Menu
Back to Tips

Colorado's 2020-2026 new hunting season dates... how will they impact you?

Big changes to Colorado hunting season dates

Jump to: Archery High Country Rifle Muzzleloader 1st Season Rifle Elk 2nd Season Rifle 3rd Season Rifle 4th Season Rifle

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has made some potentially big changes to hunting season structures for elk and deer for 2020 through 2026 during their annual 5-year big game season structure process. CPW, "carefully considered all the input received from the Big Game Season Structure (BGSS) public meetings, telephone town halls, focus groups and two public comment forms to inform these recommendations. Through this process we heard from several thousand hunters, both resident and non-residents. We greatly appreciate your time and engagement in helping us inform the next Big Game Season Structure."

These new season structures might impact how you apply in the coming years and definitely has a chance to impact draw odds as certain seasons could now become more coveted. In the tables below, you will find the historical and new season structure dates.​

Special note

These are the pretty much the final recommendations and are mostly set in stone, but could potentially change when they hit the commission meeting on July 18 in Telluride. The commission could change these dates, but usually, they don't, as this process has already gone through a lengthy process and the main public comment period deadline of July 3 is already over. You can see the meeting minutes for July 18 here. It should be noted that additional comments received from July 3 and noon on July 15, will be provided to the Commission two business days before the meeting. You can submit your comments before the July 18 meeting at the email address here: dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us

So with that said... the dates presented below are still tentative dates.

The information below does not include the plains hunts. I left those off due to the amount of private land.


Archery

The archery hunt for deer and elk is now a 29-day season for 2020 through 2026, with exact annual dates of September 2 – September 30.

Previously the season was 30 days long and always opened on the last Saturday in August. Also, this new structure now creates a rotating opening date. These new season dates could mean for a better elk hunt, but they could have an impact on the chances of a velvet mule deer.

Elk: Unlimited either-sex and antlerless archery elk licenses are available in certain units; however, either-sex licenses for elk can be specified as bull-only with limited cow licenses geographically to meet management objectives. Limited either-sex licenses valid in totally limited units. Over-the-counter (OTC) List B archery elk antlerless licenses only valid in units that also have List B rifle elk antlerless licenses.
Deer: All archery deer licenses are limited either-sex or limited buck and issued by Game Management Unit (GMU)/Data Analysis Unit (DAU).

Archery deer and elk historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Aug. 25 Sept. 23
2013 Aug. 31 Sept. 29
2014 Aug. 30 Sept. 28
2015 Aug. 29 Sept. 27
2016 Aug. 27 Sept. 25
2017 Aug. 26 Sept. 24
2018 Aug. 25 Sept. 23
2019 Aug. 31 Sept. 29
2020 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2021 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2022 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2023 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2024 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2025 Sept. 2 Sept. 30
2026 Sept. 2 Sept. 30

Early high country rifle deer

No change in date structure for the 2020-2026 seasons.

The early high country rifle deer hunt is a 9-day antlered buck deer season, in high country or wilderness portions of select deer units, opening the first Saturday of September or the second Saturday of September to avoid opening Labor Day weekend.

Early high country rifle deer historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2015 Sept. 12 Sept. 20
2016 Sept. 10 Sept. 18
2017 Sept. 9 Sept. 17
2018 Sept. 8 Sept. 16
2019 Sept. 7 Sept. 15
2020 Sept. 12 Sept. 20
2021 Sept. 11 Sept. 19
2022 Sept. 10 Sept. 18
2023 Sept. 9 Sept. 17
2024 Sept. 7 Sept. 15
2025 Sept. 6 Sept. 14
2026 Sept. 12 Sept. 20

Muzzleloader

There is no season structure change for the 2020 through 2026 seasons. Muzzleloader season opens on the second Saturday of September and runs for a total of 9 days.

Elk: 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.

