How did you do in the Colorado big game draw this year? If you drew the tag(s) you were hoping for, congratulations! If you gained a preference point and now you're looking for opportunities in the secondary draw or over-the-counter tags, we've got helpful tips below. No matter which boat you're in, we wish you the best of luck in all your adventures this year! Drop us a note in the comments and let us know what you've got planned.
If you didn't come up with a tag in the primary draw, there are still plenty of opportunities to hunt big game this year. We've put together a quick rundown of what you need to know regarding the Colorado Secondary draw, leftover licenses and over-the-counter (OTC) big game tags.
Colorado is known for the opportunity to purchase OTC elk licenses. But there are other great opportunities that you shouldn't overlook. One of those is fall black bear hunting! And if you’re lucky, you could still come away with a mule deer or pronghorn tag in the secondary draw or from the leftover list.
If you’re looking to pick up a big game license in Colorado, here’s what you need to know:
The secondary draw gives hunters the opportunity to apply for remaining tags that didn’t sell out in the primary draw. Plus, the secondary draw includes re-issued tags that were been turned back in after the primary draw. The secondary draw can be a good opportunity to pick up a tag.
Tags That Didn't Sell Out
Most of the tags you'll see on the secondary draw are those that did not sell out in the primary draw. For the most part, these will be antlerless, doe, or cow-only licenses. Most quality buck and bull tags disappear in the primary draw. However, don't ignore these antlerless opportunities. It’s certainly worth taking a look at the secondary draw for a good freezer-filler hunt this fall.
In addition to tags that didn't sell out, you will also find some re-issued tags on the secondary draw. There are a few reasons tags like this might show up on the list - after the draw, someone may have decided they didn't want it, so they turned it back in. Or, the successful applicant may have failed to pay for the tag by the payment deadline. In either case, these tags will then appear on the secondary draw. You might even see a tag on the secondary draw that you applied for unsuccessfully in the primary draw. Again, this is probably because someone turned it in or didn't pay. The secondary draw might give you another shot. Don't expect to see very many of these reissued tags on the secondary draw. If there are quality re-issued tags, they are usually very few in number.
Secondary Draw Process
The secondary draw does not use a preference point system. If you draw a license in the secondary draw, it will not affect your current preference point status. Those points can only be used or accrued with your first choice in the primary draw.
There is one very important thing to remember as it regards preference in the secondary - youth applicants will receive first consideration for all tags in the secondary draw. If a youth applies for any tag in the secondary draw, they will automatically win that tag first. Otherwise, all other tags are distributed at random.
Secondary draw applications are accepted beginning June 21st, 2022. The deadline to apply is July 5th, 2022 at 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time. Even if you didn’t apply in the primary draw, you can still participate in the secondary draw. But just like the primary draw, you will be charged an application fee and a qualifying license is required (an annual small game license is the least expensive option for your qualifying license).
To learn more about the secondary draw, click here.
LEFTOVER & RE-ISSUED LICENSES
Any big game licenses that are remaining after the secondary draw will go on sale starting August 2nd, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time. A list of the available licenses will be posted in advance. This list will include licenses that still haven't sold out after the secondary draw. Plus, it will contain any re-issued licenses that have been turned in since the secondary draw.
The first Tuesday in August is known around here as “Leftover Day”. It’s always a mad scramble for the leftovers and especially the re-issued licenses. If any hunter has turned in a tag that they've decided not to use, it will show up on the leftover list. These tags are usually few in number, but there's potential to snag a quality tag.
When tags go on sale at 9:00 a.m., expect VERY long wait times. Whether you try to purchase a license online, over the phone or in person on Leftover Day, be prepared to wait. Thousands of other hunters will be doing the same thing. For this reason, we recommend making a prioritized list of the licenses you're interested in. With so much demand, there's a good chance the license you want will be sold by the time it's your turn in line. Therefore have a plan A, B, C, etc. for which licenses you hope to grab.
Beyond Leftover Day
After leftover day, any remaining unsold licenses will continue to be available for purchase. A list of all the leftovers will be available on the CPW website. Plus, tags that get turned in will appear on the list right up until the season. A re-issue preview list will be posted every Tuesday. Then, those re-issued tags will go on sale on Wednesdays at 11am. Quality re-issued tags usually sell out within seconds. Therefore, don't expect to pick up a premium tag - but if your'e lucky, you might be able to grab a decent re-issued tag.
