Colorado Hunting Methods and Field Info

This section is the meat and bones of the regulations set for by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.  After you have a license and you're getting ready for a hunt, this section tells you everything you need to know from what weapons you can use, to how much fluorescent orange is required.  So look at the topics below and click on them to read what information is pertinent to your hunt.

1.  Legal Big Game Hunting Hours

Legal hunting hours for big game are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, unless specifically restricted.

The sunrise/sunset chart at right lists times for Denver. Subtract 1 minute from opening and closing time for each 12 1/2 miles east of Denver. Add 1 minute to opening and closing time for each 12 1/2 miles west of Denver. (These changes assume that each degree of longitude equals 50 miles and a change of 1 degree of longitude equals a 4-minute change in sunrise and sunset times.)

 Colorado Sunrise and Sunset Chart

2.  Legal Hunting Methods (weapons and calls)

1. Centerfire Rifles

a. Must be minimum of .24 caliber (6 mm).

b. Must have a minimum 16-inch barrel and be at least 26 inches long.
c. If semiautomatic, a maximum of six rounds are allowed in the magazine and chamber combined.

d. Must use expanding bullets that weigh minimum 70 grains for deer, pronghorn and bear, 85 grains for elk and moose, and have an impact energy (at 100 yards) of 1,000-ft. pounds as rated by manufacturer.

e. It is illegal to hunt game birds, small-game mammals or furbearers with a centerfire rifle larger than .23 caliber during regular rifle deer and elk seasons west of I-25, without an unfilled deer or elk license for the season. A small-game, furbearer or unfilled big-game license is required.


2. Fully Automatic Rifles

Are Prohibited


3. Muzzleloading Rifles & Smoothbor Muskets

a. Only legal muzzleloaders allowed in muzzleloading seasons.

b. In-line muzzleloaders are legal.

c. Must be a single barrel that fires a single round ball or conical projectile.

d. To hunt deer, pronghorn or bear, they must be minimum of .40 caliber.

e. To hunt elk or moose, they must be minimum of .50 caliber.

f. From .40 caliber to .50 caliber, bullets must weigh a minimum 170 grains.

g. If greater than .50 caliber, bullets must weigh a minimum 210 grains.

h. Shotshell primers are legal.

i. Pelletized powder systems prohibited in muzzleloading seasons.

j. Cannot be loaded from the breech in muzzleloading seasons.

k. Only open or iron sights allowed in muzzleloading seasons. Fiber optics and fluorescent paint incorporated into or on open or iron sights are legal. Scopes or any sighting device using artificial light, batteries and electronic gear are prohibited during muzzleloading seasons.

l. Sabots are prohibited in muzzleloading seasons. Cloth patches are not sabots.

m. Smokeless powder prohibited in muzzleloading seasons. Black powder and black-powder substitutes are legal.

n. Electronic or battery-powered devices cannot be incorporated


4. Hand-Held Bows

A long bow, recurve bow or compound bow on which the string is not drawn mechanically or held mechanically under tension. String or mechanical releases are legal if they are handdrawn or hand-held with no other attachments or connections to bow (except bowstring).

a. Hand-held bows, including compound bows, must use arrows with a broadhead having a minimum 7/8-inch outside diameter or width and minimum two steel cutting edges. Each cutting edge must be in same plane for entire length of cutting surface.

b. Only legal, hand-held bows allowed during archery seasons.

c. Minimum draw weight of 35 pounds required. Let-off maximum of 80 percent.

d. No part of bow’s riser (handle) or track, trough, channel, arrow rest or other device (excluding cables and bowstring) that attaches to riser can contact, support and/or guide the arrow from a point rearward of the bow’s brace height behind the undrawn string.

e. Bows can propel only a single arrow at a time. No mechanisms for automatically loading arrows allowed.

f. NEW! Scopes, electronic or battery-powered devices cannot be incorporated into or attached to bow or arrows, with the exception of lighted nocks on arrows.  Recording devices such as cameras or video recorders attached to bows may be used as long as they do not cast light toward the target or aid in range finding, sighting or shooting the bow.

g. Hydraulic or pneumatic technology cannot be used to derive or store energy to propel arrows. Explosive arrows prohibited.


5. Shotguns

a. Must be minimum 20 gauge, and fire a single slug.

b. Barrel must be minimum 18 inches long. Minimum overall length, 26 inches.