Muzzleloader deer and elk historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Sept. 8 Sept. 16
2013 Sept. 14 Sept. 22
2014 Sept. 13 Sept. 21
2015 Sept. 12 Sept. 20
2016 Sept. 10 Sept. 18
2017 Sept. 9 Sept. 17
2018 Sept. 8 Sept. 16
2019 Sept. 14 Sept. 22
2020 Sept. 12 Sept. 20
2021 Sept. 11 Sept. 19
2022 Sept. 10 Sept. 18
2023 Sept. 9 Sept. 17
2024 Sept. 14 Sept. 22
2025 Sept. 13 Sept. 21
2026 Sept. 12 Sept. 20

 

Shop article bar


1st season regular rifle elk

The 1st season regular rifle elk hunt is still a 5-day season, but new starting in 2020, the gap between the 1st season and 2nd season hunts will now be a 6-day break. The old break between 1st and 2nd season was two days. The starting date will continue to open on the first Saturday after October 9. According to CPW, antlerless elk licenses may be offered in DAUs over the population objective. 

1st rifle elk historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Oct. 13 Oct. 17
2013 Oct. 12 Oct. 16
2014 Oct. 11 Oct. 15
2015 Oct. 10 Oct. 14
2016 Oct. 15 Oct. 19
2017 Oct. 14 Oct. 18
2018 Oct. 12 Oct. 17
2019 Oct. 12 Oct. 16
2020 Oct. 10 Oct. 14
2021 Oct. 16 Oct. 20
2022 Oct. 15 Oct. 19
2023 Oct. 14 Oct. 18
2024 Oct. 12 Oct. 16
2025 Oct. 11 Oct. 15
2026 Oct. 10 Oct. 14

Second season rifle

2nd and 3rd season rifle hunts have some big changes! The 2nd season rifle hunt is now a 7-day season, followed by a 10-day break period. This new season structure also doubles the amount of downtime in-between 2nd and 3rd season. Note: 2nd season will now open on a Wednesday.

The old system was a 9-day season followed by a 5-day break before the 3rd season opened.

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

Second season deer and elk past and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Oct. 20 Oct. 28
2013 Oct. 19 Oct. 27
2014 Oct. 18 Oct. 26
2015 Oct. 17 Oct. 25
2016 Oct. 22 Oct. 30
2017 Oct. 21 Oct. 29
2018 Oct. 20 Oct. 28
2019 Oct. 19 Oct. 27
2020 Oct. 21 Oct. 27
2021 Oct. 27 Nov. 2
2022 Oct. 26 Nov. 1
2023 Oct. 25 Oct. 31
2024 Oct. 23 Oct. 29
2025 Oct. 22 Oct. 28
2026 Oct. 21 Oct. 27

Third season rifle

As mentioned above, 3rd season rifle hunts saw some big changes. The 3rd rifle season hunt now has a 7-day season, followed by a 4-day break. Note: For 2020 through 2026, 3rd season will now close on a Friday.

The old system was a 9-day season followed by a 2-day break. Also, third season dates are now pushed later into November increasing the chance for cold weather and snow.

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

Third season deer and elk historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Nov. 3 Nov. 11
2013 Nov. 2 Nov. 10
2014 Nov. 1 Nov. 9
2015 Oct. 31 Nov. 8
2016 Nov. 5 Nov. 13
2017 Nov. 4 Nov. 12
2018 Nov. 3 Nov. 11
2019 Nov. 2 Nov. 10
2020 Nov. 7 Nov. 13
2021 Nov. 13 Nov. 19
2022 Nov. 12 Nov. 18
2023 Nov. 11 Nov. 17
2024 Nov. 9 Nov. 15
2025 Nov. 8 Nov. 14
2026 Nov. 7 Nov. 13

Fourth season rifle

For 2020 through 2026, Colorado's 4th season is still a 5-day season that opens on a Wednesday.

Note: The season dates are now pushed later into November, making the seasons open during Thanksgiving.

Other notes from CPW: All licenses limited. Limited either-sex or limited antlered, and limited antlerless; all licenses issued by GMU/DAU.

