Best Hunting in Colorado

Lush green forest, snow-capped mountains, and a clear, winding river in the foreground. A majestic elk stands proudly in the distance, surrounded by other wildlife
Shaman Mountain is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission on certain links, at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Colorado stands as a premier destination for hunting, renowned for its expansive wilderness and robust big game populations. With a landscape that ranges from wide-open plains to rugged mountains, you have access to one of the most diverse hunting experiences in the United States. Your success in Colorado’s hunting grounds, however, will depend greatly on your understanding of the state’s regulations and your ability to navigate the various seasons designated for different game.



Gunnison National Forest

When you set foot in the Gunnison National Forest, you’re entering a premier destination for elk hunting in Colorado. Known for its vast and varied landscapes, this national forest is an ideal habitat for a myriad of wildlife, especially elk.

Habitat and Elevations

Gunnison’s habitat is a rich tapestry woven with aspen forests and high mountain meadows, ranging from 7,500 to over 14,000 feet in elevation. This diversity not only provides scenic beauty but also supports healthy elk populations. Your hunting experience may lead you through dense forests and open meadows, testing your tracking skills across the different terrains.

Water Sources

Strategically placed water sources throughout the area serve as prime spots to encounter elk. As these majestic animals frequently visit water bodies for hydration, your knowledge of the area’s water geography could be your key advantage.

Elk Hunting on Public Lands

With over two million acres of public land, including national forest and BLM lands, you have expansive grounds for tracking down your prize. The Gunnison National Forest is a public land area, meaning you have access to some of the best elk hunting spots without the need for private land permission.

Key FeaturesDescription
ForestsAspen and gamble oak
Public LandBureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forest
Elk PopulationRobust and sustainable
Elevation7,500′ to 14,000’+

As you plan your hunting trip, respect the habitats and regulations to ensure sustainable use of this precious resource. Remember, while the experience is indeed about the hunt, it’s also about immersing yourself in the beauty and solitude of one of Colorado’s natural treasures.

Routt National Forest

When you embark on a hunting expedition to Routt National Forest, you’re experiencing some of Colorado’s prime hunting grounds. Sprawling across several counties, this forest offers a diverse habitat perfect for elk hunting. You can anticipate the thrill of the hunt in a vast wilderness known for its abundant elk population.

During the hunting seasons, which vary for different game, you’ll find that Routt National Forest provides opportunities not just for elk, but also for waterfowl and small game. It’s important to acquaint yourself with the specific dates as they are subject to change annually.

Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect:

Hunting SeasonTypes of Game
FallElk, Waterfowl, Small Game
SpringLimited Small Game

In terms of accessibility, much of the hunting territory falls on public land, making it a more straightforward process for you to plan your trip. With steep terrains and a landscape that ranges from 6,300 to 12,000 feet in elevation, it’s essential to prepare for the physical demands of hunting in this area.

Regarding statistical success rates, these figures can fluctuate from year to year. However, consistent with what you expect from Colorado’s vast wilderness, many hunters find success in Routt National Forest with proper planning and knowledge of the terrain.

For detailed information on licenses, specific hunting seasons, and regulations, always check with Colorado Parks & Wildlife ahead of your trip to ensure you have the most current information for a successful and legal hunt.

White River National Forest

When planning your next hunting trip in Colorado, White River National Forest should be at the top of your list. With its vast expanses and diverse wildlife, it’s a prime destination for hunters seeking an exceptional experience.

Licensing Requirements: Before heading out, ensure you have the appropriate Colorado hunting license. Licenses are regulated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and vary depending on the game you intend to hunt. For bull elk, preference points may be necessary to secure a permit, especially if you’re aiming for limited licenses in sought-after units.

Public vs. Private Land: White River National Forest offers a mix of public hunting opportunities as well as access to certain private lands through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program. Be sure to map out your route and verify land ownership to respect private property boundaries.

  • Bull Elk: The region is renowned for its elk population. If you’re pursuing a trophy or simply a fulfilling hunt, many areas within the forest can yield outstanding opportunities.
  • Archery Hunting: White River National Forest is a haven for archers. Be sure to check the specific regulations and season dates that apply to archery.

Remember to review Motor Vehicle Use Maps for route information and to respect all forest regulations during your visit. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or new to the sport, White River National Forest caters to all experience levels with its stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife.

San Isabel National Forest

Located in the heart of central Colorado, San Isabel National Forest offers you a diverse and rich hunting ground. With its expansive terrain – from low-lying grasslands to mountainous peaks – the forest provides a variety of habitats for game species.

Game Animals and Habitat

You’ll find the forest to be a habitat for deer, elk, and even pronghorn. The dense forests and open meadows present an ideal terrain for using your binoculars to spot game. Water sources, such as streams and lakes, are plentiful, which helps attract and sustain wildlife.

