Colorado License Cuts for the Upcoming 2023 Seasons
By Dave Shaffer
If you applied for a tag in Colorado this year you’ve probably heard this winter has been the worst we’ve seen in the past 70 years for the northwest corner of the state, even surpassing the severe winter of 1983-84. Conditions in Northwest Colorado, especially Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, have been historically brutal on our wildlife with deep snow, drifts, and at least a 3-foot snow-base across the region.
Because of this winter’s impact on survival rates of the herds in the NW region, during the 3 May Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commissioners Meeting Andy Holland, Colorado’s State Big Game Manager, recommended a series of substantial reductions in big game licenses. The goal with these reductions is to allow herds to recover as quickly as possible. Here’s a link to his presentation and if you’d like to actually listen to it, here’s a link to the CPW meeting, Deer, Elk, Pronghorn and Moose Limited License Recommendations and State of the Herds Update and his presentation begins at the 5 hour, 45 minute point. During this meeting the Commissioners approved his recommendations to reduce overall limited license from last year by 32,000 (about -12%) for the upcoming 2023 season for Deer, Elk and Pronghorn across the state.
Elk licenses: Statewide, CPW will issue 107,700 licenses for elk, down 15,400 (-12%) licenses from last year. Antlerless elk licenses be reduced by 5,600 (-89%) in E-2 (Bears Ears: GMUs 3, 4, 5, 14, 214, 301, 441) with all public cow hunts reduced to the minimum of 10 licenses per hunt code. For E-6 (White River: GMUs 11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 131, 211, 231) there will be a reduction of 8,700 (-63%) antlerless licenses. For E-21 (Rangely) the reduction is 400 (-60%) antlerless licenses.
Reduced Elk Season Lengths: In addition to approving these elk license reductions, the Commission amended and approved a shortened, five-day over-the-counter (OTC) bull elk season for GMUs in the E-2 (Bears Ears) and select GMUs in E-6 (White River) elk herds. Now 2nd and 3rd OTC rifle seasons for bull licenses have been shortened to five days. 2nd Season (hunt code: EM-000-U2-R) will be from Oct 28 – Nov 1 and 3rd Season (EM-000-U3-R) will be from Nov 11 – 15.
These changes do not affect limited cow elk, deer, or pronghorn license holder season dates, or OTC bull hunting in GMUs 25, 26, 33, 34 within DAU E-6.
In addition, Archery licenses for hunt code E-E-004-O1-A and muzzleloader licenses for hunt codes E-E-004-O1-M and E-E-014-O1-M have been reduced by an additional 25%. Only the number of licenses issued has changed. Dates for archery and muzzleloader season in these hunt codes remain the same.
Mule Deer licenses: While mule deer have fared somewhat better than elk and pronghorn, the combination of severe winter conditions and the high prevalence of chronic wasting disease has affected the resiliency of this population. Statewide, CPW is issuing 12,600 (-12%) fewer deer licenses than last year. For the northwest region, CPW will reduce male and either-sex deer licenses by 5,000 (-48%) combined in D-2 (Bears Ears), D-6 (Rangely), and D-7 (White River). Doe tags are reduced by 2,900 (-94%) combined and to the minimum of 10 licenses per hunt code in D-2 (Bears Ears) and D-7 (White River).
Pronghorn licenses: Pronghorn fared the worst this winter. Pronghorn male and female license quotas are reduced to the minimum of 10 per hunt code. Buck licenses are reduced by 1,100 (-74%) and doe tags are reduced by 700 (-83%) combined for all DAUs. The affected herds include Great Divide (GMUs 3,4,5,13,14,131,214,301 & 441), Maybell (GMU 11), Sand Wash (GMUs 1,2, & 201), and Axial Basin (GMUs 12, 23, & 211)
A complete listing of all 2023 Big Game License Recommendations by Species can be found here: CPW’s website.
If you applied for a tag in Colorado this year, as I did, you’re about to find out whether all these reductions may have cost you a tag, because the draw results are scheduled to be posted online May 30 – June 2. CPW will randomly release all big game results during those days (except for Sheep and Goat which have already been published). Hopefully these license reductions, which were very necessary in CPW’s efforts to meet herd management objectives, won’t cost you a tag this year as there are still plenty of tags available. Best of luck to all who applied!