elk in colorado field

Best Places to Hunt in Colorado

If you are searching for a state that offers tremendous hunting opportunities, look no further than Colorado.

Colorado is truly a sportsman’s paradise with a diverse landscape and bountiful game; however, it can be challenging to find the best spots with so many places to hunt. Hit the field with us as we talk about our favorite species and the best places to find them.

Elk

When you think about your bucket list hunt, what comes to mind? Your answer should be a trophy, Rocky Mountain bull elk. Colorado is home to over 40 elk herds statewide. Colorado Parks and Wildlife releases a herd count every year, making it easier to find areas with a large population of elk. You can see that list by clicking here.

The three largest herds by population

  1. The White River Herd (40,481)
  2. The Bear Ears Herd (24,060)
  3. The San Juan Herd (23,670)

White River Herd location — The White River Herd inhabits 12 of Colorado’s 185 game management units (GMUs). They can be found south of Meeker, north of Glenwood Springs, and southwest of Steamboat Springs.

Bear Ears Herd location — The Bear Ears Herd is located across 7 different GMUs. Elk that you see west of Steamboat, east of Maybell, and just south of the Wyoming border belong to the Bear Ears Herd.

The San Juan Herd location — The San Juan Herd resides across 5 GMUs. You will find this herd in southwest Colorado near Durango.

deer

Elk aren’t the only big game animal you can find in Colorado. There is also a robust population of mule deer, and some parts of the state are even home to whitetail. The same population data that is available for the elk herds are available for the deer herds. You can find that list by clicking here.

The three largest herds by population

  1. The Bears Ears Herd (38,859)
  2. The White River Herd (32,279)
  3. The San Juan Herd (24,349)

The three largest herds probably sound familiar to the elk herds we just talked about above. That is because the deer herds are all located in the same areas.

Pronghorn

Pronghorn are also known as antelope or speed goats, and Colorado has a population of over 78,000 statewide. You can see the latest population numbers by clicking here.

The three largest herds by population

  1. The Great Divide Herd (20,532)
  2. The Thatcher Herd (8,693)
  3. The Yoder Herd (8,238)
pronghorn

The Great Divide Herd — The Great Divide Herd roams the northwestern part of Colorado in the same area as the Bears Ears elk and deer herds, except there is an additional GMU added to that list.

The Thatcher Herd — The Thatcher Herd can be found across 9 of Colorado’s GMUs in the state’s southeast corner. The units are just east of Pueblo, west of Lamar, and north of the New Mexico/ Oklahoma borders.

The Yoder Herd — The Yoder Herd is made up of 6 units southeast of Colorado Springs and northeast of Pueblo.

Public Land and the Draw

According to the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado has 8.3 million acres of public lands. One of the best parts of hunting is getting away from all the people; however, all the public land can become crowded rather quickly.

In 2021, over 200,000 adult resident draw applications for elk, with 59,082 licenses awarded. There were over 200,000 adult resident draw applications for deer, with 56,659 licenses awarded. There were over 90,000 adult resident draw applications for pronghorn, with 12,539 licenses awarded. All of these numbers don’t include the youth or non-resident applications during the same timeframe.

Landowner Preference Program

As you can see, drawing a big game tag in Colorado is no small task; however, it doesn’t have to be. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a specific program for landowners called the landowner preference program. If you own a minimum of 160 contiguous acres and meet some other minor requirements, you can qualify to get landowner vouchers every year. The more land you own, the more applications you can submit, and the more vouchers you can be awarded.

In 2021, over 200,000 adult resident draw applications for elk, with 59,082 licenses awarded. There were over 200,000 adult resident draw applications for deer, with 56,659 licenses awarded. There were over 90,000 adult resident draw applications for pronghorn, with 12,539 licenses awarded. All of these numbers don’t include the youth or non-resident applications during the same timeframe.

The Seasons

Elk, deer, and pronghorn seasons start in September for the archery hunters and last the entire month. Muzzleloader season is in the middle of September as well. There will be multiple rifle seasons from October to January, including 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and late. For a complete list of big game species and season dates click here.

There are many benefits to owning a ranch in Colorado.

Passed on for generations — One of the best parts about hunting is teaching new generations what it means to be a conservationist and sportsman. Owning land in Colorado is an investment, but like the tradition of hunting, you can pass on your land from generation to generation.

Customizable — You will grow to know your ranch like the back of your hand. You’ll know where the animals are during every part of the season. You can build blinds or hang treestands to ensure you are always in the right spot. You can create roads and paths to make navigating your ranch easier. Whatever you want, the choice is yours. That’s the beauty of owning your hunting ranch.

Accommodations — Owning a ranch means more options for your accommodations as well. You no longer have to sleep on the cold hard ground if you don’t want to. You can build a house or cabin. You can buy a property that already has a home or cabin. Some people might think it is too luxurious to have a nice warm bed to sleep in before you wake up the following day, step outside, and immediately start hunting. Still, some added comfort is another benefit of owning your hunting ranch.

Where is the best hunting in Colorado?

The simple answer to that question is in northwest Colorado. Northwest Colorado has the 2nd largest elk population, 1st largest deer population, and 1st largest pronghorn population in the state. The abundance of game in that part of the state sets it apart as the best hunting in Colorado. You will never be short on opportunities to harvest an animal, so you can be more selective when looking for that next big trophy.

Final thoughts

Colorado is home to many more animal species than just the ones discussed here, making it a sportsman’s paradise. Owning a hunting ranch might be a dream of yours. If you are ready to make that dream a reality, having the right resources is essential to ensure your dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare. That’s why I recommend checking out the ranches available through UC Ranch Properties.

active label
$20,000,000
Forget Gold, Forget Silver...WATER is the MOST Valuable Commodity in Colorado! This Large Ranch comes with Senior Water Rights, Mineral Rights, over 700 Acres of Irrigated Fields, Leases on Adjacent BLM and State Land & so much more!!!
3,700 AC
active label
$995,000
Located just south of Gunnison, Colorado, this mountain recreation and hunting land with a beautiful cabin has the ideal combination of assets for a multi-use recreation and hunting property. Comprising of 160 total acres, easy county road access, bordered by
160 AC
sold label
$3,500,000
Brush Mountain Ranch is 1450 +/- acres located in Garfield County about 30 miles North of Grand Junction, CO. It has 3 cabins, multiple outbuildings, a 600 AUM grazing permit, and cattle working corrals. Situated atop the Bookcliff Mountains with
1,453 AC
sold label
$1,800,000
Professionally remodeled in 2021, this stunning country home located in a beautiful farm and ranchette neighborhood just outside of Hotchkiss Colorado is a one-of-a-kind offering. Originally built in 1909, the home was constructed of massive blocks of quarried stone. The
35 AC

FEATURED LISTING

active label
$11,250,000
Owl Creek is located on the AL/MS boundary in Pickens County, Alabama, just East of Macon, Mississippi. The yellow brick road truly does end at Owl Creek. When the lodge comes into view, it’s hard not to pull over on
3,040 AC

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