Fourth season deer and elk historical and future season dates

Year Open Close
2012 Nov. 14 Nov. 18
2013 Nov. 13 Nov. 17
2014 Nov. 12 Nov. 16
2015 Nov. 11 Nov. 15
2016 Nov. 16 Nov. 20
2017 Nov. 15 Nov. 19
2018 Nov. 14 Nov. 18
2019 Nov. 13 Nov. 17
2020 Nov. 18 Nov. 22
2021 Nov. 24 Nov. 28
2022 Nov. 23 Nov. 27
2023 Nov. 22 Nov. 26
2024 Nov. 20 Nov. 24
2025 Nov. 19 Nov. 23
2026 Nov. 18 Nov. 22

A link to the official 2020-2026 Big Game Season Structure can be found here if you want to take a look at other species season dates.

goHUNT's INSIDER Research Tools

27 Comments

Log in or register to post comments.

marcus t. - posted 14 hours ago on 07-16-2019 05:04:15 pm
Pullman, wa
goHUNT INSIDER

I meant to say ‘even years’ for ML and early rifle. My bad

marcus t. - posted 14 hours ago on 07-16-2019 05:01:50 pm
Pullman, wa
goHUNT INSIDER

Colorado has always baffles me in regards to the multiple seasons, overlapping of weapons etc. I get it to a degree as Colorado has alpine to desert type of environments and a huge NR draw. I wonder if CWD has ever explored a rotation type of draw whereby archery tags are offered on odd years and muzzle loader/early deer tags offers on odd years but a guy could continue to gain points on the ‘off years’? I finally got tired of the state and burned my deer points at least this year. Sort of glad I did cuz this all makes my head hurt.

Gary H. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 09:21:25 am
goHUNT INSIDER

The new season dates will make an interesting draw. A lot of top point holders will settle for 3rd season tags.

Lot of shuffling going on in people heads this year for sure. Including mine.

matthew a. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 08:44:30 am
Tampa, FL
goHUNT INSIDER

Nick C,

My wife agrees that the butcher option is cost beneficial to filling the freezer- good hunor.

Jokes aside, I like the change. I do have concerns about long term affects upon deer quality? 3rd rifle having a greater tag allocation and moving into solid rut window may reduce overall age structure in time.

An,example: look at Montana Mule deer age structure as a result of rifle hunting the rut. Still plenty of deer, but lacks trophy potential.

Andy M. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 10:51:45 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

I can only hope more nonresidents hate the season structure...

Douglas Y. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 05:28:19 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Not going to commit on the archery season structure to much. Maybe having separate archery seasons for Deer & Elk would be the way to go with deer season starting in August, but 29 day's seems like an adequate amount of time for the season length.

But shortening the 2nd & 3rd rifle seasons & doing away with 50% of the weekend hunting day's stinks for some of us local rifle hunters that live only an hour our two away from their hunting areas, and don't want to or can't take off day's during the week. I away's enjoyed the 2nd weekend of the 9 day season's a lot less hunters in the field. Have taken a lot of animals on the last weekend of the 9 day seasons, and I have been hunting for many years.

Also I can't see how shorter seasons are in the best interests of a hunter that has invested a lot of preference points in a hunt. Now you can spend several day's before the season start's "scouting" but, lots of things can change weather, hunting pressure, maybe you get sick, maybe you need to rest for a day or two & re-group, vehicle problems, etc.. More day's to hunt is always better in my opinion for the hunter that has a lot of preference points tied up in a hunt.

So, if your not one of those professional hunter type guy's that always get's his animal/trophy on the 1st few day's of the season, and would like to keep the season lengths, as is I suggest you voice your displeasure at the email address for the wildlife commission dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us. If enough people complain maybe the wildlife commission will reject the season structure.

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 02:35:15 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

Lol, well play mathew a.

You (and most of the guys on this thread) would probably hate my spots, there are other trucks at the trailheads, other hunters in the field, hunting with other types of weapons, no game (because CPW let us kill them all) and soon to be....wolves.

My spots are definitely not for you. ; )

Here's an option that's always produced when I need it most:
https://goo.gl/maps/A2RWBtnpWdawqUH56

matthew a. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 01:07:13 pm
Tampa, FL
goHUNT INSIDER

Nick C.

Im having a hard time killing animals. Please send me all your grid coordinance to aide in my endeavors.