6. Crossbows

a. Draw weight must be minimum 125 pounds.

b. Draw length must be minimum 14 inches from front of bow to nocking point of drawstring.

c. Positive mechanical safety device required.

d. Bolt must be minimum 16 inches long, have a broadhead minimum of 7/8-inch wide and with a minimum of two steel cutting edges. Each cutting edge must be in same plane for entire length of cutting surface.

e. Illegal in archery seasons.


7. Handguns

a. Barrel must be minimum 4 inches long.

b. Must use a minimum .24-caliber (6 mm) diameter expanding bullet.

c. Shoulder stocks or attachments prohibited.

d. Must use a cartridge or load that produces minimum energy of 550-ft. pounds at 50 yards as rated by manufacturer.


8. Calls

a. Mechanical calls are legal, including mouth calls.

b. Electronic calls, such as amplified cassette players, are prohibited for biggame hunting.

Colorado Big Game Legal Firearms

3.  Fluorescent Orange Requirements


It is a legal requirement for hunters to wear at least 500 square inches of solid daylight fluorescent orange material on an outer garment above the waist while hunting deer, elk, pronghorn, bear or moose with any firearm license. A fluorescent orange hat or head covering, visible from all directions, is also required. This includes archery hunters who hunt during rifle season. Archers hunting during a limited bear season or archers hunting with an archery bear, deer, elk, pronghorn or moose license do not have to wear fluorescent orange. Auction- and raffle-license holders do not have to wear orange when hunting with archery equipment when no rifle seasons are open. If using a ground blind or pop-up blind, hunters should display orange that is visible from all directions on the outside of the blind.

Camouflage orange does not qualify. Mesh garments are legal but not recommended. CPW strongly recommends wearing daylight fluorescent orange clothes in the field, even if you’re not hunting. Wearing orange is for hunter safety, big-game animals don’t see orange like we do. Movement, sound and smell are what give hunters away.

4.  It's Against the Law To:

If convicted of these felony violations, you can face a lifetime license suspension:

1. Felony offense: To kill and abandon big game. It is illegal to remove only the hide, antlers or other trophy parts and leave the carcass in the field.

2. Felony offense: To sell, buy or offer to sell or buy big game.

3. Felony offense: To solicit someone to illegally kill big game for commercial gain or provide outfitting services without required registration.

4. Have a loaded (in the chamber) rifle or shotgun in or on any motor vehicle. Muzzleloading rifles are considered unloaded if the percussion cap or shotshell primer is removed, or if the powder is removed from flashpan. It is illegal for anyone to have a loaded electronic-ignition muzzleloader in or on a motor vehicle unless the chamber is unloaded or the battery is disconnected and removed from its compartment.

5. Carry firearms (except handguns) on an OHV during deer, elk, pronghorn and bear seasons unless they are unloaded in the chamber and magazine. Firearms (except handguns) and bows carried on an OHV must be fully enclosed in a hard or soft case. Scabbards or cases with open ends or sides are prohibited. This does not apply to landowners or their agents who carry a firearm on an OHV to take depredating wildlife on property they own or lease.

6. Hunt carelessly or discharge a firearm or release an arrow disregarding human life or property.

7. Operate or ride a snowmobile with a firearm unless it’s completely unloaded and cased, or with a bow unless it’s unstrung or cased. Compound bows must be cased, not unstrung.

8. Shoot from or use a motor vehicle, motorcycle, off-highway vehicle, snowmobile or aircraft to hunt, intercept, chase, harass or drive wildlife.

9. Use aircraft to hunt, to direct hunters on the ground or to hunt the same day or day after a flight was made to find wildlife.

10. Hunt under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances.

11. Use artificial light as an aid in hunting wildlife.

12. Use poison, drugs or explosives to hunt or harass wildlife.

13. Fail to extinguish a campfire.

14. 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.

15. Fail to reasonably dress, care for and prepare edible wildlife meat (all species in this brochure) for human consumption. At a minimum, the four quarters, tenderloins and backstraps are edible meat. Internal organs are not.

16. Shoot from or across a public road with a firearm, bow or crossbow. People firing a bow, rifle, handgun or shotgun with a single slug must be at least 50 feet from the centerline of the road.

17. Party hunt (kill someone else’s game or let someone kill yours).

18. Interfere with hunters. This includes distracting or frightening prey; causing prey to flee by using light or noise; chasing prey on foot or by vehicle; throwing objects; making movements; harassing hunters by using threats or actions; erecting barriers to deny access to hunting areas and intentionally injecting yourself into the line of fire. Violators face prosecution and may have to pay victim’s damages and court costs.

19. Use the Internet or other computer-assisted remote technology while hunting or fishing. Hunters and anglers must be physically present in the immediate vicinity while hunting and fishing.

