Colorado Hunting FAQs


NOTE: Comments are opinion only and may not be construed as legal or medical advice. Any action must always be preceded by seeking competent legal or medical counsel. Citations are shown as of the date indicated and may have been modified by legislation, therefore, it is the reader's responsibility to seek the current legal version of any citation. Please note that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), previously known as the Colorado Division of Wildlife, is continually making changes to their website. So, if you experience any broken links or a link that takes you to the wrong location, please notify us.

I am a federal felon due to an Anti Trust Violation, which permits violators to maintain his or her Right to Bear Arms. Based on this, can I hunt in Colorado?
Does a conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence prevent one from hunting in Colorado or carry a firearm?
I have a non violent felony conviction from another state. Can I hunt in Colorado?
Where can I find the regulations for hunting big game in Colorado?
What are the general rules for crossbow hunters and the requirement to wear orange?
What should I do if my hunt may be during a migration?
I have a Private Land Voucher. Am I only allowed to hunt on that private land?
What are the requirements in regards to a Hunter Education Safety Course?
How many preference points are required for each Game Management Unit and animal?
Where can I go to find out how many preference points I have?
Where can I find the number of tags allowed for a specific animal and unit?
What percentage of tags are allocated to residents and nonresidents?
I will be hunting with an ATV. What are Colorado's requirements and laws?
Can you define a legal kill? [Note: 2 hunters claiming same animal]
While bow hunting, can one also carry a handgun?
Hunting over salt.
Game shot on public but runs on to private.

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I am a federal felon due to an Anti Trust Violation, which permits violators to maintain his or her Right to Bear Arms. Based on this, can I hunt in Colorado?

Based upon our research into similar instances and the applicable statutes, which don't seem to provide exceptions or relief as do federal statutes, we see no allowances in this regard. However, since Colorado statutes seem to complement federal statutes in its implementation, we'd suggest seeking legal "Colorado-based" counsel in this matter.

Does a conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence prevent one from hunting in Colorado or carry a firearm?

Upon first glance at the statutes, it seems that way especially since the restrictions placed upon misdemeanor domestic violators are intertwined with federal statutes. In other instances that we have looked at, Colorado statutes don't seem to provide relief or exceptions from federal law. Here's some of the applicable statutes.

18-12-108(6)(c)(I)(A), C.R.S. -- A person commits the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender in violation of this section if the person knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a firearm as described in section 18-1-901 (3) (h), or any other weapon that is subject to the provisions of this title subsequent to the person's conviction ... for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. sec. 921 (a) (33) (A), or subsequent to the person's conviction for attempt or conspiracy to commit such misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

18-1-901(3)(h), C.R.S. -- “Firearm” means any handgun, automatic, revolver, pistol, rifle, shotgun, or other instrument or device capable or intended to be capable of discharging bullets, cartridges, or other explosive charges.

[Source: CPW - reply B.T. 11/15/13]

I have a non violent felony conviction from another state. Can I hunt in Colorado?

The statute regulating possession of weapons by previous offenders is found in Title 18, the criminal code and is not part of Title 33, the wildlife code. C.R.S. 18-12-108(1) states - "A person commits the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender if the person knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a firearm as described in section 18-1-901 (3) (h) or any other weapon that is subject to the provisions of this article subsequent to the person's conviction for a felony, or subsequent to the person's conviction for attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony, under Colorado or any other state's law or under federal law." In addition, the guideline from the Colorado Attorney General's Office is that a bow and arrow (compound, crossbow, etc.) is an "other weapon that is subject to the provisions of this article" and therefore unlawful. In conclusion, it is not unlawful for a convicted felon to purchase a hunting license in Colorado but that person cannot exercise the benefits of that license due to the restrictions placed on them in the statutes.

[Source: CPW - reply B.T. 12/31/12]

NOTE. An Attorney General Opinion is a formal and published interpretation of existing law. At the current time, one does not exist on this issue, just a "Guideline." From a practical standpoint, this distinction is probably irrelevant.

Where can I find the regulations for hunting big game in Colorado?

You may call the Colorado Parks & Wildlife and request to be put on their mailing list to receive an annual booklet. You can also go online to Wildlife Regulations.

What are the general rules for crossbow hunters and the requirement to wear orange?