Matt

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 01:04:15 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

CPW manages tag allocations based on harvest history predictions by weapon per season. The market, aka Us, determines what those tags are worth. CPW doesn't manage for "premier tags" the manage populations and opportunity.

They give us an opportunity (albeit limited) to kill mule deer above treeling with a rifle in early September. It's limited because the success rates are higher. The market then determines the value of those scarce tags in terms of preference points. This value is determined inclusive or exclusive of having archery and muzzleloader hunters around.

It's economics: supply, demand, perceived value and return on investment.

There's no great scheme at CPW to gouge hunters and eradicate herds. They're trying to make sure there's plenty of opportunities (read: revenue) while maintaining herd health so that there will continue to be plenty of opportunities (read: revenue) in perpetuity.

Are you all having that hard a time killing animals?!

Hugh M. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 12:12:25 pm
Grand Junction
goHUNT INSIDER

I hear a lot of archery hunters complain about getting the shaft while rifle and muzzleloader hunts are happening. I completely understand the complaint and as long as these hunts run together you'll get the shaft. I hunt archery about every other year depending on tags and work but here is my complaint... For early rifle deer tags I think those hunts should come first because they generally take the most points to get and should be considered a premier tag, pretty stupid to burn 10+ points only to compete with all the other hunters in the woods. Most of the time those hunts have to compete with Archery hunters AND Muzzleloader hunters. I think they need to divide these seasons into three parts so none of them have to compete with the other, an overlapping weekend is fine. Early rifle tags should go first in my opinion due to the amount of years put in to getting those tags. Archery (which are generally easier to draw tags) should come second. Most of the early rifle hunts will not disturb the deer or elk for the Archery hunts. Then let the crazed Muzzleloader hunters at it, muzzleloader in my opinion messes up most of the mountain for us archery and early rifle guys:). I definitely don't agree with 3rd season being so late. Our deer herds are up and down and pushing that season further into the rut will only kill off many of those better bucks. Then to cut back the days people can hunt??? What the hell!! Clearly as stated earlier it's not about the hunter or even the animals it's about the dollar...

corybendixen
cory b. - posted 5 days ago on 07-11-2019 11:00:40 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Why would a archery hunter want to compete with a rifle and muzzleloader hunter? Just doesn't make sense. And about the ugliest thing is a picture of a mule deer with half the velvet falling off....

Chris P. - posted 6 days ago on 07-11-2019 02:18:38 am
goHUNT INSIDER

I am not a fan of the archery season mule deer dates. If you're an archery mule deer hunter, you're getting the shaft on finding a velvet buck. These changes leave a very limited window to make it happen. If you're an archery elk hunter, these dates are pretty typical of most states. It's very unlikely that I will continue putting in for the archery mule deer hunts going forward. I'll probably just burn my points and be done with CO mule deer next year. There are plenty of other states that offer way more advantageous season dates.

Andy M. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 11:50:43 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

The changes are mostly good. The increased rifle season breaks and less weekend days have a possibility of decreasing animal stress and increasing hunt quality. Archery hunters have it really good. This is a tiny change by moving dates back by a week (at most). Even people who will benefit from these changes are likely to complain about them for years.

nacoppolo
Nick C. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 10:18:03 pm
Denver, Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

I'm a fan. If you haven't read the commission's report outlining their objectives and potential solutions that lead to these decisions, you should.

Cpw prints money for the state by managing its herds. They're not idiots, they know exactly what they're doing.

cloan
Charlie L. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 08:46:58 pm
Lakewood, CO

Rifle hunters getting the shaft as well as archery and especially residents, but non's too. Cutting 2nd and 3rd rifle seasons by two days and 50% of the weekend days when the most common thing they heard was to keep season lengths the same and the same number of weekend days, just shows how stupid they are and continue to be. As many of you said it is all about money and we can thank CO Parks for that. They couldn't manage themselves so they got dumbass hickenlooper to put them together so they could milk and steal from Wildlife. Thank God we don't have to worry about his dumbass being president.

Eddie K. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 07:44:01 pm
Colorado
goHUNT INSIDER

Not sure what everyone is complaining about, the changes are mostly good except for early archery deer. If you'd been paying attention you'd know that this was by far the best option on the table...