Hunting Seasons

Rifle season in San Isabel is a popular time, and it’s pivotal you’re aware of the specific season dates. These vary yearly but generally include separate periods for elk and deer during the fall. Colorado Parks and Wildlife provides up-to-date information that you should check to ensure you’re hunting legally.

Hunting Preparation

Before heading out, ensure your hunting permit is in order. You should also familiarize yourself with the park’s specific rules. They are in place to preserve the natural beauty and wildlife populations, ensuring future generations can enjoy hunting here too.

Gear and Tips

For a successful hunt, bring appropriate gear. Your rifle should be suitable for the game you’re targeting, and clothing should be weather-appropriate. Always prioritize safety and consider the ethical implications of your hunt.

Remember: Preserve the natural integrity of the forest and ensure a pleasant experience for all by respecting hunting regulations and seasons.

Rio Grande National Forest

Lush forest with towering pines, clear streams, and abundant wildlife. Snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. Ideal hunting grounds

When you set your sights on hunting in Colorado, the Rio Grande National Forest offers an extensive area with a variety of game. Encompassing 1.86 million acres, it stretches across multiple Game Management Units (GMUs), including regions near the Continental Divide.

As a resident or nonresident hunter, you’ll navigate public lands that rank among the state’s prime habitats for elk, mule deer, and other big game species. Before embarking on your hunt, familiarize yourself with specific regulations and obtain the necessary permits.

Key Information:

  • Access: Public lands are widely accessible; however, ensure to check for motorized vehicle restrictions especially during game retrieval.
  • Licenses: Separate licenses are required for residents and nonresidents, which you can obtain through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) department.
  • Seasons: Hunting season dates vary by species and GMU, so be sure to confirm these details ahead of time.

By respecting the wilderness and practicing ethical hunting, you contribute to the conservation efforts essential to maintaining the health of these ecosystems. Prepare thoroughly to experience the diverse terrain, from alpine meadows to dense forests, that make hunting in the Rio Grande National Forest a challenging yet rewarding pursuit.

Grand Mesa National Forest

In the Grand Mesa National Forest, hunting is a revered tradition that promises a quintessential outdoor experience. Due to its vast expanse and rich habitat, this location offers an abundance of game species, including the sought-after trophy elk and mule deer.

  • Hunting Pressure: While popular, the Grand Mesa National Forest is large enough to offer both high-traffic areas and secluded spots. Plan your hunt strategically for a quieter experience. Early season often sees higher hunting pressure, which may decrease as the season progresses. Consider mid-week hunts for less competition.
  • Cover: Diverse terrain includes dense aspen forests, open meadows, and rugged mountainsides. These provide excellent cover and viewing corridors for spot-and-stalk hunting methods.
  • Pronghorn: Although less common than elk or mule deer, pronghorn can be found in the open sagebrush areas. Your best bet for these swift animals is in the flatter regions of the forest.

Packing:
When you bag your game, packing out can be challenging in the steep and varied terrain. Ensure you’re equipped with proper packing gear and consider employing pack animals if the hunt takes you into the backcountry.

Field Dressing:
Be prepared to field dress your game quickly to preserve the meat. Due to potentially unpredictable weather, it’s essential to cool the meat rapidly.

Remember, permits are required, and you must adhere to local hunting regulations. Check the latest updates from official forest service information before planning your hunt.

Ultimately, your experience in Grand Mesa National Forest will be as rich as the preparation you put into it. With a clear plan and respect for the environment, you can have a hunting trip to remember.

Pike National Forest

Hunting Regulations:
Before planning your hunt in the Pike National Forest, familiarize yourself with Colorado’s hunting regulations. Ensure you have the appropriate licenses and understand the specific rules governing the area. For detailed information, visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Small Game Hunting:
The Pike National Forest offers diverse opportunities for small game hunting. Your experience can include the pursuit of game birds or waterfowl across the expansive grasslands.

Big Game Hunting:
If you’re interested in big game, the forested districts are home to species such as mule deer, pronghorn, and elk. For optimal success rates, research the best season to hunt the particular game you’re interested in.

Success Rates:
The success of your hunt will greatly depend on your preparation, understanding of the area, and adherence to best practices. Keep in mind that public lands can have variable success rates due to many factors including hunter pressure and wildlife patterns.

Bucks:
When seeking bucks, whether mule deer or elk, proper scouting and knowledge of their habits within the national forest can improve your chances. Be aware that some areas may have restrictions on the number or type of bucks that can be harvested.

By adhering to the established rules and being well-informed, your hunting experience in Pike National Forest can be both enjoyable and successful. Remember to plan ahead and stay updated on any changes to hunting regulations or access to the forest.