The 2012 Big Game booklet stipulates on page 12 that crossbow hunters can only hunt during rifle season. On page 13, it states, "It is a legal requirement for hunters to wear...orange...with any firearm license." But, a crossbow is not a firearm. It goes on to say, "This includes archery hunters who hunt during rifle season." But, a crossbow is not archery either...2 CCR 406-0, Article I.A.1. says, "Archery means the use of a hand-held bow." Hand-held bow (Article I.A.8.) - "means a long bow, recurved bow, or compound bow on which the string is not drawn mechanically or held mechanically under tension." [On a side note, there is an exception to the rule that crossbows can only be used during rifle season - people with disabilities can apply for an exception, and, if granted, may use a crossbow during archery season.] So, the Big Game booklet doesn't totally answer the question.

The Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) program can also have differing rules. The types of tags issued for these programs are determined jointly by Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the participating ranch. As of this update (Dec 2014), all participating ranches, with the exception of one, only offer "rifle" licenses. This, of course, means that any hunter, private or public, can use any "Legal Hunting Method."

Colorado Revised Statutes 33-6-121 says, "(1) Unless otherwise provided by commission rule, it is unlawful for any person to hunt or take elk, deer, pronghorn, moose, or black bear with any firearm unless such person is wearing daylight fluorescent orange garments that meet the following requirements: (a) Garments shall be solid daylight fluorescent orange colored material and shall be of sufficient brightness to be seen conspicuously from a reasonable distance. (b) Garments shall be a minimum of five hundred square inches and shall be worn as an outer garment above the waist, part of which shall be a hat or head covering visible from all directions." Well, this doesn't necessarily answer the question either. But, it allows for an exception or extension under commission rule.

Commission Regulation #209.E. Fluorescent Orange Garments. 1. Except for archers hunting during a limited bear season and archers hunting with an archery bear, deer, elk, pronghorn, or moose license, all persons hunting bear, deer, elk, pronghorn or moose shall be required to wear daylight fluorescent orange garments which comply with the requirements of §33-6-121, C.R.S. (emphasis - TheColoradoHunter.com)

[Source: CDOW - reply B.T. 4/17/12]

What should I do if my hunt may be during a migration?

Many of Colorado's big game animals migrate from their summer range to winter range because of the snow pack. Common sense dictates that if your well-planned hunt may be interrupted by early snows, then you should also be familiar with where your quarry may be going. You should go to CDOW's Game Management Unit Maps. Scroll to the bottom of the page, click in your GMU and then click the "MapIt!" button. Next screen, it will show "Map Layers & Legend" with two tabs, "Visibility" and "Legend." Click the "Visibility" tab first, then click "Big Game Species." Ensure that the arrow next it points down (you may have to double-click it) so it will provide a drop-down menu of the various big game species. Click the animal of interest. The interactive map will reflect all the options you picked under "Visibility." For an explanation of everything that shows up on the map, click "Legend."

I have a Private Land Voucher. Am I only allowed to hunt on that private land?

That depends upon the hunt code. When a private land owner applies for vouchers, he or she is permitted to apply for what tags are available in the GMU in which the property resides. For example, let's take a look at two different hunt codes: D-M-022-O2-R and D-M-022-P2-R. D=deer; M=buck or male; 022=Game Management Unit #22; O=open and P=Private; R=rifle. If you'll notice, the only difference is the third-to-last digit. If it shows "O," then you are permitted to hunt on public land as well as the private. If it shows "P," then you are only permitted to hunt on the private. So, hunter beware. For more complete information, you can go online and read all about the Landowner Voucher system or go to Colorado Revised Statutes 33-4-103.

What are the requirements in regards to a Hunter Education Safety Course?

Any person born on or after January 1, 1949 must have a hunter education certificate prior to purchasing a hunting license. Colorado also recognizes hunter education programs of other states or countries as being sufficient in meeting this requirement. [Source: CRS 33-6-107(8)]

How many preference points are required for each Game Management Unit and animal?

Go to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife's website under Big Game Harvest Survey Statistics & Hunting Recap Summaries. Scroll down to the game animal of interest. The first row will be for the most recent year. Look across the column headings to "Preference Points Required" and click on the "Report" link. From here you will need to know the "Hunt Code." For example, let's say you want to draw a buck tag for GMU 61, third rifle season. The Hunt Code is DM06103R. For residents, the minimum preference point requirement for 2012 was four (4) and non-residents was 10.

"Minimum" required points are interpreted as follows, for example. Let's say all resident applicants with five (5) or more points were successful. Afterwards, there was one tag left but 100 applicants with four (4) points. One was successful; 99 were not; therefore, the minimum required points would be shown as four (4).

