Elk NetworkApplication Period Open for 2021 Colorado Hunts, CWD Testing Mandatory for Some Elk Hunts

General | March 5, 2021

Below is a news release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Hunters hoping to draw a big-game license in Colorado in 2021 are urged to review the changes in license requirements and fees prior to the March 1 opening of the application period (March 1 – April 6 at 8 p.m. MT). For a good overview of what’s in store, watch CPW’s “What’s New” video for the 2021 big-game seasons.

Important changes for hunters to take note of include:

Adjustments to license fees

The Future Generations Act, which passed through the Colorado Legislature in 2018, allows CPW to adjust license prices to keep up with the cost of inflation. This year, that means an increase of 2.7%.

Qualifying licenses

In order to participate in the big-game primary draws and secondary draws, hunters will need to purchase a qualifying license. All applicants, including youth ages 12-17, must buy a qualifying license prior to applying for any big-game license draw. Qualifying licenses include: spring turkey licenses, annual small game, annual resident combination small game/fishing, veteran’s lifetime resident combination small game/fishing, senior combination small game/fishing, disabled first responder combination small game/fishing and annual small-game license for resident senior lifetime fishing license holders (new). Please note that any remaining leftover limited licenses that become available on a first-come-first-serve basis (Aug. 3 at 9 a.m. MT) and over-the-counter licenses (Aug. 3 at 9 a.m. MT), do not require a qualifying license to purchase.

Valid dates for annual licenses have changed

The 2021 annual licenses go on sale March 1, 2021, including qualifying licenses, at the same time as big-game applications open. The 2021 annual licenses, including qualifying licenses, are valid March 1, 2021 – March 31, 2022. Remember, to be a valid qualifying license for the big-game draws, the license must be valid for the 2021 license year.

Secondary draw replaced the leftover draw in 2020

Hunters who don’t draw a license in this year’s primary draw still have the opportunity to draw a license in the secondary big game draw. The secondary draw replaced the old leftover draw starting in 2020.

Most elk, deer, pronghorn and bear licenses not issued through the primary draw are made available in a secondary draw that is open to anyone, whether they applied for the primary draw or not. Secondary draw applications are accepted June 16 – 30, 8 p.m. MT.

Visit CPW’s website for more information about the secondary draw.

Review your application and account to avoid issues with your draw

Apply early to avoid any issues with your application. After you submit your application, review your emailed receipt to confirm the hunt codes you entered. Application modifications can be made to a submitted application before April 6, 2021 at 8 p.m. MT.

To avoid any issues if you draw a license, make sure your credit card on file is up to date and that your email and mailing address are correct when you apply. The payment deadline for the primary big game draw is June 11, 2021. If you draw a license, watch your credit card statements for the charge. If you are not charged, watch for an email from CPW (check your spam box too) for instructions on how to remit payment or contact one of our offices. Licenses that are not paid for by the deadline are surrendered and preference points used to draw the license are lost.

Mandatory testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

CPW is continuing mandatory Chronic Wasting Disease testing for selected game management units (GMUs) as part of its Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan. There is no charge for mandatory testing.

CPW will require mandatory submission of CWD test samples (heads) from all elk and deer harvested for specific hunt codes. The hunt codes selected for mandatory testing are shaded green in the 2021 Colorado Big Game brochure. There will be no charge for mandatory testing.


CWD testing for elk (bulls and cows) is mandatory and free for all rifle season hunters who have harvested in the hunt codes shaded green in the big game brochure. Not all rifle hunt codes were selected for mandatory testing within each GMU like they are for deer, so a list of GMUs is not provided for elk.


CWD testing for deer (bucks and does) is mandatory and free for all rifle season hunters who have harvested in the following game management units (GMUs): 1, 2, 6, 16, 17, 31, 32, 44, 52, 161, 171, 201, 411, 444, 521

Voluntary CWD Testing for 2021

Hunters who have harvested deer in any GMUs other than those listed above, or harvested any elk or moose (in all GMUs) may also voluntarily submit their animal for testing for a fee of $25 per animal. If a hunter is not selected for mandatory testing but wants to know whether their harvested deer, elk or moose has CWD, they can submit their animal and pay a testing fee of $25.

Free voluntary deer CWD testing will also be provided to:

Testing fees for voluntary submissions will be waived for all deer ONLY (not elk) harvested within the same (mandatory testing) GMUs listed above. Voluntary submissions are accepted annually statewide.

“It’s very important all hunters read the 2021 Colorado Big Game brochure, which is available at all CPW office locations and online,” said CPW Public Information Officer Travis Duncan. “We’re encouraging all hunters to check their online accounts to ensure their contact information is current and credit card information is up-to-date. Then check your account after the draw to see the draw results, your preference point levels and the status of your payments,” Duncan said.

*Note to hunters: CPW harvest data from 2020-2021 will not be available until mid-March.

(Photo source: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)