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DENVER (KDVR) — It isn’t just Colorado’s hiking trails and 14ers that have exploded in use over the last decade.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife sent out a press release Friday reminding hunters to get their big game applications in early in order to beat the crowd. Just like state park attendance and national park attendance, hunting permits have risen with Colorado’s mushrooming population, if not to the same extremes.

From 2015 until now, the number of people applying for big game hunting licenses has gone up 27%.

Hunting attendance mirrors what happened with national and state park attendance in the same time frame. The COVID pandemic both pushed more people outdoors and brought even more people seeing outdoor opportunities into the state. The state had 50,000 – 70,000 additional big game applicants every year for the past three years.

Hunters look to be waking up to even more opportunities, as well. Deer and elk are still the biggest attractions for hunters, but since 2018 a greater percentage of draw applications have gone to other big game species such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

Colorado’s hunting options are attracting more attention from out-of-towners, as well.

The portion of applications made by nonresidents has climbed quickly. In 2015, nonresidents were about one in every four applicants. Last year, about one in three applications were from nonresidents.

The state is broadly encouraging even more people to get involved. In 2021, CPW’s Hunter Outreach Program had more than 300 mentored hunts statewide, including options for young hunters and novice adults. CPW hosted more than 100 fishing clinics across Colorado to introduce roughly 3,000 people to angling in 2021, from fly and ice fishing to warm water fishing and kids events.