Colorado Reduces Big Game Permits

Colorado’s Brutal Winter

The recent winter in the northwest corner of Colorado has been nothing short of harsh. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has taken notice of the challenging conditions and made some significant adjustments to big-game hunting licenses and season dates. A press release on May 23 revealed this information.

CPW Announcement

During the May Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting, CPW staff presented the highly anticipated Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, and Moose Limited License Recommendations. They also revealed their annual State of the Herds Update. Following thorough discussions, the commission approved several regulations aimed at mitigating the effects of tough winter on the wildlife population. In total, CPW will issue 236,600 licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bear this year. However, it’s worth noting that compared to last year, there has been a reduction of 32,000 limited licenses (-12%). The CPW has implemented these changes to strike a balance and facilitate the herds’ swift recovery.


Notably, the number of deer licenses statewide has been reduced by 12,600 (-12%) compared to the previous year. For the northwest region, which bore the brunt of the severe winter, there is a significant reduction of 12,800 (-33%) deer licenses. These adjustments reflect the need to ensure the well-being and recovery of the deer population.
Elk licenses are also affected by the winter’s impact, with CPW limiting the issuance to 107,700 licenses, a decrease of 15,400 (-12%) from last year. Additionally, archery licenses for hunt code E-E-004-O1-A and muzzleloader licenses for hunt codes E-E-004-O1-M and E-E-014-O1-M have been further reduced by 25%. It’s important to note that the changes in license numbers are the primary focus here, and the dates for archery and muzzleloader season in these hunt codes remain unchanged.

CPW makes big cuts to big game hunting licenses in Northwest Colorado |
CPW makes big cuts to big game hunting licenses in Northwest Colorado |

Season Changes

In response to the challenging winter conditions, the Commission has made adjustments to the season dates for over-the-counter elk licenses. This will affect the Severe Winter Zone shown above during the second and third rifle seasons. The affected hunt codes are E-M-000-U2-R and E-M-000-U3-R. To allow for the herds’ recovery, the season dates have been shortened to five days, from October 28, 2023, to November 1, 2023, and from November 11, 2023, to November 15, 2023. These changes apply to specific game management units (GMUs) including 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 23, 24, 131, 211, 214, 231, 301, and 441. However, season dates for all other eligible GMUs across the state will remain unaffected.

Furthermore, the Commission has finalized regulations modifying the big-game license allocation for black bears, deer, elk, and pronghorn. The allocation has been adjusted to favor residents. The current adjustment shows 75% of licenses are now allocated to residents and 25% to nonresidents for most hunt codes for these species. Starting from the 2024 big-game seasons, they will implement these changes. It’s important to note that high-demand hunt codes will remain at 80% for residents and 20% for non-residents.

State biologists recommend a decrease in hunting licenses in Northwest Colorado |
State biologists recommend a decrease in hunting licenses in Northwest Colorado |


One cannot understate the severity of the winter conditions in the northwest corner of Colorado, known as the “Severe Winter Zone.” Heavy storms and strong winds have wreaked havoc, burying the natural food sources of elk under hard-packed snow. The same goes for mule deer and pronghorn in the region. Reports indicate that the snow conditions experienced from Rangely to Steamboat Springs and the Wyoming state line have been the most severe in the region in the past 70 years. To fully comprehend the impact on wildlife, CPW staff will diligently hold weekly meetings to assess snow conditions. They will also monitor the survival rates of GPS-collared animals in the affected area.

Visit the CPW’s website for more information. Likewise, you can read more Colorado hunting news by clicking here.

What are your thoughts on these big game permit reductions? How was the winter in your area? Let us know in the comments!

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