The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission on Thursday approved a change that will result in a small boost in the number of limited deer and elk licenses going to residents rather than non-residents of the state.
The commission also signaled a willingness to approve a proposal limiting elk archery licenses on Grand Mesa to deal with crowding and related issues.
The developments address, to a degree, concerns that the agency has been hearing about the number of big-game licenses available to nonresidents versus residents in limited license draws, and about increased crowding in the early hunting seasons, specially archery season, because of other hunters and non-hunting recreationists.
A change the commission unanimously approved pertains to its allocation of 65% for residents and 35% for nonresidents for lower-demand deer and elk licenses, and 80% for residents and 20% for nonresidents in the case of high-demand licenses.
High-demand licenses are ones requiring 6 or more preference points to get a license in a given hunt code based on a 2007-09 average. A hunt code pertains to factors such as the game management unit, the hunting season, species and species gender. Preference points increase a hunter’s chances in the primary draw, and a point is awarded to applicants who don’t draw their first-choice limited license in a primary draw for a specific species, with points adding up per species.
Parks and Wildlife will incorporate an updated three-year average in determining whether a license is in high-demand based on the 6-point threshold.
Because at least 6 points are needed in the case of more hunt codes these days than was the case in 2007-09, that means the 80/20 allocation will apply to more licenses.
By Parks and Wildlife’s estimate, that will mean about 200 more deer and elk licenses will go to residents rather than nonresidents each year. It also will mean about an $86,000 annual loss in revenue to the agency because nonresident licenses cost much more than resident licenses.
The agency plans to consider the changes more broadly next year, for possible implementation as early as 2024. Staff recommended that the agency shift to a simpler, across-the-board 75/25 split for all limited deer and elk licenses, regardless of demand.
Alternatively, they recommend a 90/10 resident/nonresident split for high-demand licenses.
The agency is respond ing to concerns of resident hunters while keeping in mind the economic impacts of non-resident hunters visiting Colorado communities, relying on services of local outfitters and paying a license premium that bolsters Parks and Wildlife’s budget.
A focal point of the crowding concerns is early-season archery elk hunting on the mesa. Hunters now can buy unlimited, over-the-counter either-sex archery licenses across six game management units on the mesa. The impacts are reduced archery hunt harvest success and elk being driven onto private land.
While one game management unit, 521 on the mesa’s east side, has particularly heavy archery pressure, the agency is considering shifting to limited either-sex archery licenses on all six units.
B.J. Hockenberry, a bowhunter who lives in the 521 unit and runs a hunting outfitting business, told the commission that elk numbers are substantially lower than in the past and business has become tough for him.
He spoke in support of limiting elk archery licenses across all six units. He said he understands the financial repercussions, but he’s willing to take the financial hit and it will be better for the elk.
“I think in the long term, it will pay dividends for me,” he said.
Based on informal direction from Parks and Wildlife commissioners, the agency staff will bring back the elk archery limited-license proposal for Grand Mesa units for final consideration at a future commission meeting.