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Best 101 Guide To Colorado Elk Hunting

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Colorado Elk Hunting
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Before we begin, here are some suggested readings you can check out:

Colorado is named after the Spanish word for ‘colorful’ and is mainly known for Colorado elk hunting. Spread over millions of acres of property and access to the public property.

The state has a long list of big-game animals: mule deer, moose, mountain goats, lions, black bears, white-tailed deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, waterfowl, and upland birds are the most popular amongst the hunters.

But the Elk hunting is the supreme monarch of the Colorado hunting season.

More elk like the bull elk are hunted and shot in the west by the hunters during the rifle hunts who have special use permits, often accompanied by licensed outfitters during special season dates. Hunting elk is legal and needs a license.

Elk Hunts

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Elks have defined summer and winter coats that they shed in late summer and spring. In winter, their head, belly, neck, and leg regions are dark brown, whereas the back and sides are greyish.

The female elks usually have a lighter coat. Elks are one of the most widely distributed members of the deer family in North America. These can be sighted everywhere other than the Great Basin desert and Southern coastal plains.

The population used to be estimated at around 10 million before European men arrived. They accepted the western settlements better than the buffalo and inhabited the rougher terrain.

Before moving on to Colorado elk hunting, wouldn’t it be great to check a few fascinating facts on Elk? 

Well, I think it will be great, so here are a few fascinating Elk facts. 

1. Elk are Often Confused For Moose

People often mistake a moose for being an elk. However, there are quite a few distinctive features to both of them if you notice them properly. Moose are the largest among the two and usually hang out alone. 

But elks are always in groups. 

2. Not Every Elk Has an Antler

Unlike some deer species, only male elks possess an antler. Male elks use their antlers during the mating season to compete with other elks. 

3. Elk Play an Important Role in the Ecosystem 

Elks are essential for our Ecosystem, as they help shape plant communities. 

4. Elk Are Very Friendly and Social 

It is already mentioned that elk can be found in groups, which means they are very social beings. They always live in large groups. 

5. Elk Prefer the Cold Weather 

Elk always prefer living in the cold, and that’s when they are the most active. 

All About Colorado Elk Hunting

Elk Hunting
By: dukkillr/Flickr @All Rights Reserved

The elk population in Colorado is estimated at 286,000 heads which is greater than any other state. The elk hunt tourism plays a crucial role in the economy and lifestyle of the Colorado rural community.

With numerous game species in Arizona, elk hunting often sees its ups and downs throughout the history in the Colorado Elk hunt.

With good road access, a wide range of terrain and thousand acres of land, large public areas and customized options of guided, semi-guided, or DIY hunting options and lastly, the opportunity to buy elk tags over the counter, and being able to fly to a major airport are some of the reasons why the Colorado elk hunting or big game hunting is so well known and the best in the whole of America.  

How to buy Elk tags in Colorado?

There are several ways you can buy elk tags in Colorado. Colorado has several hunting seasons, which may differ from Game Management Units. The general archery season opens up at the end of August till the 4th week of September. It may include Archery, Muzzleloader, 1ST rifle, 2nd rifle, 3rd rifle, 4th rifle, and late archery.

The seasons are the same year to year with pre-rut, rut, and post-rut hunts. The Muzzleloader season is probably the best Colorado elk hunting season.

It runs in the middle of the archery season, the elevation and weather play an important role, the hunting pressure rises with two open seasons, but the large terrain and vast amounts of elk herds can handle the traffic.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife came up with a great plan that gives elks a 20-day break between the archery season and the first rifle season. It helps the elk to fall back into their routine, settle down.

The first rifle season begins from 13th-17th October.

The second rifle season often brings a mix of different terrains, higher and lower elevations. Good weather, making it typically productive for the hunter if they can score a trophy after a successful hunt the meat of the bull, horses, bugling bull, muzzleloader elk, harvest and woods like timber and dark timber would typically help the economy in a significant way.

The third rifle season begins from November 3 till the 11th.

