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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

Any body here use rfw? Never used it myself, but I think its a great program because it opens up private land to public hunters. However if there are some of the cooperatives abusing the system it needs to be dealt with....

bitmasher's picture
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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

Here's more info.

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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

In both of the articles they referred to the large, RFW properties "stockpiling" elk to the detriment of surrounding properties. How the heck do you stockpile elk!?! I have no idea what they're really talking about. (I also got a little tired of the eating metaphors.)

On the whole, though, I think the basic concept behind RFW is a good one. Obviously, though, if some of the ranchers are abusing the program, that's a bad thing. Personally, if I were able to dictate the rules, I'd probably say that any RFW participant who abuses the system will be forced to open his property to public hunters for a period of three years and will get NO special licenses! I think that would be enough incentive to keep them on the straight and narrow.

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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

I personally believe the abuses are in the minority. When the author stated some were "stockpiling" he should have said herding. I've heard rumors of a rancher herding the elk (on horseback & vehicles) to keep them on his own property, but don't know if people are truly able to "herd" or keep elk in a specific area.

The largest debate I see here is the inconsistency between RFW ranches being given tags and having the luxury of hunting 90 days for all species, where the smaller ranches have to comply with the official hunting seasons/dates. Some smaller ranches have formed LLCs and corporations to qualify as RFW.

On the overall I feel the program is good and necessary, however the DOW needs to figure out a way to make it fair for all sizes of ranches and not just reward the really large ones.

BTW, I'm neither an outfitter or a RFW rancher.

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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

Yeah these DP articles are kind of written from a populous perspective. Big powerful ranchers screwing the little man.

For small ranches that border rfw co-ops they could lower the barrier of entry into the rfw. In other words, if you share a border with an established rfw, the DOW could force the existing rfw to accept the new member. That's good for the rfw, good for hunters (public and private), and good for the game.

Whether its stockpiling or herding its sounds fishy to me. These rfws are huge (12,000 acres minimum criteria seems to stick in my head) that is a hell of a lot of fence to patrol.....

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I have hunted on these ranches with great satisfaction

I have hunted on the Blue Gravel and Big Gulch RFW areas for the last 8 years and have nothing but good things to say about them. A tremendous amount of private land, that has not been open to us before, has been opened up for hunting. I have never been able to "stockpile" any wild animals and don't believe they have either. If this land was not hunted the animals would stay on the land where there is no pressure and would not be pushed off of the land to public land or other ranches.

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Colorado Ranching For Wildlife (RFW) Under Fire

Here is an article that came out this weekend locally in the Craig Daily Press. It talks about proposed changes in the RFW program.

http://www.craigdailypress.com/section/localnews/story/15387

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RFW

I will give you my personal experience this year for my first time. It has not been a good experience at all.

First let me say that the people I've delt with at the Morgan Creek Range have been great. Very nice people willing to help, etc, however here is the reality. The DOW provides the land owners/managers a certain amount of tags for them to use when they want during the season. For this they in return to allow so many tags to the puplic to hunt and for this ranch it was 6 either sex tags.  So in my case although they have taken some nice over 300 class bull Elk from this ranch, it was the paid customers who got to hunt during the rut and shoot those nice bulls. So by the time we hunt (using more then 14 years of pref points to draw it) the big bulls have been shot and or what was left have moved off the ranch. 

In fairness the ranch is 38 thousand acres and can hold lots of animal, as we did see a lot of Elk, however no big bulls to be found and we were over the entire ranch for 5 solid days.  So in my opinion the clear advantage goes to the those paying customers who had first choice and have the big bucks to pay for it. Those of us left who can't afford the 5K tag get little to nothing in a quality bull.

If the DOW was truely sincere about helping those of us who waited all those years building up the pref points, then they would allow us the public some tags during the Rut so we could hunt the same time as the paid guys giving us a for a fair shake as well.

So I feel as if the DOW (again our governement hard at work) has scammed us the regular folk. The DOW gets their money, and Ranch gets their's so they are all happen. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't have wasted all those years on Pref Points. Its a JOKE.  Thats the Harsh reality and my blame is towards the DOW not the ranch.  That said I wouldn't waste any of my pref points for Elk on the Morgan Creek Ranch if you are looking for a big bull. If you want to fill a either sex tag then its a good ranch for that. 

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Sorry to hear about your

Sorry to hear about your disappointment with the RFW hunt.  I've hunted several RFW properties and had good hunts and experiences.  Although, I've always been meat hunting and not after a trophy bull.  If I was consider going after a trophy, I would probably only consider a couple of RFW ranches--those that reside in units managed for trophy elk opportunities.  I'm sure each ranch in the RFW program has some nice bulls, but as you mentioned in your post, those are usually taken by paying customers earlier in the season.  A trophy unit will have many more trophy quality bulls to harvest.

I understand your frustration with how the current system is set up for public hunters.  The reality of this system is providing the public hunter all of the cow tags and a smaller percentage of the bull/either sex tags, with the majority of the bull/either sex tags going to the ranch as transferrable tags to sell to their customers.  The season dates for all of these hunts, both public and private, are negotiated by the ranch and the DOW.  If I understand correctly, the period negotiated is usually a 3 year period, but it could be longer I suppose.  

The incentive for the ranches is a reasonable number of tags they can transfer to guided hunters without the need for those hunters to put in for the tag in the limited draw.  If the ranch didn't get these tags then why would they want to participate in the program at all?  If they can't run the business and generate revenues greater than that possible with regular draw tags they won't participate.  It may be frustrating for public hunters, especially those who expect to harvest a nice trophy bull, to be limited to a 10 day season and not have the first pick of the bulls to harvest.  But this is the reality of the program.  If you force landowners to allow the public hunters to shoot the trophy bulls and the paying customers get the 4-point rag horns, they won't have a sustainable business (read no repeat customers) model and will simply quit participating in the program anyway.

Let me ask it this way.  If you were a paying hunter, would you expect to compete with a public hunter for the best bull on the property?  Would you return another year (and pay another $5K) or recommend others to hunt the ranch if the biggest bull you saw was a 5-point?  What if you were the landowner?  Is it unreasonable for you to expect something in return for allowing public hunters onto your property?

If the RFW program didn't exist then literally hundreds of thousands of acres of private land would disappear from public access.  It may not be perfect, but it is a good program that provides a lot of good hunting for many public hunters.

That said, I do think it would be useful for the DOW to help hunters out a bit more with setting appropriate expectations for RFW ranches with respect to trophy quality bulls.  It would be nice to see some harvest data besides just kill success rates, something like an average score for the horns.  This would help hunters when choosing their hunts for their application, especially when deciding on how to use their hard earned preference points.

I'd recommend providing some of your ideas/suggestions for improving the program to the DOW with the survey they will send you.  They may even call to talk with you about your experience.  Provide them with some ideas for tangible improvement of the program.  It might not make up for your hunt this year, but it may help to improve the program for others in the future.

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