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.
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
- 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.
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.
|Archery Hunt||September 2||29 days|
|Early High Country Rifle Deer||First or Second Saturday of September||9 days|
|Muzzleloader||Second Saturday of September||9 days|
|First Season Rifle||First Saturday after October 9||5 days|
|Second Season Rifle||9 days after the end of First Season||9 days|
|Third Season Rifle||5 days after the end of the Second Season||7 days|
|Fourth Season Rifle||4 days after the end of the Third Season||5 days|
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.
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.
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.
|Archery Hunt||First shot at elk, longest season, mild weather||Limited to bowhunting, milder weather means elk are still higher up|
|Early High Country Rifle Deer||First shot using a rifle, bull elk are rutting||Earlier season means more trekking, shorter season|
|Muzzleloader||Plenty of licensing opportunities||Limited to muzzleloaders|
|First Season Rifle||Early opportunity at rifle hunting, weather conditions are favorable to navigating the terrain||Tends to be saturated, still too early in the year for migration|
|Second Season Rifle||Longest rifle season, lower chance of getting snowed out, migration starting, combined deer hunting season||Weather is starting to pick up, limited licenses on antlerless elk|
|Third Season Rifle||Longer season, migration established||Weather may be too harsh|
|Fourth Season Rifle||Less competition due to holiday, last chance at hunting||Overlaps with Thanksgiving, weather is usually harsher, the selection is slim|
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.
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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Primal Pioneer is a food blog and public land hunting resource by Mike and Jennifer Shreckengost. We’re a husband and wife team who combined their two passions – a love of the outdoors and food – into a joint effort with Primal Pioneer! You’ll find resources on planning and executing your own DIY over-the-counter public land big game hunt, along with wild game recipes featuring mostly venison and elk.