The weather turns cold, and the snow starts to set on the ground, and the elks are on their feet more often in a pack because of the snow.

The fourth rifle season runs from 14-18th November.

It is a winter hunt, but the animals are more on their feet than on the trees. It is also the season where most animals follow their dependable daily routine patterns and settle in their winter ranges. Both bull elk and cows can be easily hunted if scouted properly and score a trophy.

During the seasons, one can hunt both deer and elks. The OTC tags are valid only in OTC units that have the license by the USDA Forest Services for the hunting season they are issued. The first day for the sales of Colorado OTC permits on July 25.

It is usually limited and sold on a first-come, first serviced basis. The application dates and deadline for limited draw units are April 1.  An area with few licensed tags means that you are required to be flexible with the hunting dates given.

What units are better for elk hunting?

The question doesn’t have a hard and fast answer; based on Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the most 300+ point elk trophies are from GMU 2, 10, and 201. Although GMU 12, 23, and 24 are high, units 76, 79, and 791 may be the highest.

Relying entirely on the unit’s reputation is not the best idea. Success depends on too many other factors. You may be in the best unit and still have no luck, whereas you may get a shot at the lower team.

When is the best time to hunt Elk in Colorado?

Elk Hunting Season
By: Bryan Carnathan/Flickr @All Rights Reserved

For any elk hunter, the principal focus is on the bugle. In Colorado, it starts mid-September and covers the archery and the rifle seasons of the west.

Stepping aside from the bugle, the best time depends on the method as well as the territory. In significant parts of Colorado, archery and early rifle season are the best time to visit.

However, in other regions, later seasonal hunts are more successful. The golden rule to keep in mind is that during Colorado elk hunting is that the elevations should be higher, and during the later winter seasons, the elks tend to migrate towards the ground.

Which type of hunting should you choose?

The Colorado elk hunting choices are wide and varied, from a fully catered hunt with a comfortable lodge to a DIY search on public land and ranches living inside a camp.

It includes everything in between, like guided tours, semi-guided tours, and the ones where you can be accommodated in local motels, inns and visit restaurants.

Visitors in the Colorado department do not necessarily need to be accompanied by a local guide for the Colorado elk hunting. However, the Colorado outfitters and guides need licenses when visiting private lands.

More information about them can be found on the Colorado Outfitters Association, from where you can choose public or private land, limited draw, or OTC, DIY or guided is up to you.

The cost, however, might be over $600, excluding the travel and lodging expenses depending on the private property, drop camps and rifle seasons.

The average success rate of the OTC tag hunt is 10 percent, and for limited draw hunts, it is 20 percent.

The best option might be to hire a guide as it doubles the probability of hunting the animal.

The best guides work either on private land and know the less-traveled paths. Therefore you’re most likely to hunt in areas with less pressure, which gives a better shot at animal hunting experience.

In short, if you lack considerable experience in Colorado elk hunts, then hiring a licensed outfitter by the USDA Forest Service, visiting the national forest in season dates, using suggested hunting locations is supposed to be a good investment. 


  • The legal bull needs to have antlers with at least four points on one side or brow tunes 5 inches or longer. 
  • To purchase a hunting license in Colorado, you need to show the hunter’s safety card before the Colorado elk hunt. 
  • Colorado hunters need to wear 500 square inches of blaze orange, a headgear visible from all directions. The blaze orange or pink incorporated.
  • The Colorado elk hunting takes place in steep terrain, valleys, and woods.
  • Most elk hunts in Colorado take place on high altitudes. Hunters from the plains might experience mountain sickness. It is also a risky condition.
  • Colorado is a grizzly habitat range. Other predators, like mountain lions and black bears, may be spotted. Therefore caution is advised.

Now you are all set to go Colorado elk hunting. I hope to have provided you with all the related information to Colorado elk hunting to make your hunting session a significant success. 

We would love to hear about your Colorado elk hunting trip. Comment down below! So, if you have ever been Colorado elk hunting before, share your experiences with us. 

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