Arapaho National Forest

Lush forest with tall, dense trees, clear streams, and abundant wildlife. Rocky mountains in the background

The Arapaho National Forest is a prime destination for hunting enthusiasts seeking the serenity of the Rocky Mountains combined with the thrill of the hunt. As you prepare for your hunting trip, remember that Colorado Parks & Wildlife manages hunting and fishing for the state, focusing on both big game and small game.

When pursuing big game like elk, you may find yourself amongst the majestic bulls of the forest. Expertise with a rifle or shotgun is essential, as the vastness of the Arapaho National Forest demands precision and patience. The terrain can be rugged, so having a reliable knife is also beneficial for any subsequent tagging and field-dressing.

Hunting within the state wildlife areas requires adherence to specific regulations to ensure a sustainable ecosystem. Be sure to verify your designated area, as the Arapaho National Forest encompasses different Game Management Units (GMUs), like 18 and 28.

For a guided experience, consider reaching out to local outfitters who are familiar with the forest’s topography and wildlife patterns. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Licenses: Secure your hunting license from Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
  • Firearms: Choose your firearm based on the game; typically, a rifle for elk.
  • Equipment: A sharp knife, suitable clothing, and safety gear are imperative.
  • Respect the habitat: Follow the leave-no-trace principles to preserve the forest’s natural beauty.

Happy hunting and embrace the raw beauty of Arapaho National Forest, where each hunting trip promises a powerful connection with nature.

Roosevelt National Forest

Lush green forest with tall pine trees, a clear stream running through, and a variety of wildlife including deer, elk, and bear

When you’re seeking a prime location for hunting in Colorado, Roosevelt National Forest offers you a bountiful terrain spread within the striking Rocky Mountains. You’ll find that this area supports a variety of game, including coveted elk bulls, common in these parts, especially during the fall rutting season.

Hunting Permits:
Before venturing out, ensure you have the proper permits from Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Licenses are managed by the state and are necessary for hunting in public lands, including state wildlife areas.

Firearms and Weapons:
As you prepare for your trip, consider the weapon of choice for your hunt. For elk and deer, a rifle or shotgun is typically employed. Firearms should be chosen according to your comfort and proficiency, as well as legal regulations. Never forget to carry a knife, an essential tool for field dressing your game.

Here are a few points to consider for your hunting expedition in the Roosevelt National Forest:

  • Firearms: Rifles and shotguns are permissible per state regulations.
  • Archery: Overlapping seasons offer opportunities for archery hunters.
  • Hunting Terrain: Diverse landscapes of alpine woods and open grasslands.
  • Wildlife: Abundance of elk, especially during migration and rut seasons.
  • Regulations: Always adhere to Colorado hunting laws and seasonal restrictions.

For detailed information on hunting seasons and regulations in Roosevelt National Forest, refer to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife for the most up-to-date information. Happy hunting!

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

Lush forest with diverse wildlife, rolling hills, and clear streams in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Colorado

When you set out for a hunting adventure in Colorado, the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests present an unparalleled experience. Here, amidst the diverse terrain stretching across southeast Wyoming and north-central Colorado, you’re in prime territory for a variety of game.

  • Hunting Season: Typically, seasons start in the fall, but precise dates vary by game and location. Ensure you check local regulations.
  • Pheasant Hunting: While more common on the Eastern Plains, opportunities still exist in the forests’ understory.
  • Game Diversity: Beyond birds, large game populations thrive here, including deer and elk.

Weather Dynamics

You’ll encounter a range of weather conditions. Be prepared for:

  • Sudden shifts from sunny to snowfall.
  • Winter can hit early and hard, so gear up for cold.

Terrain Features

  • Aspen Groves: Ideal for shelter and spotting wildlife.
  • Elevation: Ranges can affect animal patterns and your physical readiness.
  • Proximity to Walden: Known as the “Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado,” with its own seasonal considerations.

Hunting in these forests, you benefit from the knowledge of local guides who understand the nuances of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. They can provide insights into weather patterns and game movements, which are crucial for a successful hunt. Remember to always verify license requirements and respect the habitats you explore. Your adventure in these majestic lands promises the serenity of nature paired with the thrill of the hunt.

Related Posts:

Longs Peak with sign post of trails to guide hikers

Best Hiking Trails in Denver

Denver, Colorado is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts with an abundance of natural beauty and breathtaking scenery. From towering mountain peaks to stunning alpine lakes,

Man hiking in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado in autumn season

Best Hiking Trails in Colorado

Colorado is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, with its stunning natural landscapes and diverse terrain offering endless opportunities for adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker

Close-up of man legs wearing waterproof leg gaiters

Best Leg Gaiters

Are you an outdoor enthusiast looking for the perfect leg gaiters to protect you during your next adventure? Look no further! Leg gaiters are a