With the April 3 big-game application deadline drawing near, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding hunters that the agency offers a wealth of information and planning resources to assist them in making their license application selections.
From CPW's website resources and secure license application portal to video tutorials and hunt planners manning the agency's call center, hunters have at their fingertips all the resources they need to plan their hunt, said CPW director Rick Cables.
"Colorado has more elk than anywhere else in the world and loads of hunt options," said Cables. "We've also got a ton of information on our website that can help you select the right hunt for you and your hunting buddies. A little time spent planning this week can pay off with a memorable Colorado hunt this fall."
With so many options and seasons, a savvy hunter can pursue more than one kind of big game during a single week or plan a series of several hunts throughout the fall. Big game manager Andy Holland recommends that hunters identify their top choice and develop a strategy from there.
"Hunters get to choose among elk, deer, bear and pronghorn, archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons," Holland said. "It's an embarrassment of riches, and it can get confusing. I like picking one top priority I'm confident I'll draw and then build the rest of my applications around that.
To improve their chances of success in the draw, Holland encourages hunters to apply for second-, third- and fourth-choice licenses. They can also select "leftover draw" instead of "refund" on their deer and elk applications. This gives them first chance at leftover deer and elk licenses before they go on sale to the general hunting public on August 14.
Hunters can also plan to purchase an over-the-counter bull elk tag, available for the second and third rifle seasons, starting on July 10. Colorado's over-the-counter bull elk tag is unique in that it allows a hunter to hunt anywhere in 92 units, which includes some of the best elk hunting in the state. About half of the bull elk harvested every year fall to hunters with over-the-counter tags.
The 2012 big game seasons open in late August for archery hunters and run through mid-winter with late-season private land tags. Information about season dates and license application requirements can be found in CPW's 2012 Colorado Big Game brochure, which provides all of the information needed to apply for elk, deer, bear, pronghorn and moose licenses. The brochure features include easy-to-read tables, information about changes to hunting seasons this year and a reference page with important details about Colorado hunting regulations.
Copies of the brochure may be downloaded from the CPW wildlife web site and are available at any of the more than 600 locations across Colorado where licenses are sold.
As the deadline approaches, CPW is encouraging hunters to use the secure internet portal to submit their limited license applications. About 75 percent of hunters applied online in 2011, up from 64 percent in 2010.
Henrietta Turner, CPW's license administration manager, said hunters can access the secure internet portal from any internet terminal at any time of day. The internet license application is programmed to prevent hunters from making common errors on their applications.
Last year CPW staff called more than 15,000 individuals concerning 45,000 errors or problems with their big game applications, many of which would have resulted in rejection of the license application. Only 25 of those calls went to hunters who used the web application portal.
Several Parks and Wildlife offices, including offices in Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Hot Sulphur Springs, Montrose and in Denver offer internet terminals for hunters to use. In addition, the secure application site can be accessed through any public internet terminal, though Turner advises hunters to avoid waiting until just before the midnight application deadline to avert the risk that system problems could interfere with submitting applications.
For 2012, CPW has made some significant changes to Colorado's late youth elk hunting regulations. Since 2000, 12- to 17-year-olds with an unfilled elk tag could take advantage of cow elk hunting opportunities in any unit offering a late-season hunt. While these hunts were extremely successful in encouraging youth participation, they also created high levels of hunting pressure around Craig, Meeker and Steamboat Springs. Changes to the program detailed in the big game brochure will ensure hunting pressure is more evenly distributed.
Turner reminded hunters to have a current and valid photo identification, proof of hunter education and proof of residency before they sit down to fill out an application.
Hunters ages 18 to 64 are also reminded that they will need to purchase a $10 Habitat Stamp prior to applying for or purchasing their first Colorado hunting or fishing license of the license year. Only one stamp is required per hunter per year.
Colorado's habitat stamp is similar to programs in Montana, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming. Since 2006, Habitat Stamp funds have helped protect more than 124,000 acres of wildlife habitat and opened more than 54,000 acres of new public hunting and fishing access. Hunters who don't already have a stamp and who intend to submit multiple paper applications may include the $10 fee with only one application. Hunters who apply online will have a Habitat Stamp automatically added to their purchase if they have not already fulfilled the requirement.
During the next week, customer service representatives and specially trained Hunt Planners will be available to assist hunters by phone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MDT at (303) 297-1192. On April 3, the phones will be open until midnight. Hunters can also get personal assistance at one of CPW's regional service centers in Denver, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs or Durango or any one of the agency's 16 area offices.
To view the interactive version of the 2012 Colorado Big Game brochure or download the PDF, go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/RulesRegs/RegulationsBrochures/Pages/BigGame.aspx 
To learn more about license options, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/PlanYourHunt/Pages/BGLicenseOptions.aspx 
To apply for your big game license on line, go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us/ShopDOW/AppsAndLicenses/