Colorado: Wolves, Winterkill & More Tags?
By Dave Shaffer
The 3-4 May meeting of the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission was tremendously significant for Colorado’s Resident Hunters, and all Colorado hunters, for many reasons.
- First, this was Jeff Davis’ initial meeting as the New Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (appointed by Governor Polis).
- The Commissioners unanimously approved the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan clearing the way for the introduction of wolves in the Western Slope area by December 31, 2023. (This is covered in a separate BLOG).
- Colorado’s resident hunters WON additional tag allocations. CPW’s staff recommended modifying the big game license distribution to an across-the-board allocation for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bear of 75% for residents and 25% for non-residents effective for the 2024 big game seasons. However, the Commissioners pointed out they just recently spent a lot of time updating the 3-year average used to determine which hunts are considered “High Demand” and the odds for these hunts were held at 80%/20%. Therefore, the Commission approved the staff’s recommendation for 75%/25% for normal hunts (an increase for residents from 65%/35%) but retained 80%/20% for high demand hunts (avoiding a decrease for residents to 75/25). This will result in a net increase of 3,000+ tags for Colorado’s resident hunters.
- Unfortunately, all Colorado Hunters will lose overall limited licenses for the upcoming season. This meeting dealt with Colorado’s continued harsh winter weather which was compared to ’83-’84 as being historically brutal on our wildlife. Conditions in northwest Colorado are by far the worst and with deep snow, drifts, and at least a 3-foot snow-base across the region. To deal with this, Andy Holland, Colorado’s State Big Game Manager, gave a presentation on CPW recommendations for reductions in big game licenses. Details will be published, but his recommendations were approved to cut overall limited license by 217,000 (about 13%) for the upcoming 2023 season for Deer, Elk and Pronghorn across the state, with the largest cuts occurring in the Severe Winter Zone (NW corner). Additionally, Cow Elk tags will be reduced by 25% to help the elk herds recover faster. Notably Moose licenses will increase by 7% for bulls and 10% for cows.
- All Colorado Hunters will also lose hunting days to shortened OTC Seasons. To further deal with the harsh winter, it was approved to reduce the length of 2nd & 3rd OTC Bulls seasons to only 5 days each in DAU E2 & E6 (GMU’s 3, 301, 4, 441, 5, 14, 214, 11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 131, 211, 231). This fall’s 2nd Season will be from Oct 28 to Nov 1 and 3rd Season from Nov 11 to 15.
- Point Banking of preference points for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bear was discussed. The CPW staff (as directed during the previous meeting) presented the Commissioner’s with alternatives for point banking, as follows:
- Do nothing, Do NOT adopt point banking.
- Alt 1: Simple Banking System with a 2-point surcharge.
- Alt 2: Simple Banking System with a 2-point surcharge plus a once-in-a-lifetime banking limit per species.
Unfortunately, after a great deal of discussion, and confusion, the commissioners got hung up on the “complicated” system and instead of deciding what to do they kicked-the-can down the road and ask the CPW staff to put together a New Task Force of Commissioners, Members, Public and Staff: To study the Entire Draw System, try to simplify it, and consider REMOVING PREFERENCE POINTS altogether. The outcome of this could definitely be tragic for all hunters who’ve been saving preference points for many years. Potentially even worse, they gave no guidance as to what they might do if all preference points were actually removed.
More to follow in June…