Where can I go to find out how many preference points I have?

Go to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife's website under Draw Results & Preference Points. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill in the boxes.

Where can I find the number of tags allowed for a specific animal and unit?

This information is found on the Colorado Division of Wildlife's website under Big Game Harvest Survey Statistics & Hunting Recap Summaries. Scroll down to the appropriate year, look for "Hunt Recap Summaries," and then click on the animal of interest. These tables can be rather confusing, so you may want to contact a CDOW office for help.

What percentage of tags are allocated to residents and nonresidents?

Currently (2011), tags are generally divided as follows: Residents-65%; Nonresidents-35%. For special draw units, it may be as follows: Residents-80%; Nonresidents-20%.

I will be hunting with an ATV. What are Colorado's requirements and laws?

You will need to visit the OHV Program on the Colorado State Parks website. For Registrations, click "OHV Registrations" in the left-hand menu. For Laws and Regulations, click "OHV Laws and Regulations" in the left-hand menu.

Can you define a legal kill?

In Colorado the wildlife is property of the state unless it is lawfully acquired. One way to lawfully acquire wildlife is to have a proper and valid license and to take that animal in the proper manner, time and season by reducing it to possession. This is where the gray area comes in because "possession" means actual or constructive possession of or control over the object referred to.

An argument can be made that by wounding an animal and if it is being tracked, trailed or followed then you have constructive possession over that animal. By someone putting the animal down and going up to it than that could be considered having control over and therefore actual possession.

Therefore, that is where the ethics of hunting come in and as a general rule the person who puts the killing shot into the animal is the one that claims it. If the two people claiming possession over the animal cannot come to a consensus by examining bullet wounds, how far the wounded animal has travelled, etc. then they can contact the local wildlife officer to help make the determination of possession.

[Source: CDOW - verbatim reply B.T. 9/5/10]

While bow hunting, can one also carry a handgun?

Generally a person is allowed to carry (not concealed) a sidearm while on public lands within Colorado including during a hunting season. There are exceptions for persons convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm. During hunting seasons, if a person is hunting, there may be additional specific requirements to the caliber of the firearm if it is being used to hunt. If the firearm is a sidearm and is carried for personal protection during a hunting season, there are no restrictions and during hunting seasons, firearms may be carried under clothing as the concealed carry laws exempt persons who carry during and participate in a hunting season.

[Source: CDOW - verbatim reply S.D. 8/19/10]

The right to bear arms is covered in the Colorado and U.S. constitutions. Colorado does not have a regulation prohibiting the carrying of a handgun while archery hunting. However, the handgun cannot be used in any way in the taking of wildlife, i.e. used to dispatch a wounded animal. In addition as S.D. mentioned one can carry concealed while hunting and below is the statute that covers that.

CRS 18-12-204. Permit contents - validity - carrying requirements.

(3)(a) A person who may lawfully possess a handgun may carry a handgun under the following circumstances without obtaining a permit and the handgun shall not be considered concealed:

(II) The handgun is in the possession of a person who is legally engaged in hunting activities within the state.

[Source: CDOW - verbatim reply B.T. 8/24/10]

Hunting over salt.

In Colorado it is against the law to use bait as an aid in taking big game. Bait includes any salt, mineral, grain, or other feed so as to constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for wildlife. As a general rule, in Colorado, most of the wildlife laws are what is called “strict liability” laws. Strict liability means that intent or knowledge does not necessarily have to be proved but it is based on the fact, in this case, that salt was present and that the hunter hunted over it. Therefore as a conscientious bow hunter that hunts over water sources I would encourage them to look for salt before actually hunting over the water source. It is generally easy to detect where salt has been placed due to the animals concentrating in that area with torn up soil and actual craters in the soil from the animals licking the salt that leaches into the soil.

[Source: CDOW - verbatim reply B.T. 9/8/10]

Below are the regulations addressing baiting.

CHAPTER 0 - GENERAL PROVISIONS. ARTICLE I - DEFINITIONS. #000 – The following definitions supplement the statutory definitions found in the Wildlife Act including, but not limited to, those definitions found in section 33-1-102, C.R.S.

A. General Definitions Including Manner of Take Definitions. 4. "Baiting" means the placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of any salt, mineral, grain, or other feed so as to constitute a lure, attraction or enticement for wildlife.

