Colorado Hunting Seasons for Small Game, Big Game, Waterfowl and more

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Thanks to the hard work of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, over one million people enjoy licensed hunting and fishing every year in the Centennial State. While the total number of issued hunting licenses continues to decrease nationwide, Colorado remains home to world-class big game, small game, and waterfowl hunting in over 350 state parks and designated wildlife areas.

Annually, all of Colorado’s unique big game hunting seasons are typically held during the same general time frame, though the dates of specific seasons may be slightly different each year. So gather your gear and mark your calendars as we explore Colorado’s hunting seasons for every species, large and small.

  • Primary draw applications close 4/5/2022 at 8 p.m. MT.
  • The secondary draw application deadline is 7/5/2022 at 8 p.m. MT.

Colorado Big Game Hunting Seasons

To hunt big game, all participants must first purchase a qualifying license through Colorado Parks and Wildlife, or from one of the many retail sellers across the state. Licenses are typically made available on the 1st of March each year. Prior to application, participants must purchase a Habitat Stamp, and those born after January 1, 1949, must also possess a Hunter Education Certificate.

Once a qualifying license is acquired, prospective big game hunters, including youth participants, can enter into the primary permit draw which is typically held in mid to late May. Those not chosen in the primary draw are welcome to enter a secondary draw conducted in July, and any remaining unused permits are made available in August.

Going hunting on Horseback Colorado
Going hunting in Colorado. Photo by: Kari Nousiainen

To hunt specific big game species in Colorado, dates are finalized in January for individual archery, muzzleloader, and rifle seasons. Both residents and non-residents are required to purchase specific big game tags for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bear.

Plains Deer (east of I-25, except Unit 140)

Colorado’s deer population is essentially divided into two distinct groups, with those east of Interstate 25 classified as “plains deer” or “grassland deer.” While rifle season is fairly short for deer hunting on Colorado’s eastern plains, sportsmen and sportswomen have their choice of three archery seasons throughout the fall and early winter.

  • Archery season (2022): October 1-28, November 9-30, and December 15-31
  • Muzzleloader season (2022): October 8-16
  • Rifle season (2022): October 29-November 8, December 1-14

Deer (West of I-25 and Unit 140) & Elk

West of the interstate, deer and elk are typically grouped in the same big game hunting seasons. Compared to plains deer, there are many more opportunities for rifle hunting both deer and elk in Colorado’s wildlife areas west of the interstate.

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Colorado has the largest state elk population, which attracts many local and out-of-state hunters hoping to bag the popular big-game species. With world-class buck hunting available well into the fall, it is easy to participate with over-the-counter licenses issued to both residents and nonresidents.

  • Archery season (2022): September 2-September 30
  • Muzzleloader season (2022): September 10-18
  • Rifle season (2022): October 15-October 19 (elk only), October 29-November 6, November 12-18, November 23-27
Colorado Hunter Mule Deer Buck
Colorado hunter with a buck mule deer. Photo by: Cowgirl Jules

Pronghorn

Until recently, pronghorn, also known as the American antelope, outnumbered people in northern Colorado and Wyoming. Today, a healthy population remains for legal hunting in a limited season. Pronghorn archery season is usually held for about one month beginning in mid-August, with hunting exclusively for bucks until August 31st.

  • Archery season (2022): August 15-31 (bucks only), September 1-20 (either sex)
  • Muzzleloader season (2022): September 21-29
  • Rifle season (2022): October 1-9 (by draw only)

Black Bear

To the surprise of many, black bear hunting is perfectly legal in Colorado during the designated season. Typically launching in early September, black bear permits can be obtained through big game draws as well as over-the-counter in late August. With success, any hunted black bear or moose must be personally inspected in a CPW office.

  • Archery and by draw rifle season (2022): September 2-30
  • Muzzleloader season (2022): September 10-18
  • Rifle season (2022): September 2-30 (by draw only), October 29-November 6, November 12-18, November 23-27

Moose

At over $2,000 for non-residents, moose hunting licenses are the most expensive big game permit issued in Colorado. Participants are permitted one bull moose as a lifetime bag limit, and every licensed moose hunter is required to file a report with the CPW at the end of the season, regardless of results.

  • Archery season (2022): September 10-30
  • Muzzleloader season (2022): September 10-18
  • Rifle season (2022): October 1-14

Bighorn Sheep & Mountain Goat

Categorically separate from the rest of Colorado’s big game, both bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunting licenses are available in very limited quantities. Applicants must submit their paperwork by April or May (April 5th in 2022) with successful permits announced shortly thereafter.

Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose permits are awarded through a preference point system, designed to help experienced hunters increase their chances of being drawn. Licenses are very limited, and typically only one or two tags are available for each species across the state’s permitted hunting zones.

