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With The Onset of Fall, Hunters Rejoice

The dog days of summer have ended. That’s music to the ears of hundreds of thousands of rabid fans in Colorado.

And that has nothing to do with those following the Broncos and their hunt to Super Bowl 50.

Quite literally, this has everything to do with a different kind of hunt. Every fall, as the aspens begin to turn and the temperatures start to cool, big- and small-game hunters rejoice as their season kicks off.

Finally.

“When it’s September in the Rocky Mountains, there’s no better place to be,” says Kurt Geist, a sales associate at Bill Pellegrino’s Archery Hut in eastern Colorado Springs. “In my mind, there’s not a better sound than an elk bugling.”

Hunting is big business in Colorado. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Joe Lewandowski, hunting contributes $1 billion annually to the state’s economy. That’s due largely in part to the more than 300,000 licenses for big-game species that are purchased by hunters every year.

Whether by traditional bow and arrow, muzzleloader or rifle, most hunters pursue elk, deer and pronghorn through and around the state’s 23 million acres of public land. Keep in mind that hunters can use private land but must obtain permission first.

So why hunt in Colorado? First off, Colorado boasts the largest herd of elk in the country; CPW biologists estimate that about 280,000 elk live in Colorado, most in the northwestern corner of the state.

That’s not all. Big-game hunters can also seek out black bear, moose, antelope and bighorn sheep, in addition to small game – pheasants, dove and coyotes, just to name a few – and waterfowl, along with mountain lions and turkeys.

“This is the hub of big-game hunting,” says Bobby Musgrove, hunting manager at Bass Pro Shop in northern Colorado Springs. “With the elk, bear, mule deer and moose, it’s second to none. Most people will travel to Colorado because all this wildlife is here. If I could hunt for a living, I probably would.”

Colorado attracts out-of-state hunters by allowing non-residents to purchase an over-the-counter license to hunt elk. 

“We’re the only state that does that,” Geist says. “You can come into town, stop into a Walmart and buy an elk tag and continue on your way.”

But first, a hunter first must obtain a safety card, which is given after the completion of a hunter-safety course. 

Colorado offers distinct seasons for archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunting. Archery season, which offers the earliest big-game opportunities, starts in late August and lasts through the end of September. Muzzleloader season, (by draw only) overlaps the archery season, running from mid-September to mid-October, while four rifle seasons are afforded hunters between the first of October and the end of January. 

It’s a long time to wait and prepare, but for the many hunters, they say it’s definitely worth it.

“This sport is a thrill, and it’s about making memories with your family and passing it down to your children,” Musgrove says. “That’s priceless, to go out there and bring that trophy back home.”

In the Pikes Peak region, the Pike-San Isabel National Forest is a popular hunting destination. Also in close proximity is the Rio Grande National Forest, while to the east sits the Comanche National Grassland.

Anyone interesting in hunting can find plenty of information on the CPW website, cpw.state.co.us.