Here’s a rundown of what you need to know regarding Colorado Secondary draw, leftover licenses and over-the-counter (OTC) big game tags in 2021…
If you didn’t come up with a license in the primary draw, there are still plenty of opportunities to hunt in the Centennial State this year for both residents and nonresdients. Colorado is known for the opportunity to purchase OTC elk licenses. But don’t overlook the opportunity to hunt black bears in Colorado this fall. 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:
Fall Bear Hunts
In case you haven’t heard, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has reduced license fees for black bears. A resident bear license is now just $38 and a nonresident bear license is only $100. This makes it one of the best deals on a nonresident big game license anywhere in the west. And with a hefty population of black bears across the state, a fall black bear hunt in Colorado should be high on your priority list.
There are a number of ways to purchase a black bear license in Colorado. First, you can apply for one of the remaining limited licenses in the secondary draw. You can look to see which tags are available in the secondary draw here. If there’s a license that you’re interested in, you must apply by the deadline on June 30th. 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 2021 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 2021 Big Game Brochure.
Finally, you might be able to pick up a limited bear license when leftovers and reissued licenses go on sale beginning August 3rd. This list of “leftover” licenses includes those that were not issued in the primary or secondary draw. It also includes licenses that were turned in and/or re-issued. When a hunter decides to turn in a license, it will appear on this list along with any leftovers. To learn more about how to purchase a leftover or reissued license, click here.
The secondary draw gives hunters the opportunity to apply for remaining tags that didn’t sell out in the primary draw, plus re-issued tags that have been turned back in. As we’ve mentioned above as it relates to black bear hunting, the secondary draw can be a good opportunity to pick up a tag.
There will be a few high quality licenses on the secondary draw list - these are the reissued tags. However, don’t expect the secondary draw to be chock full of quality buck and bull tags. After the primary draw, most of the decent tags will be sold out. For the most part, the best opportunities in the secondary draw will be for antlerless, doe or cow-only licenses. It’s certainly worth taking a look at the secondary draw for these opportunities. You may be able to pick up a good freezer-filler tag for this fall.
Secondary draw applications are accepted beginning June 16th. The deadline to apply is June 30th, 2021 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).
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 in the primary draw. The only preference given in the secondary draw is to youth hunters - youth applicants will receive first consideration for all tags in the secondary draw.
To learn more about the secondary draw and to begin your application, click here.
Leftover and Re-Issued Licenses
Any remaining limited big game licenses after the secondary draw will go on sale August 3rd at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time. In addition to leftovers that weren’t sold in the primary or secondary draws, reissued licenses will also be available at this time. For example, if a hunter draws a license and then turns it back in, that license would be reissued. Or, if someone draws licenses but fails to pay for it by the payment deadline, that license would also be reissued.
Known around here as “Leftover Day” it’s always a mad scramble for these reissued licenses. When they go on sale at 9:00 a.m. on August 3rd, 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.
To learn more about the leftover license process and how to purchase these licenses, click here.
Over the Counter Elk Licenses
Finally, if you don’t come up with a limited license in the secondary draw or from the leftover list, you can always purchase an over the counter elk license. 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 these 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 2021 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. This year, the 2nd rifle season runs from October 30 through November 7. Then the 3rd rifle season runs from November 13 through 19.
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 August 3rd. 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.
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 our shop 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. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. If you’re in the Denver area, stop by our showroom at 8955 S. Ridgeline Blvd #1100 in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.
By Ryan McSparran
Ryan is an outdoor writer based in Colorado, and is proud to be a part of the team at Caribou Gear.