Price increase could be on way for non-resident big-game hunters

Non-resident big-game hunters will see a small jump in their 2014 licenses if the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approves the price increase next week.

The commission is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday in Lamar. Other items on the extended agenda include adding tiger trout and cuttbow (a hybrid of rainbow and cutthroat trout) to the state’s list of game fish, setting either-sex moose hunts in two game units west of Hot Sulphur Springs and adopting the final version of the agency’s “Path Forward,” the 2014 operating plan required by statute reporting on the Parks and Wildlife merger and charting a five-year course for the agency.

The increases in all 2014 non-resident fees include $15 for a bull elk license (from $585 to $600), $10 on deer (to $360) and $15 on bear and mountain lion ($600 each).

The increases notably include a $100 jump in the antlerless elk licenses to $450 for a license that when it first was offered in 2002 cost $250.

At the time, a bull elk tag was $470.

The idea behind the reduced-fee cow tag was to entice non-residents to hunt cow elk after participation had dropped, evidently in response to the across-the-board jump in elk tags in 2001.

At the same time, the agency was looking to control the growth of surging elk herds by increasing the harvest of female animals.

That strategy, along with other hunter-friendly strategies such as either-sex elk licenses and options for multiple licenses, has brought elk numbers close to desired levels.

Last year, the agency moved away from the popular either-sex elks to either cow or bull licenses, and in parts of Northwest Colorado, the cow-elk tags went quickly.

“We had a lot of hunters who liked those either-sex tags,” said Stan Wyatt of Wyatt’s Sports Center in Meeker, a town that receives a large economic boost from hunting. “And last year, when (Parks and Wildlife) went to cow and bull tags, all the cow tags were gone and there were about 1,100 bulls tags left.”

Those bull tags eventually sold, but Wyatt says that indicates there may be drop-off when non-residents have to fork over another $100 for a cow elk license.

“Bull elk tags have been going up a little each year, so another $15 might not make much of a difference,” he said. “But $100, that might get some of the guys scratching their heads about that.”

On a related topic, Wyatt said he’d like to see the agency stop selling the so-called “over-the-counter” bull tags on the internet.

Historically, it has been these unlimited, walk-up bull elk licenses (Colorado is the only state to offer such licenses) that brought hunters into stores, where they’d also buy ammunition, clothes, guns, binoculars, boots and other hunting equipment.

Those sales also greatly padded the area tax revenues.

“I don’t like seeing those licenses sold over the Internet, that really doesn’t do me or the other businesses any good,” said Wyatt, whose store this year marked its 19th hunting season.

Wyatt said his hunting business this year has been down slightly and worries that online license sales might be one reason.

“The economy has taken a hit over the past couple of years and it would be helpful to me and the other 800 (license dealers across the state) if over-the-counter really meant over-the-counter,” Wyatt said.


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