20. For two or more people on the ground, in a vehicle or vessel to use electronic devices to communicate information that violates any wildlife law or regulation.

21. Use dogs or bait to hunt bear, deer, elk, pronghorn or moose. Bait means to put, expose, distribute or scatter salt, minerals, grain, animal parts or other food as an attraction for big game. Scent sticks that smell like food are illegal for bears.

22. Kill cubs or bears accompanied by one or more cubs. A cub is a bear less than a year old.

23. It is prohibited to hunt bears in their dens.

24. Have a carcass, hide, skull, claws or parts of bears or mountain lions without a valid hunting license or unless authorized by CPW.

25. Sell, trade, barter or offer to sell, trade or barter bear gall bladders or edible portions of bears.

26. Hunt on private land without first obtaining permission from landowner or person in charge.

27. Post, sign or indicate that public lands, not under an exclusive-control lease, are private.

28. Hunt or fish on State Land Board properties not leased and signed by CPW without permission of lessee.

29. Only portable blinds or tree stands may be erected. All man-made materials used for blinds or tree stands must be removed within 10 days after the end of the season in which you are hunting.

5.  Bag Limits & Season Participation Restrictions

1. LIMITED LICENSES: You can submit only one application in the drawing per species, per license year. No exceptions.

2. BAG LIMITES, LICENSE PURCHASES: The bag and possession limit is the total number of animals you can legally kill of each species. Big game killed in January and February seasons set as part of the previous license year’s seasons fall under that year’s bag and possession limit. When a license allows hunting in more than one unit, the unit in the hunt code determines the maximum number of licenses a hunter can obtain per year for that species.

3. MOOSE: The lifetime bag limit for bull moose is one, except for auction, raffle or special management licenses.

4. COYOTES: You can hunt coyotes without a smallgame license during big-game seasons if you have an unfilled big-game license. You can hunt coyotes only in the same unit, season and manner of take as on the big-game license. Once you fill your big-game license, you must buy a small-game or furbearer license to hunt coyotes. Harvesting a coyote does not void your big-game license.

6.  Carcass Tags

You must attach a carcass tag to animals you kill per instructions on tag. Tags must stay on until meat is processed and remain with meat until consumed. It is illegal to sign or tear the tag before a kill.

If you lose, accidentally destroy or detach the tag, you must get a duplicate from a CPW office (listed on inside front cover) before hunting and prove the loss, detachment or destruction was accidental. Do not remove other parts of a license except the carcass tag after a kill. Doing so voids the license, and you must buy a duplicate.

7.  Evidence of Sex

1. It is illegal to have or transport a big-game carcass without evidence of sex naturally attached. It is illegal only to have evidence of sex accompany the carcass. If you submit a deer or elk head for CWD testing, leave evidence of sex on the carcass.

     a. Buck/Bull: Head with antlers or horns attached to carcass; or testicle, scrotum or penis attached to
     b. Doe/Cow: Head, udder (mammary) or vulva attached to carcass.
     c. Black Bear: Male: testicles or penis. Female: vulva.

3. Heads detached from carcass are not adequate evidence of sex.

4. If a carcass is cut in pieces or deboned, evidence of sex only needs to be attached to a quarter or another major part of carcass. All portions must be transported together.

5. Evidence of sex not required if a donation certificate accompanies less than 20 pounds of meat or after the carcass is cut into processed meat (commercially or otherwise), wrapped and frozen, or stored at licensee’s home.

8.  Hunters With Disabilities

Accommodation permits are available to hunters with disabilities.

1. Hunters must have a temporary or permanent disability that significantly impairs major life functions and the ability to hunt. Shooting from public roads is not allowed. All wildlife laws must be observed.

2. Permits from other states are not honored here.

3. Apply for a permit at least 30 days before hunting. Applications are available at CPW locations, on the website, or call (303) 297-1192.

9.  Hunters with Mobility Impairments

1. Some doe deer, cow elk and doe pronghorn licenses are offered to hunters with mobility impairments. Hunters must have a mobility impairment resulting from permanent medical conditions, making it physically impossible to hunt without someone else’s help. Evidence includes, but is not limited to, prescribed equipment such as a wheelchair, shoulder or arm crutches, walker or two canes.

2. Applications are available at CPW locations and must be mailed with license fees to CPW, Limited Licenses, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216. Applications accepted from the Monday after the Wildlife Commission meeting in May through the end of rifle seasons. Licenses are first-come, first-served until unit and program caps are reached.

