Late-season youth hunts successful
Midwinter is when the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission finalizes big-game hunting regulations for the following fall.
This month the proposed changes include tightening regulations on the late-season youth elk hunt, a discussion about possible scenarios for future management of mule deer herds and allowing an April hunt for mountain lions.
The two-day meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel, 8773 Yates Drive in Westminster. A full agenda is available online at http://www.wildlife.state.co.us.
The most notable item is the change in the late-season youth hunt, which since its inception has been immensely popular among young hunters. The rule allows youth hunters unsuccessful in the regular season to get a second chance to kill an elk on the same license.
It’s also been well-received by wildlife managers using the hunts as another tool in the struggle to reduce over-populous elk herds.
Originally, late-season youth hunters were allowed to hunt in any unit, and then last year, reflecting the success of these late-season hunts, the regulations were changed, restricting hunters to certain color-coded units.
The latest wrinkle would limit a youth hunter to those units in “the general area” of the unit for which their license initially was issued.
This can be translated to mean the larger multi-unit management areas, which usually consist of one or more game-management units.
For example, a youth issued a regular season antlerless or either-sex elk license for Unit 42 potentially would be eligible to hunt units 41, 411, 421, 52 and 521 in the late season.
This latest regulation is in response to what Parks and Wildlife officials recognize as a dwindling elk resource, not a lack of interest.
“When we initiated the late-season youth elk hunts, we were in a biological situation that no longer exists,” Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said. “They originally were designed to help us where we were over-objective on many elk populations, and we were doing everything we could in response to landowner complaints.”
As anyone who tried and failed to draw an elk tag last spring can attest, elk licenses no longer are as freely given as they were 10 years ago. At that time, biologists warned hunters the generous license allocations wouldn’t last forever, and this latest move is another response to the success of reducing elk numbers.
But the late-season hunts have been successful in another and perhaps more important way. The hunts have made it possible for a new generation of young hunters to enjoy the sport, which means more license sales at a time when license revenue is decreasing and the average age of hunters is increasing.
Parks and Wildlife doesn’t want to lose those new hunters, Hampton said, and it will consider developing special hunt programs for other species of game.
“Because of the success at getting youths involved in hunting, we will be looking at other potential species,” he said.
There are some game species, such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, which are over-populated in certain areas, and they could be future targets for youth hunters.
“We’re going to take look at the success of the youth elk hunt model to solve some other potential conflict issues,” Hampton said.
One rule apparently remains unchanged: A youth hunter with an unfilled bull elk tag does not qualify for a late-season hunt.