Planning an elk hunting trip to Colorado is exciting. And it can seem pretty daunting. In this article we will cover:

  • What season should I elk hunt in Colorado?
  • What should I consider when selecting an elk hunting season in Colorado?
  • Does it make sense that most out of state hunting parties choose the second season?

There are so many things to consider when choosing an elk hunting season. And I won’t be able to cover everyone in this article, but I will tell you what I’ve learned from years of big game hunting and outfitting hunting groups. So let’s get started taking a look at this subject.

What season should I elk hunt in Colorado?

This is a big question that gets a lot of thought from many of the hunters we talk to, work with each year, and who often rent hunting tents. The same main factors tend to drive the decision for many out of state hunting parties. The end result, and we will go into some detail later in this article, for many elk hunting groups is that they decide 2nd season is the best for their group. And, because so many out of state hunters decide on hunting the second elk hunting season, it means there are a lot more hunters in the field than any other elk season in Colorado.

At one time or another, I have hunted each of the four main elk rifle seasons. It’s interesting to note that at the exact same camping spot, just a pull off the road spot like most hunters use, I’ve been the only hunting camp during 1st and 4th season. And during 2nd elk hunting season, I was one of six camps and over 16 hunters.

The important thing to remember is that second season should have a strike against it right from the start because of hunting pressure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose it. And the percentages say you probably will. Truth be told, the second season has a lot going for it.

What should I consider when selecting an elk hunting season in Colorado?

Many out of state hunters want to hunt the over the counter bull elk hunting seasons which are 2nd and 3rd rifle season. These seasons are also the longest seasons which makes sense if you’re coming from outside of Colorado. These seasons require less planning since you can buy a bull tag over the counter. Once hunters have narrowed things down to the 2nd and 3rd season, the 2nd season usually wins the day because there is a lower chance of getting snowed out and it’s a combined deer hunting season.

On the other hand, there are very good reasons to hunt seasons other than 2nd. Here are a few:

  • 1st Season  – elk hunters sometimes find bull elk that are still rutting. When that happens, early season success goes up dramatically. My 16-year-old son once shot a nice 5 x 5 within the first five minutes of opening morning. We bugled him in.
  • 4th Season –  elk and deer hunters often find few hunters and it’s a huge bonus that migrating elk and deer are in unfamiliar territory.
  • 3rd Season – By the time the third season rolls around there has often been significant snow in the high country. this means migrating elk and deer which increases your opportunity to bag and animal.
  • 2.5 Season – OK, I made this one up….but it’s a great option. Wait until most of the second season crowd leaves and hunt the last five days. You will contend with fewer hunters and a little high country snow will make you a happy camper.

Does it make sense that most out of state hunters choose 2nd season?

Maybe. And the truth is it could make the most sense for a number of the reasons I’ve listed below. But, I’ve also learned that most groups hunt only 5 days during the second season. That may sound strange, but here is why:

  • Vacation time is limited and a trip to and from the eastern part of the country takes up part of the time available.
  • Colorado’s landscape is a hell of a challenge. Five or six days of going up and down mountains is all most guys can take.
  • Weather can be a factor for both travel in and out of campsites and it’s much more challenging to navigate the backcountry on foot in deeper snow.
  • A member of the hunting party has altitude sickness.

 Final thoughts

Every group must decide for themselves based on their situation. Plenty of elk are bagged in every Colorado elk season. If you would like any additional information or if you need to rent a canvas wall tent, check out our website at