Leroy P. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 07:38:54 pm

It seems that CPW is all about money. Making residents buy a small game license this is just another way of getting the residents money. Been hunting for over 30 years and have always drawn a cow tag my hunting party of nine or more have always drawn cow tags This year none of us drew. But CPW got their money by making us buy small game license which none of us hunt.

Frank C. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 07:19:40 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Colorado is going down a deep dark rabbit hole. Archery hunters are getting the shaft with this new structure. Especially archery mule deer. There's talk of banning lion hunting and releasing a thousand assassin's (Canadian Grey Wolves) west of the divide.
CPW increased deer tags in the Gunnison Basin this year after a hard winter and record roadkill upwards of 1500 deer including pregnant females. Where's the logic in that decision? As a 25 year resident and almost 50 year old man I'm very concerned about the future of hunting here.

oran2463
Oran P. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 07:07:20 pm
Cleburne, Tx
goHUNT INSIDER

Well I like the archery going all the way to the 30th for elk, but I dislike having muzzle loader hunters in during the prime time elk. Also my opinion remains the same, it’s all about the money for Colorado , they could care less about herd objective etc, basically let’s sell those tags!! I am a non resident , and it sucks to see the crowds , and no animals!!

Marshall L. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 06:38:04 pm
Grand Junction, CO
goHUNT INSIDER

The archery elk hunters are getting a good deal. Extra days at the end of September will be nice for them, but be prepared like always to see a lot of hunters in OTC units.

2nd and 3rd season OTC units will be a shit show like always. Wear your orange and don’t shoot at skylined animals. I had a bullet zip in front of my face a few years back and almost became a statistic.

All in all, there were not many drastic changes.

Jason O. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 05:45:20 pm

Colorado hunting continues to become a rich man's sport. And yes archery hunters continue to get the shaft, let's just keep shortening our hunt by adding muzzle loaders and rifle hunters in the same season. Funny how other states have one or two months or one or two seasons for archery hunting and Colorado can't seem to get it together. I love my state but I get a much better hunt now by going out of state to hunt. Such a shame!

Cody B. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 05:30:17 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

I like the changes. A couple days shaved off here and there and more time for the animals to get a break. Should be better hunting for 3rd and 4th seasons. 2nd May be better but now has a higher likelihood of being impacted by weather.

matthew a. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 05:13:14 pm
Tampa, FL
goHUNT INSIDER

Never mind , got so caught up in the calendar for half missed the elk part.

Christian L. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 05:12:37 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

As a new to CO resident, I have to shake my head when it comes to the CPW. I understand from a business perspective creating opportunities for sales dollars, however it really seems like they have no interest in making it a better experience or to take a better animal. What it does seem like it, as always, worth more money. I have got on several hunts here in CO now and I have been disappointed every time. Mostly it was non hunters that ruined my hunt or lack of animals.- Honestly I will be taking my money and time back east where I don't have to put up with the crowds and the issues. I know a lot of folks do well out here but my point is, I don't feel that CPW cares about what they should.

matthew a. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 05:08:54 pm
Tampa, FL
goHUNT INSIDER

I like the change, 3rd rifle is primetime pre rut / rut hunt. The # of tags is subject to capacity reguardless of residency.

Look at the bright side, many NR hunters will be back east chasing whitetails mid Nov. What im really curious to see, is if elk overlaps with deer?

Stephen W. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 03:53:28 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

Perfect. Colorado’s 2nd and 3rd rifle seasons are already the most crowded and claustrophobic hunts in the west due to the unlimited number of nonresidents. Now they’re reducing the season lengths by 22% which will just cram us all into a shorter period of time and worsen the problem. CPW continuing to find innovative new ways to stick it to their residents. Don’t forget your rock to stand on and your bulletproof vest next fall.

JOSEPH S. - posted 6 days ago on 07-10-2019 03:34:10 pm
CHICAGO, IL
goHUNT INSIDER

Anyone else feel like the archery hunters are getting the shaft here? The window for a buck in velvet is slim and looking at 2025 the early rifle season opens 4 days post archery?