10. Child Support Delinquency

State and Federal law requires a Social Security number to buy a license. It is not displayed on the license but is provided, if requested, to Child Support Enforcement authorities. Hunting and fishing licenses are not issued to those suspended for noncompliance with child support. Any current licenses become invalid if held by an individual who is noncompliant with child support.

11. Turn in Pochears (TIPs) Program

TIPs rewards people who provide information resulting in charging poachers. Awards can be a preference point for species of choice or unlimited license for the species reported. Some limited licenses may be available. TIPs licenses do not count toward annual bag and possession limits.

12. Certified Hay

Hay, straw and mulch are illegal on federal land and CPW property unless certified free of noxious weeds. Hay must be clearly marked by certifying agency. People who transport these materials on public roads crossing CPW property are exempt. For a list of weed-free forage, contact Colorado Dept. of Agriculture, (303) 239-4149; Forest Service or BLM; or go to www.colorado. gov/cs/Satellite/Agriculture-Main/CDAG/1216022453427.

13. Transporting Game

1. You can be cited for illegally transporting game animals even if someone else made an error. When you transport carcasses or processed meat:
     a. Carcasses must be properly tagged. You must meet evidence of sex and antler-point 
         requirements. Hunters must keep their own license.   
     b. Carcass tags — or donation certificates for 20 pounds of meat or less — must accompany 
         processed game meat.  

2. Carcass tags must be securely attached to carcass, not antlers or horns, or must accompany processed meat.

3. To ship by commercial carrier, the license, photocopy of license, carcass tag or donation certificate must accompany carcass or processed meat.

4. Hunters transporting game through national parks or monuments must follow federal regulations. Contact the National Park Service.

14. Donating Game Meat

Donation certificates are required for all game meat donations. Certificates must show names, addresses and telephone numbers of donor and recipient; donor’s hunting license number; species and amounts donated; date of kill; donor’s signature. The certificate can be a simple note; no special form required. It must stay with the meat until completely consumed. Donor and recipient are subject to bag and possession limits.

Note: A “like license” is a license for exactly the same species, sex, season and method of take as a donor’s license.

1. You can donate to someone wit h or wit hout a like license:
     a. Any amount of processed and packaged game meat, anywhere.
2. You can donate to someone wit hout a like license:
     a. up to 20 pounds of unprocessed meat, anywhere.
     b. more than 20 pounds of unprocessed meat, only at recipient’s home.
3. You can donate to someone wit h a like license:
     a. up to 20 pounds of unprocessed meat, anywhere.
     b. more than 20 pounds of unprocessed meat, anywhere, only if:
       (1) recipient’s license is unfilled, and
       (2) recipient’s carcass tag is on the meat. This establishes recipient’s claim to his/her portion of
             meat and voids his/her license. Donor's tag must remain with his/her portion. 
     c. the entire carcass, if:
       (1) recipient’s license is unfilled, and
       (2) donor’s carcass tag and recipient’s like-license carcass tag is on the meat, voiding both licenses.

15. Accidental Kill

Accidental kill is unintentionally killing wildlife not due to carelessness or negligence. You must report big game accidentally killed to a CPW office (listed on inside front cover) before continuing to hunt and as soon as practical. Before contacting CPW, field dress the animal. CPW evaluates the circumstances, including shots fired, species and number of animals present, firearms or ammunition, etc. Big game accidentally killed does not count toward annual bag limits.

16. Ear Tags and Radio Collars

If you shoot big game with a collar or ear tag, report the number, color, harvest location and date to CPW and return the radio collars.

17. Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV)

All OHVs operated in Colorado on public lands or if traveling on an OHV designated route must have a valid Colorado OHV registration or a Colorado OHV permit (except on private property).

Registrations/Permits are $25.25, valid April 1-March 31. OHV Permits (applicable for nonresidents and street legal/plated vehicles) are available online at, at CPW locations and license agents. Questions, call (303) 791-1920. Renewal registrations are available online and at CPW locations. New registrations and transfers must be done in person or by mail. Visit for more details.

Contact each public land management agency for their current motor vehicle-use rules, regulations, game retrieval specifications and hours, and agency maps. Most areas do not allow off-trail game retrieval w/any motorized vehicle. If you witness or observe a violation of OHV misuse on public lands, please report it to any law enforcement officer in that area.

18. Hunters Using Horses

You must contact a veterinarian to get a Certificate of Health Inspection within 30 days before horses enter Colorado. Horses need a Coggins blood test for equine infectious anemia within a year before coming here. Call Colorado State Veterinarian’s office, (303) 239-4161. Residents: Horses may require brand inspection before transportation. Call brand inspector, (303) 294-0895.