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Colorado reduces number of big game hunting licenses

Northwest Colorado had its most severe snow conditions in the past 70 years, burying food for elk, mule deer and pronghorn.

DENVER — There will be fewer big game hunting licenses issued in Colorado this year.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced it has made "unprecedented big-game hunting license reductions" because of severe weather conditions over the winter.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved several regulations for the 2023-2024 big-game season at its May meeting including limiting the number of licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bear, and archery licenses.

CPW said it has also shortened some hunting season dates.

CPW said the northwest corner of Colorado had its most severe snow conditions in 70 years. Several heavy snow storms with strong winds led to hard-packed snow that buried food for elk, mule deer and pronghorn. 


According to CPW, severe winter conditions have resulted in high elk calf and above-average cow mortality in the northwest region.

Survival rates are the lowest CPW has ever documented and below what CPW previously thought possible in elk.

Mule Deer

While mule deer have fared somewhat better than elk and pronghorn, the combination of severe winter conditions and chronic wasting disease has affected the resiliency of this population, CPW said.

CPW will reduce male and either-sex mule deer licenses in selected areas.


Pronghorn in northwest Colorado fared the worst during this winter, with mortality starting in December.

CPW said poor winter habitat conditions, little to no food sources, and increased wildlife-vehicle collisions as pronghorn found relief from deep snow along roadways led to higher-than-normal mortality rates.

Credit: stock.adobe.com

2023-2024 CPW big game changes

  • 236,600 licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bear.
    • Reduction of 32,000 (-12%) licenses in Colorado from last year.
  • 12,600 (-12%) fewer deer licenses than last year statewide.
  • Reduction of 12,800 (-33%) deer licenses in northwest Colorado.
  • 107,700 licenses for elk in Colorado.
    • Down 15,400 (-12%) from last year. 
  • Archery licenses for hunt code E-E-004-O1-A.
    • Reduced by an additional 25%.
  • Muzzleloader licenses for hunt codes E-E-004-O1-M and E-E-014-O1-M. 
    • Reduced by an additional 25%.

CPW also shortened the season dates for over-the-counter elk licenses in the northwest region for the second and third rifle seasons.

“This winter has been historic in many ways,” said Meeker Area Terrestrial Biologist Darby Finley. “These recommendations were not easy to make, and we know they will impact more than just CPW, including hunting opportunities and local economies. However, we believe these substantial reductions in licenses will allow herds to recover as quickly as possible.”

“This winter is a great example of why CPW sets license quota recommendations in late spring,” said Northwest Region Senior Terrestrial Biologist Brad Banulis. “By using the data and biological information we collect from late fall through early spring, we can evaluate conditions and make the best license recommendations to meet herd management objectives.”

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