Hunters offer input on five-year plan |

Hunters offer input on five-year plan

Andy Smith

In February, the Colorado Division of Wildlife started conducting town hall-style meetings to discuss possible changes to its five-year big-game season structure.

The DOW reviews its policies and proposes changes in hunting regulations every five years. A phase to set policy guidelines for the 2005-2009 season structure ended in June and wildlife officials are now moving on to the regulatory implementation phase.

Initially, hunters, businessmen and outfitters in Northwest Colorado turned out in droves to make it clear they wanted things pretty much left alone — especially those dependent on doing business with out-of-state hunters.

Some early proposals included lowering the number of nonresident licenses, tinkering with the preference points system, and limiting bull licenses in certain Data Analysis Units to increase the number of mature animals. The debate about how the DOW awards preference points quickly became controversial so wildlife officials postponed a decision to change anything. But the Colorado Wildlife Commission agreed to consider five DAUs for limited bull licenses. However none in Northwest Colorado were targeted, prompting many elk hunters to breathe a sigh of relief.

In July, DOW representatives presented the proposed alternatives to the big-game season structure at a meeting in Craig. Officials told hunters the DOW planned to maintain the status quo on most hunting seasons, with some minor alterations.

Among the four alternatives to regular rifle deer and elk seasons, the DOW has suggested altering the season structures to lengthen the breaks between seasons and creating a season to put more pressure on cows. Another alternative would allow unsuccessful rifle bull and cow hunters to purchase a cow tag during the fourth season.

Local hunters liked the extended breaks between seasons, but they wanted to be able to purchase elk tags for the fourth season over the counter. Currently, hunters have to draw tags early in the year for the fourth season.

The DOW will compile all public comments on the regulatory alternatives and present them to agency managers and wildlife commissioners for their consideration at the Sept. 9 and 10 meeting in Durango. At the meeting, wildlife officials are expected to settle on a draft of regulations. The commission will meet again Nov. 17 and 18 in Colorado Springs where they are likely to adopt a final set of regulations for the 2005 to 2009 big-game season structure. The new regulations would become effective next year.

“This has been a very public process,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton. “So far we haven’t seen any large groups being extremely vocal or coming out in opposition to any one proposal.”

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