Commission Makes Changes to Big Game License Allocation

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The Colorado Wildlife Commission voted Tuesday to make several proposed changes regarding the allocation of big game hunting licenses at its October meeting in Salida. The proposed regulatory changes will not be final until voted upon in November.

The changes will affect the way big game hunting licenses are distributed beginning in 2006.

Three of the changes – the age limit for youth hunting, landowner access fees and licenses for hunters with life-threatening diseases – require statutory approval by the state legislature.

NONRESIDENT PRECENTAGES

One of the new changes that will go into effect in 2006 will modify the way resident and nonresident licenses are allocated for season-specific deer and elk hunt codes in select Game Management Units (GMU) that require at least five resident preference points to hunt elk and deer. In the GMU’s with affected hunt codes, 80 percent of the licenses will be allocated to residents and 20 percent of the licenses will be allocated to nonresidents. In the remaining limited license GMU’s the allocation ratio will be 65 percent resident and 35 percent nonresident. Prior to the change, 60 percent of limited elk and deer licenses were allocated to residents and 40 percent went to nonresidents.

“We are well aware of the critical role that nonresident hunters play in wildlife management in Colorado,” said Bruce McCloskey, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). “They also have a tremendous impact on the small town economies throughout the state, but we are hopeful that this move will have few economic consequences and minimal impact on nonresident participation. We will continue to sell unlimited over-the-counter bull licenses to both residents and nonresidents for a significant portion of the hunting opportunities available.”

Over-the-counter bull elk licenses remain unlimited for both residents and nonresidents.

“This is a direct result of the tremendous amount of public input we received throughout this process,” said Jeff Crawford, Colorado Wildlife Commission Chairman. “After months of public input and meetings throughout the state, it became clear that there needed to be more opportunity for those who live and hunt in Colorado.”

PREFERENCE POINTS

The Commission adopted a series of measures intended to address preference point creep. The measures include no longer providing a preference point for application errors, no longer providing hunters with the option of getting preference points back when they decide not to hunt prior to the season (except in the case of documented medical or family emergencies), and zeroing out a hunter’s points for a species if he or she does not apply to hunt that species for a period of three years.

The new policy for preference points also allows for a one-time “banking” option in 2006. This will let hunters keep the balance of their preference points if they draw a hunting license that requires fewer points. For example, if a hunter has six preference points for a specific species and draws a license that only requires two points, they can keep the remaining four points.

Under the current system, hunters must cash in all of their points whenever they are awarded their first choice when applying for limited hunting licenses. This option will be re-evaluated following the 2006 hunting season.

The Commission adopted the banking option because of a trend in recent years that saw the number of preference points required to draw premium hunts to continue to increase or creep.

FEES FOR PREFERENCE POINTS

Another proposed change affects hunters who apply for a limited license or for “points only.” The change dictates that those hunters will be charged beyond the current $3 charge if they did not purchase an annual license in the previous year or a big game hunting license in the previous year or current year’s draw. As with the other proposed regulatory changes a final decision on the amount and the implementation timeline will be made in November. This change is also designed to limit preference point creep.

INCREASE IN LANDOWNER ACCESS FEES

The Commission approved increasing the fee that landowners can charge hunters to access their property and still be eligible for game damage payments from $100 to $500. Landowner access fees were last increased from $25 to $100 in 1991.

YOUTH HUNTING

Pending approval by the state legislature, the definition of a “youth” hunter will change to include anyone 12 to 17 years old. The previous definition of a youth was a hunter 12 to 15 years old. The youth hunting proposal has strong support by all constituents with the belief that the definition of a youth should be expanded.

The DOW will also propose legislation to allow hunters under the age of 21 who have a terminal or life-threatening disease to apply for a “hunt of a lifetime.” If passed by the legislature, a small number of big game hunting licenses will be set aside each year to meet this demand. The hunt-of-a-lifetime licenses will be administered by the DOW Director’s office.

OTHER ACTION

In other action, the Wildlife Commission directed the DOW staff to study several proposals regarding mountain lion hunting. The proposals cover mandatory training for lion hunters, certification of hunters who use hounds, the date that lion harvest quotas are re-set and the date that the lion season begins. DOW staff will study the proposals and report back to the Commission at their November meeting in Greeley.