The 2023 hunting season is upon us, and this year marks some changes in big game hunting licenses — primarily, that fewer have been issued.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced in May of this year that these “unprecedented big-game hunting license reductions” were due to severe and prolonged winter weather conditions throughout the state, especially in northwestern Colorado. The hope is that these temporary restrictions allow herd populations to recover as quickly as possible.
For those who were able obtain a hunting license this season, CPW offers a hunt planner service. Connect with a Hunt Planner by calling 303-297-1192 and they will help you map out your hunt. Colorado also has a Hunting Atlas program which provides information on big game concentrations and typical migration patterns as well as topo maps. The CPW website provides a map of all state wildlife areas and participating ranches detailing acreage, what game can be hunted on the land, restrictions and interactive maps.
In addition, some hunting date ranges have been shorted. These changes vary slightly depending on the area and game. CPW’s 2023 Colorado Big Game Hunting Brochure provides a helpful guideline for these specific changes. You can view the brochure and other hunting information for big and small game by visiting cpw.state.co.us.
For the 2023-2024 season, CPW reports 236,600 licenses were issued for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bear. This is a 12% decrease (32,000 licenses) compared to last year.
Despite this decrease, local hunters look forward to the season. “This is my third hunting season,” Elbert County resident Calla Walker says. “I hunt turkey, dove, antelope and mule deer.”
To Walker and her family, hunting is not only a pastime, but a way to fill their freezer and provide meals for their family.
“Whenever I’m setting up, I thank the earth and Mother Nature for the pure food that I will be able to provide my family,” Walker said. “I do believe in God and I’m thankful for God, but I also strongly believe in Mother Nature and what she provides.”
For hunters, it is really all about the experience, and the Centennial State is second to none. “I got into hunting because of my husband, and it’s been the most incredible and humbling experience and truly gave me a different perspective on just going to the grocery store,” Walker added. “We also process all our meat, so that’s been a whole other humbling experience in itself.”
Colorado has some of the most diverse hunting opportunities in the country with 10 different big game species available, making it a popular travel destination for hunters. The state is also home to the largest elk herds in the world, estimated at 280,000 animals. Whitetails, mule deer and pronghorns are commonly found on the eastern plains.
Additionally, Colorado has vast land available for hunting, both public and private. The state boasts over 23 million acres of public land, and through CPW partnerships, 2 million acres of private lands are available for public hunting. The huntable land in Elbert County is primarily private and includes designated state wildlife areas.
Jumping Cow State Wildlife Area, located in Elbert County, sits on nearly 15,000 acres. Doves, mule deer, pronghorn and white-tailed deer doe can be harvested here. All the state wildlife areas in Colorado are acquired using money from hunter and angler licenses sold with the purpose of providing wildlife-related recreational spaces and to conserve wildlife habitats. Habitat Stamps, which have been required when applying for or purchasing any hunting or fishing license since 2006, provide the primary funding for the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Program (CWHP).