New big-game season structure for Colorado hunters

As with in 2020, you’ll notice some differences in this year’s hunting season schedule.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife changed hunting season structures for elk and deer for 2020 through 2024 during its annual five-year big game season structure process, spelling some different dates for different seasons.

“It’s just a slight adjustment, but people need to be aware of it,” says Area 6 Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie. “It hadn’t been changed for nearly 20 years.”

While the season dates follow the same general format, the second rifle season now starts five days later than it did before the new structure, which took into account input from resident and non-resident hunters. It also adheres to CPW’s priorities of evaluating and achieving management objectives; hunter satisfaction and participation; revenue generation; and law enforcement. It could also impact how hunters apply and their draw odds, as certain seasons could now become more popular.

Following is the new structure in a nutshell:


Season: Sept. 2-30

The archery hunt for deer and elk is now a 29-day season for 2020 through 2024, with annual dates of Sept. 2-30. Previously the season was 30 days long and always opened on the last Saturday in August; the new structure now creates a rotating opening date.

These new season dates could make for a better elk hunt, but could impact the chances of getting a velvet mule deer.


Unlimited either sex and antlerless archery elk licenses are available in certain units; however, either-sex elk licenses can be specified as bull-only with limited cow licenses geographically to meet management objectives. Limited either-sex licenses are valid in limited units. Over-the-counter List B archery elk antlerless licenses are only valid in units that also have List B rifle elk antlerless licenses.


All archery deer licenses are limited eithersex or limited buck and issued by Game Management Unit Data Analysis Unit.



Season: Sept. 12-20

(no change)

No change in date structure for the 2020-24 seasons. The early high country rifle deer hunt is a nine-day antlered buck deer season, in high country or wilderness portions of select deer units, opening the first or second Saturday of September.


Season: Sept. 11-19

There is no season structure change for the 2020 through 2024 seasons. Muzzleloader season opens on the second Saturday of September and runs for nine days.


Limited either-sex or limited antlered, and limited antlerless; all licenses issued by GMU/DAU.

DEER: Limited either-sex or limited antlered, and limited antlerless in some GMUs; all licenses issued by GMU/DAU.


(Separate Limited Elk)

Season: Oct. 16-20

The 1st season regular rifle elk hunt is still a five-day season, but starting in 2020 the gap between the 1st and 2nd season hunts will now be a nine-day break (instead of two days).

The starting date will continue to open on the first Saturday after Oct. 9. Antlerless elk licenses may be offered in DAUs over the population objective.


(Combined Deer/Elk)

Season: Oct. 30 – Nov. 2

The 2nd season rifle hunt will continue to be a nine-day season, followed by a five-day break (same as the old system). The season will open on a Saturday and includes two full weekends.

These season dates are now later than ever before.

Other notes: Unlimited licenses are available for antlered elk in OTC units. Limited either-sex or limited antlered elk licenses are available in remaining limited units. All antlerless elk licenses are limited. Limited licenses are issued by GMU/DAU. All deer licenses are limited, issued by GMU/DAU.


(Combined Deer/Elk)

Season: Nov. 13-19

The 3rd rifle season hunt now has a seven-day season, followed by a four-day break. For 2020 through 2024, the 3rd season will now close on a Friday. The later November dates increase the chance for cold weather and snow.

Other notes: Unlimited licenses are available for antlered elk in OTC units. Limited eithersex or limited antlered elk licenses are available in remaining limited units. All antlerless elk and deer licenses are limited, issued by GMU/DAU.


(Combined Limited Deer/Elk)

Season: Nov. 24-28

For 2020 through 2024,

Colorado’s 4th season is still a five-day season that opens on a Wednesday. The season dates are now pushed later into November, making the seasons open during Thanksgiving. Other notes: All licenses are limited, issued by GMU/DAU.