To learn more about the leftover license process and how to purchase these licenses, click here.
OVER THE COUNTER ELK LICENSES
If you don’t come up with a limited license in the secondary draw or from the leftover list, you can always fall back on an over the counter elk license in Colorado. These OTC licenses are available to both Colorado residents and nonresidents.
OTC Archery Elk Tags
If you’re an archery hunter, you can purchase an either-sex OTC archery elk license. These licenses allow you to harvest a bull or cow elk and the license is valid in many game management units. You don’t have to specify a unit when you purchase one of these licenses. The license is valid in any of the OTC either-sex archery units. For a map of these units, refer to page 39 of the 2021 Big Game Brochure.
In addition to either-sex archery tags, Colorado also offers antlerless archery elk licenses over the counter. This license would allow you to harvest a cow elk with your bow. For a map of game management units where this license is valid, refer to page 38 in the 2021 Big Game Brochure.
Why would you purchase an antlerless archery elk tag when either-sex tags are available? Great question. It’s because CPW classifies the antlerless tags as “List B” which means you can purchase this license along with any other List A or List B elk license. Essentially, this gives you the ability to hold two elk tags in a single year.
For example, you could hold an either-sex archery elk license AND an antlerless archery elk tag, giving you the chance to harvest two elk during archery season. OR, you could hunt antlerless archery elk in September and then come back during rifle season with a bull tag.
OTC Rifle Elk Tags
Colorado also offers over-the-counter elk licenses for rifle hunters. These OTC rifle tags are valid for bull elk only. Hunters can choose to purchase one of these tags for the 2nd rifle season or the 3rd rifle season. Just like the OTC archery tags, you don’t need to specify a unit when you purchase one of these tags. The license is valid in a large number of game management units. For a map of units where these tags are valid, see page 40 in the Big Game Brochure.
While you don’t have to specify a single unit, you do need to choose a season. These OTC licenses are valid for either the 2nd rifle season or the 3rd, not both. In 2022, the 2nd rifle season runs from October 29 through November 6. Then the 3rd rifle season runs from November 12 through 18.
These late season dates into the month of November give hunters a good chance at seeing cold and snowy weather. While camping and hunting in cold weather can be challenging, it can also be rewarding. Cold weather means that elk spend more time on their feet and are generally more visible than in warm weather, when they tend to remain in dark timber.
All over the counter elk licenses will go on sale the first Tuesday in August. These licenses are unlimited, so you don’t have to worry about them being sold out. To learn more about purchasing an OTC license, you can click here.
FALL BLACK BEAR HUNTS
One of the most underrated opportunities might be the fall black bear hunts in Colorado. It's easily one of the best deals on a big game tag anywhere in the west, at just $103.60 for nonresidents and $40.45 for residents. And with a booming population of black bears across the state, a fall black bear hunt in Colorado should be high on your priority list.
There are several ways to purchase a black bear license in Colorado. First, you can apply for one of the remaining limited licenses in the secondary draw. If there’s a license that you’re interested in, you must apply by the deadline on July 5th. Even if you didn’t apply in the primary draw, you’re still eligible to apply in the secondary draw. To learn more about the secondary draw, click here.
In addition to picking up a limited license in the secondary draw, there are more ways to secure a Colorado bear tag this year. You can purchase an “add-on” bear license if you’re already planning an elk or mule deer hunt in Colorado this year. These add-on licenses are available over the counter in many units. To learn more about these add-on bear tags, see page 66 of the Big Game Brochure.
If you’re not planning to hunt elk or deer in Colorado this year, you can purchase a standalone over-the-counter bear license that doesn’t require an elk or deer tag. These OTC fall bear licenses are available for groups of units all over the state. To learn more, refer to page 67 of the Big Game Brochure.
Finally, you might be able to pick up a limited bear license when leftovers and re-issued licenses go on sale beginning August 2nd. As described above, this includes licenses that didn't sell out in the primary or secondary draw, plus any tags that were turned in and/or re-issued. To learn more about how to purchase a leftover or reissued license, click here.
Hunting Gear for the Adventure
As you prepare for your hunting adventures this year, please let us know if you have questions about hunting gear or equipment. The items that we choose carry in the Caribou Gear Store are the ones that we personally use in the field. We would be happy to answer questions about hunting gear and help you find the right equipment for your next adventure.
To learn more, please explore the rest of our website and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions.
By Ryan McSparran