  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep archery season (2022): August 1-December 31
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep rifle season (2022): August 9-December 17
  • Desert bighorn sheep rifle season (2022): November 1-30
  • Mountain goat archery season (2022): September 6 -October 31
  • Mountain goat rifle season (2022): September 6-October 31
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Colorado Small Game & Bird Hunting Seasons

In Colorado, hunting small game and waterfowl is much less competitive than big game species. Small game hunting licenses are offered at low rates, remaining active from April 1st to March 31st the following year. It is also common for small game hunters to purchase one-day permits or bundle their small game permissions with an annual fishing license.

Like with big game permits, all small game applicants are also required to carry a Habitat Stamp and proof of hunter education. All purchases can be made at local retailers as well as CPW offices, online, or by phone at 1-800-244-5613​.

Small Game Mammals and Reptiles

For small game hunting, permitted hunters may use rifles, bows, airguns, and slingshots unless otherwise noted by the CPW. As of 2021, a new furbearer harvest permit is required for most small game animals, with the exception of non-mammal species such as snakes and turtles.

Small game hunting is permitted one half-hour before sunrise to one half-hour after sunset. Here, exceptions are made for nocturnal species such as coyotes, bobcats, skunks, beavers, foxes, and raccoons, which can be hunted throughout the night.

Small game and waterfowl hunting reservations can be made ahead of time for many of the state’s wildlife areas by phone or online through the CPW’s website. Both daily bag and possession limits are highly variable between species.

  • Ab​ert’s squirrels season (2022): November 15-January 15, 2022
  • ​Beaver season (2022): October 1-April 30, 2022
  • ​Bobcat season (2022): ​​December 1-end of February 2022
  • ​Common snapping turtle season (2022): ​Apr. 1-October 31 (permitted with strictly fishing license as well)
  • Cottontails, snowshoe hare, white-tailed ​& black-tailed jackrabbits season (2022)​: October 1-end of February 2022
  • Coyote season:​ Year-round
  • Pine and fox squirrels season (2022): October 1-end of February 2022
  • Marmot season (2022): August 10-October 15
  • Black-tailed, white-tailed​ & Gunnison’s prairie dogs season (2022): June 15-end of February 2022
  • ​Prairie rattlesnake season (2022): Jun. 15-August 15
  • Richardson’s (Wyoming) ground squirrel season: Year-round
  • Mink, badger, skunks, opossum, muskrat, weasels, foxes, ring-tailed cat, and pine marten season (2022): November 1-end of February 2022
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Turkey

In Colorado, there are three turkey hunting seasons: one in the fall, one in spring, and a late season. Fall applications are generally accepted until late May (the 31st in 2022), and the spring deadline typically falls in the middle of February (the 17th in 2022). Beyond what is permitted in state wildlife areas and parks, some late-season turkey hunting is also allowed on private land.

  • Spring season (2022): April 9-May 31
  • Fall season (2022): September 1-October 28
  • Late season (2022): December 15-January 15, 2024

Waterfowl and Migratory Bird Hunting

Beyond turkey hunting, Colorado offers long waterfowl and migratory bird seasons with various bag and possession limits. No matter where you are in the state, waterfowl hunters are required to contact the Utility Notification Center of Colorado before digging pits at 1-800-922-1987.

  • Band-tailed pigeon season (2022): September 1-​14 (extra permit required through CPW)
  • Chukar ​partridge season (2022): September 1-November 30
  • Cr​ow season (2022): November 1-end of February​ 2022
  • Mourning and white-winged doves season (2022): September 1-November 29
  • Eurasian-collared dove season: Year-round
  • European starlings, English, and house sparrows season: Year-round
  • Greater prairie-chicken season (2022): October 1-January 31, 2021
  • Dusky Blue Grouse season (2022): September 1-November 28
  • Greater sage-grouse season (2022): September 11-17
  • Mountain (Columbian) sharp-tailed grouse season (2022): September 1-19
  • Pheasant season (2022): November 13-January 31, 2022 (east of 1-25), November 13-January 4, 2022 (west of 1-25)
  • Northern bobwhite, Gambel’s & scaled quail season (2022): November 13-January 31, 2021 (dependent on area)
  • Sandhi​ll crane season (2022): October 3-November 29 (federal permit required www.colohip.com)
  • Sora and Virginia rail season (2022): September 1-November 9
  • Teal season (2022): September 11-19
  • White-tailed ptarmigan season (2022): September 11-November 28 (dependent on area)
  • Wilson’s snipe season (2022): ​September 1-December 16
Two hunters wearing orange in Mount Evans Wilderness
Hunting in the Mount Evans Wilderness. Photo by: Greg Younger

For both residents and out-of-state visitors, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will always be the best source of information for up-to-date hunting fees, laws, and information. In preparation for your next trip, feel free to explore some of Colorado’s most popular hunting areas.

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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 >>