No Special Post Season Hunts Offered

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Despite being home to the largest elk herd in North America and offering plenty of additional opportunity through additional licenses, preliminary results would indicate that harvest rates during Colorado’s 2003 big game season didn’t reach the high expectations of both hunters and biologists. Never the less, there will be no special post season hunts offered to adult hunters who didn’t fill their tags during their designated season.

Unseasonably mild weather lasting through the first three of Colorado’s four rifle seasons gave the state’s elk herd the upper hand allowing them to avoid hunting pressure from most of the state’s nearly 300,000 hunters. While Division of Wildlife (DOW) biologists worked hard to offer as much opportunity to hunters as possible in the form of additional either-sex and cow tags, as always, weather was the major factor for success.

Last year, by emergency regulation, the DOW opened the entirety of game management units 54 and 55 to late season hunters and those who had not filled their antlerless elk licenses to hunt those areas during the late season. This change in regulations along with several other regulation changes throughout the state allowed hunters to harvest significant numbers of elk in those units, bringing the population down to the long-term objective. Consequently, the DOW will not be allowing hunters who did not fill a tag during the regular seasons to hunt during the late season, with the only exception being those with unfilled youth licenses. And only the original portions of these units outlined in the big game regulation brochure will be open for hunting.

Those who applied for and received a license for the late season hunts during the draw last April will have the opportunity after Nov. 12. Also, the late season youth hunts will continue this year. This allows any hunter holding an unfilled youth cow elk tag or either sex elk tag to hunt during any late season cow elk hunt (those hunts that begin after Nov. 12). If the youth holds an unfilled either sex license, the license must be brought to a DOW office and exchanged for a cow elk license.

There are still some leftover licenses left for both deer and elk, but hunters should be aware that many of these are only good for hunting on private land. Please consult the DOW Web site at wildlife.state.co.us/LeftoverLicenses/ or call a DOW customer service representative at (303) 297-1192 for additional information.

John Ellenberger, state big game coordinator for the DOW, said he expects the elk harvest to be similar to 2001 levels when just over 42,000 elk were harvested. Ellenberger believes that while low harvest numbers will keep the elk population over objective for the time being, strides will be made in the future. The effort to get elk numbers closer to objective is one that both hunters and the DOW will have to work toward over several seasons. Over the past several years a season with low success rates has been followed by a record year, such was the case in both the 2000 and in 2002 seasons.

“The results from the harvest this year will be factored into next year’s season setting process,” said Ellenberger. “We are in the process of planning that right now and if we have to include more licenses with different seasons that is what we’ll do.”