OUT: No big-game surprises January 14, 2009

2009 seasons approved as planned; some see danger in overlap period

The Colorado Wildlife Commission stayed the course Monday, approving the 2009 big-game seasons as planned.

This fall’s seasons start with archery from Aug. 29–Sept. 27 with blackpowder wedged into the Sept. 12–20 time slot.

The four regular rifle seasons will be Oct. 10–14 (limited elk only); Oct. 17–25 and Oct. 31–Nov. 4 (combined deer and elk); and Nov. 11–15 (limited combined deer and elk).

Archery and blackpowder hunters can look forward to some changes starting in 2010 based on the amount of discussion centering on potential or reported conflicts during those early-season hunts.

One of the discussions centers around archers wearing camouflage wandering the same woods with early season buck hunters carrying high-powered rifle. Nothing has been confirmed, but the commission starts the heavy lifting in April when the draft regulations for 2010–2014 are due.

May sees the start of the first round of hearings on the five-year season structure with the final decision scheduled for September.

You can follow the development of the season regulations on the Division of Wildlife Web site, wildlife.state.co.us. Click on “Hunting,” then click “Big Game,” then “Five Year Season Structure.”

Timelines, draft regulations and minutes of commission discussions are available.

Those early-season high-elevation buck season started 40 years ago to give Colorado hunters a unique opportunity to harvest a buck still in velvet.

While there aren’t many of the licenses issued — only 10 for the Flat Tops and 220 across the rest of the state — there is some concern from archers about possible conflicts.

The Colorado Bowhunters Association would like to see that rifle season moved to later in the fall, but the commission expressed a reluctance to lose that early-season opportunity.

“If we move these hunts to later in the season we will diminish this unique opportunity,” said Rick Kahn, DOW terrestrial section manager.

Kahn said the early season is timed to start after Labor Day and before the bucks start to shed the velvet.

Also, moving the hunts later might not catch the deer still in the high country, said Ron Velarde, DOW Northwest Region manager.

“The reason these hunts start early is from a weather standpoint,” Velarde said. “We wanted to get the hunters into the high country before it snows.

“The later season start when they do is to avoid conflicts over Labor Day.”

The commission also adopted a stricter time line for shed antler hunting in the Gunnison Basin. Because of concern over unintentional impacts to wintering deer and sage grouse, shed antler hunters now are limited to a Jan. 15 to May 15 season and from March 15 to May 15, when sage grouse are on the leks – or spring mating grounds – are prohibited from starting before 10 a.m.

Senior anglers also copped a bit of break by gaining an exemption from paying $25 for a big-game preference point.

In recent years, non-residents and others applying just for a preference point pay $25 for that point, a fee they can avoid by buying a hunting, fishing, small game or small-game fishing/combination license.

It turns out that since senior fishing license anglers don’t pay for their license, the automated application system has been dunning them $25 for the preference point.

The wildlife commission approved an exemption for senior anglers, but that decision might soon prove moot.

Beginning this year, Colorado residents 65 and over have to pay $1 for their fishing license.

That meager tariff meets the statutory requirement that fishing and hunting license holders pay a 25-cent Search-and-Rescue fee as well as a 75-cent surcharge to fund the wildlife Public Education Advisory Council.

Anglers are reminded that the 2008 fishing licenses don’t expire until March 31 and a 2009 license is good through March 31, 2010.

The commission also approved changing the date of a late-season, private land cow elk hunt in unit 61 on the south side of the Uncompahgre Plateau to Dec. 19 to Jan. 17. Previously the season ended on the last day of December but hunters and landowner complained the season ended before elk started showing up on the lower private land.


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