ARTICLE IV - MANNER OF TAKING WILDLIFE. #004 - A. Aids Used in Taking Big Game, Small Game and Furbearers - Except as expressly authorized by these regulations, the use of baits and other aids in taking big game, small game and furbearers is prohibited.

Commentary. Despite the fact that there are those who purposely use salt as a bait, one would assume that these instances are a rare exception to the rule that hunters in general are ethical, law abiding outdoorsmen. However, it seems that this statute disregards that fact and places all burden of right or wrong on hunters who may be oblivious violaters because of common practices by ranchers who regularly place salt in areas where cattle congregate. It appears that the only solution to this dilemma places ranchers and hunters at odds - removing all presence of salt from one's favorite honey holes.

Game shot on public but runs on to private.

The following is a discussion to help one discern the proper course of action and steps to be taken to recover an animal that was shot on public but ventured onto and died on private property.

" ...The law in wildlife statutes (Title 33) says that a person who wounded game shall make a reasonable attempt to contact the landowner or person in charge of such land before pursuing wounded game onto private property. ...I would encourage a hunter to make contact with the landowner before entry onto private property without permission. If the landowner cannot be contacted after reasonable efforts have been made to do so by the hunter, he may try contacting the local wildlife officer. However, often times the wildlife officer is tied-up with another case or have a long response time during the busy hunting seasons."

[Source: CDOW - verbatim reply B.T. 9/29/10

Sometimes and for various reasons a hunter may not pursue an animal once he or she discovers that it has probably ventured onto private property. This is unlawful. CRS 33-6-119(1)(a) stipulates that "... it is unlawful for a person who shoots at, or wounds, or may have wounded game wildlife to fail to make a reasonable attempt to locate the game wildlife suspected of injury and take it into his or her possession."

Commentary. Be aware of the word "reasonable" when used in statutes. It can be interpreted to be more subjective than one may think. Err on the side of caution and put forth more than minimum and expected effort. Reason suggests that one may not get another chance at another animal. Hunting ethics dictates that one should lawfully pursue wounded game until all possible avenues have been exercised.

When wounded game goes on private property, the hunter "must" attempt to contact the landowner prior to trespassing. CRS 33-6-119(1)(b) says, "If wounded game goes onto private property, the person who wounded the game shall make a reasonable attempt to contact the landowner or person in charge of such land before pursuing the wounded game."

Commentary. This statute has two elements. The first element, which is subject to the second element, is that it implies consent to trespass for the sole purpose of attempting to recover wounded game. The second element requires a "reasonable" attempt to contact the landowner before the pursuit. Here we are faced with the subjective term, reasonable.

Here are some suggestions that coupled together should surpass the definition of reasonable. 1. Make three attempts from other local sources to find the phone number and address of the landowner. If you're unable to make physical contact, leave a notice at the landowner's physical location with the time of the notice, your contact information, as well as the "future time" and "place" in which you will attempt to enter the private property and recover the animal. Repeat this process for phone contact. However, phone reception in many parts of Colorado is nil. 2. Attempt to contact the wildlife officer in charge of the Game Management Unit you are hunting; leave the same information. 3. If you are not contacted by either party by the scheduled recovery time, pursue the animal. Once you are finished, repeat #1 and #2 and disclose the results of what you have done. 4. Make specific written notes of what you did, contact names, phone numbers, addresses, witnesses...everything. If possible, take the GPS coordinates of where the animal lay and provide that to the wildlife officer. If needed, you can put all that information as to the facts of what you did in the form of a sworn affidavit and submit that also to the wildlife officer.

Here's one last tidbit that may be overlooked: the GMU must be one for which the tag is valid. For example, if the animal was shot on an over-the-counter unit but ventured onto a draw-only unit, then it becomes a matter of whether permission to trespass will be for the recovery of a dead animal or the pursuit of a wounded animal. If it's the latter, then any action would be considered hunting. In such case, the hunter would not have a valid tag and "finishing off" the animal would be a hunting violation. In this instance, err on the side of contacting the local CPW officer to make a determination.

Now that you have been given opinions and interpretations, here's one final tidbit. The 2011 Colorado Big Game brochure stipulates on page 7, #11: It's against the law to fail to make a reasonable attempt to track and kill animals you wound or may have wounded. It is against the law to pursue wounded wildlife that goes on private property without first obtaining permission from landowner or person in charge. It all seems contradictory with the possible end result of getting a trespass and/or hunting violation.