Colorado Parks and Wildlife is in the process of considering changes to policies and regulations that could potentially impact how big game hunting licenses are distributed in the state. Some of the topics being considered are resident and non-resident elk and deer license allocation, preference points, weighted points, and Over-the-Counter (OTC) elk licenses. This process began a-while ago with Phase 1 below, collecting feedback from hunters. Phase 2 was recently completed, and then this unofficial License Distribution Workshop was scheduled so CPW members could update/educate the Commissioners on the status of issues being considered. Phase 3 will occur next month when the Commission considers potential changes/solutions.
- February and April 2022 – CPW conducted a survey of hunters to assess their perspectives about the topics listed above and held focus groups to help inform the development of alternative strategies. The Big Game Attitude Survey was mailed to randomly selected resident and non-resident hunters.
- May and June 2022 – CPW hosted stakeholder workshops and public meetings to provide opportunities to review and discuss possible alternative strategies.
- September and November 2022 – The Parks and Wildlife Commission will consider proposed policy and regulatory changes with opportunities for further public comment.
During this License Distribution Workshop, CPW members updated/educated the Commissioners on the following topics:
- Making changes to license Allocations (proportion of licenses for Resident vs non-residents),
- Limiting Over-the-Counter (OTC) license distribution,
- Changing how Preference Points are used,
- More substantial changes to the Draw System.
The Commission is considering whether any changes are warranted and if so, whether changes should be implemented incrementally or all-at-once (before 2023 Big Game season). This was a 4:56 minute Virtual Meeting with no public comments.
I imagine if you currently apply for licenses and/or hunt Colorado you are already aware of our more pressing issues. From a hunter’s perspective, many of our limited draw hunts require massive amounts of preference point to draw, and point creep is exacerbating this problem. Also, many residents are dissatisfied with how many licenses are set aside for landowners, youths, and non-residents. If you decide to hunt an Over-the Counter (OTC) unit to avoid all that, you’ll likely encounter overcrowding.
A primary objective of this meeting seemed to be for CPW officials to update the Commissioners on the status of these issues and to assist the Commission in determining if there is anything they can do about them. CPW officials presented a great deal of information to the Commissioners, and the CPW folks were all extremely knowledgeable and gave amazing presentations. They were able to easily answer all the questions that came up, regardless of complexity, and they were very impressive. Conversely, many of the Commissioners appeared to have limited knowledge on these issues and asked questions which indicated their lack of in-depth understanding. At one-point CPW even gave a tutorial on how to read the Hunt Codes used in the Big Game Brochure. This is very basic knowledge it would seem the Commissioners should already understand.
Commissioners also occasionally asked questions on whether or not they had the authority to execute a potential solution. It was surprising that they seemed unclear on their own authority. In any case, it was obvious the CPW members and Commissioners alike were genuinely concerned about the issues and were truly looking for ways to improve the hunting situation here in Colorado. It could be a challenge for the Commission to determine effective solutions without a firm grasp on all the pertinent information. It will likely be up to CPW to present strong recommendations to the Commission to assist them with making meaningful changes.
Toward the end of the workshop, they discussed potential action items. However, it didn’t appear like any of the actions discussed would make much of a dent in these issues. It was clear there’s genuine concern to find ways to improve the situation, but they are struggling to find feasible solutions. Additionally, the Commissioners know they are in a difficult position since no matter what they come up with many people won’t like it.
The only action the Commission decided to move forward on before the 2023 season is to update to 3-year averages used to determine which hunts qualify for the hybrid draw and high demand hunts, from 2007-2009 to 2019-2021. While that is a useful bit of updating and will increase the number of Hybrid Draw hunts, it will have no meaningful impact on any of the key issues that were discussed and need to be addressed.