With cross-country trips widely discouraged around the nation because of COVID-19’s continued presence, Colorado Parks and Wildlife anticipated a potential drop-off in hunting applications and ensuing license draws, especially from those from outside the state.
However, while non-residential numbers are slightly down, this hunting season is poised to actually show an increase in deer and elk hunting this fall.
“In just the first draw last year, we sold 89,268 licenses for deer. This year, that number is 90,465,” said Randy Hampton, northwestern public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Elk licenses, last year, we had 91,946. This year, it’s 92,064. If I break down some of those non-resident numbers, we had 23,242 for elk last year and we’re right about equal this year. With deer, it was 16,908 last year and 15,740 this year, so slightly below.
“What we’re seeing is an increase in residents and a static level in non-residents, which is what we would kind of expect with all of this that’s going on.”
The outdoor interest has also extended to other Colorado activities.
“When we look at things like state park visitation being up anywhere from 30% to some parks seeing a 300% increase, we know people are getting outside,” said Hampton. “With everybody cooped up, everybody’s looking for an opportunity to get outside, and that’s having some effect rolling over into things like hunting.”
Early numbers from the wildlife license draw are encouraging for the Centennial State’s hunting season, but Hampton was quick to emphasize that the organization never knows how its hunting traffic actually shakes out until the season comes around.
Some fear that the United States could face a second wave of the coronavirus once the weather turns colder, but Parks and Wildlife is counting on a somewhat standard hunting season.
“We can watch these trends and get an idea of what’s happening, but ultimately, October and November are where it’s all going to be determined because a lot of these elk hunters coming in from out of state are buying those over-the-counter licenses,” Hampton said. “We just won’t know until the time comes.”
Parks and Wildlife didn’t have any statistics to confirm how many over-the-counter licenses are provided each year, but Hampton says those licenses provide another significant boost to the numbers. They’re hoping for a similar boost once again this year.
“It’s really, really important to note that, with a lot of these hunts and especially elk hunts in Colorado, we sell over-the-counter licenses, and that’s a big chunk of the licenses that are sold,” Hampton said. “An over-the-counter license means that somebody comes into the state in October or November, during hunting season, and they can just drive up to a vendor,” whether that’s a sporting goods store or some place that sells licensed.
The agency can’t tell in advance what those numbers are going to be, he said.