on specific methods of hunting (like archery or muzzleloaders), the later seasons are popular for their allowance of rifles and increased elk activity. Read on to learn the difference between these seasons and which one is preferred by seasoned elk hunters.

elk hunting season in colorado

The Seven Elk Hunting Seasons in Colorado

Elk hunting in Colorado is split into seven different seasons with breaks in between. The seasons help control the population using different hunting methods, and the breaks give the elk time to get comfortable and venture back out into the open.

SeasonOpeningDurationArchery HuntEarly High Country Rifle DeerMuzzleloaderFirst Season RifleSecond Season RifleThird Season RifleFourth Season Rifle

These seasons are regulated by Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife, and you will need to check to make sure there is licensing available for the gender and age of the elk you intend to hunt. Depending on the season you may be limited to a specific area to help manage elk populations.

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Archery Hunt

Archery hunting is the longest season, and it also opens elk hunting in Colorado. Because this is the first season you have the first shot at the year’s elk.

Because the weather is still mild in September you should expect elk to be at a higher altitude. You might have less snow to contend with, but you will need to climb to find them.

Early High Country Rifle Deer

Getting in early to hunt elk gives you a better chance at them, and the Early High Country Rifle Deer Season gives you that chance before hunters flock to the area and start pressuring them into rougher terrain.

Because it is early on you have less information to work with. It is much easier to blow these spots, scattering elk and spoiling an area you have previously scouted.


The muzzleloader season in September is a fantastic opportunity for muzzleloader enthusiasts to get in before modern rifles start to take over the game.

All licensing for the muzzleloader season is limited, but you have access to either sex and both antlered and antlerless licenses. If you are not a muzzleloader lover then this season has little to offer you.

First Season Rifle

The first season rifle opens when bull elk are still rutting, giving you plenty of chance at early-season success. The open is still early, so the odds are you will still need to trek quite a bit to find elk activity.

The first season is also short compared to later seasons, but the five days you have are usually sufficient for a hunting trip.

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Second Season Rifle

The second season is the longest, and it encompasses two full weekends. If you can hold out to the second half of the season (usually the last four days) you should have fewer hunters to compete with.

The second season happens at a sweet spot in the year where the weather is starting to push the elk from the mountains but it should not be harsh enough to run you out.

Third Season Rifle

The third season is usually where you will start to see heavy snowfall. This is great for migrating elk.

Taking advantage of this season is great as long as you can handle the weather. You will need more supplies to get around, and the risk increases as the weather is harsher.

Fourth Season Rifle

If you do not mind missing Thanksgiving, the fourth season gives you one last chance at the year’s elk. There are fewer hunters, and the migrating elk are in unfamiliar territory.

They may not be sure of the area, but the elk left have done a great job of staying alive. Expect a bit of a challenge, especially with heavier snowfall.

Comparing the Colorado Elk Hunting Seasons

It might still be difficult to pin down a specific season that works best for you, so here is a quick pros and cons comparison for the seasons.

SeasonProsConsArchery HuntEarly High Country Rifle DeerMuzzleloaderFirst Season RifleSecond Season RifleThird Season RifleFourth Season Rifle

While defining any one season as “best” is subjective, most hunters prefer the second-season rifle. It has the best opportunity for finding elk because they are just getting started migrating for the year, and if you wait until the second half of the season there should be fewer hunters to compete with.

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More elk hunting resources

  • November Elk Hunting in Colorado
  • How to Prepare for Emergencies in Elk Hunting
  • 7 Tipsfor Hunting Elk on Public Land in Colorado
  • Merino Wool for Hunting

My favorite elk hunting accessories

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>