Colorado, the Nation’s Centennial State, offers hunters premier hunting opportunities not found in any other state. Colorado is entrusted with almost 24 million acres of public land, much of which is conducive to and authorized for hunting. Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) administers small and large game hunting seasons for the novice and expert hunter. Small game quarry include a wide variety of common and not-so-common game animals to include ringneck pheasant, various species of grouse, quail, and squirrel, cottontail rabbit, jackrabbit, prairie rattlesnake, marmot, badger, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, coyote, three species of fox, beaver, snapping turtle, geese, ducks, dove, ptarmigan, chukar and pine martin to name several animal species. Big game animals include moose, mountain goat, bighorn and desert sheep, elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, mountain lion, bear, and pronghorn antelope. Colorado is also home to two species of turkey: Merriam and Rio Grande gobblers.
There are two “types” of big game hunting licenses (or, tags) in Colorado: an over-the-counter (OTC) tag and “limited” tag. With the exception of elk licenses which can be purchased “OTC” or as a “limited” tag, other big game hunting licenses are strictly “limited;” meaning: CPW limits the number of tags issued for an animal species, in a given “area” (game management unit or “GMU”) of the state. Thus, only a predetermined number of hunters will be lucky enough to draw a “limited” bear, deer, goat, etc., tag in a given GMU. Turkey tags, like big game licenses can be purchased as an OTC or limited license.
Like most states, CPW strictly enforces normal, reasonable hunting rules that address areas like method of take, season dates, care of game meat, daily and seasonal animal quotas, legal hunting hours, firearm/caliber and archery restrictions, etc. All these rules can be found in CPW’s yearly small and big game hunting brochures (hard-copy and on-line), which are updated annually.
Before You Get Started
Probably, the most important, “foundational” requirement to hunt in Colorado is to successfully complete a hunter safety course administered by Colorado Parks & Wildlife or another state’s game department. Specifically, anyone born after 1 January 1949 must possess and present a hunters safety card to purchase any small or big game hunting license. Hunter safety cards from another state are accepted. “Hunters age 50 or older or active duty U.S. military personnel have the option to test out of the hunter education requirements by scoring a 90% or better on an online test, which can only be taken once.
The free Apprentice Hunter Certificate is a one-year waiver of hunter education requirement with the aim of getting new hunters in the field. The apprentice hunter certificate can only be obtained once and is valid from April 1 to March 31. The apprentice certificate holder must be at least 10 years old and must be accompanied by a mentor at all times in the field. A mentor is someone at least 18 years old who has a hunter education certificate or was born before 1/1/1949. The mentor must carry proof of age and their hunter education certificate when in the field. A mentor can accompany up to two apprentices in the field.”
Lastly, a habitat stamp is required to hunt. “Habitat stamps are $10.00 and only one is required per person per year for anyone ages 18-64. Stamps are valid April 1-March 31. Hunters must purchase a habitat stamp before buying or applying for a preference point or a hunting or fishing license.”
All hunting rules and requirements are published in small and big game hunting brochures. Please see the Hunting pages of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website HERE for more information.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles for Hunting
Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Gather information about your hunt area and route from local land managers. Complete a hunter education course and familiarize yourself with your firearm.
- Read and follow all hunting regulations. Obtain proper tags and licenses and follow local bag and possession limits.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies. Always carry extra food, clothing, first aid kit and signal device.
- Get permission to hunt on private lands in advance. Respect all road and trail regulations.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of rock cairns, flagging or marking paint.
- For information on off highway vehicle use, contact Tread Lightly at (800) 966-9900.
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Durable surfaces include established roads, trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Site alterations are not necessary.
- Protect private property, public property and livestock; leave all gates as you find them.
In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activities in areas where vegetation is absent.
In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and break spots for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food, spent brass, shotgun shells, cigarette butts, etc.
- Gut piles are unsightly and attract bears. Drag piles well away from trails and highly visited areas.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6-8 inches deep at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished. Pack out toilet paper or bury it well beneath the surface.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater. Pack out food scraps.
Leave What You Find
- Preserve the past: observe, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Sight-in firearms at home or away from hunting areas. Do not use rocks, signs, trees or non-game animals for target practice.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native plant species and seeds.
- Use manufactured blinds rather than constructing them out of tree branches or other native vegetation. Do not build structures or furniture, or dig trenches.
Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Stoves are often the best option. Campfires and fire rings can scar the backcountry.
- If you must build a fire, use an established fire ring, fire pan or mound fire. Trash and garbage does not belong in the firepit and usually doesn’t burn completely.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand. Do not break branches off living or standing dead trees.
- Show respect for wildlife by taking only clean, killing shots, then retrieving and properly handling your game.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Be aware of your ‘field of fire.’ Do not shoot near developed areas, campsite, strucutures or roads.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail. Be discreet with your firearm and your kill around others.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
The Leave No Trace Seven Principles are reprinted with the permission of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. For more information, visit www.LNT.org.
This broad and expansive subject is too long to be covered here in one or two paragraphs. However, “gear” includes everything from camouflaged clothing, to hunting blinds, to a myriad of firearm and ammunition choices (handgun, rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, rim fire or centerfire cartridges), to footwear, to types of arrows, to backpacks, to optics, etc. Much of the gear a hunter purchases and uses is personal preference--some gear will be used by some hunters and ignored by others.
Where to Go
Hunting with Off-Highway Vehicles
Hunting with OHVs requires extra caution. Please heed Stay The Trail etiquette, found HERE.
The content on this page was provided by National Wild Turkey Federation