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Is Your Colorado Landowner Tag Valid?

newsletter 6 15 CO landowner tag

BUYER BEWARE! With the Colorado big game draw results finally posted, many unsuccessful hunters are now faced with the impending reality of looking for a landowner voucher in hopes of hunting the Centennial state this fall. If you fit into this category, like I do this year, keep in mind the Colorado Division of Wildlife has made some significant changes in structure and enforcement to the LPP, or Landowner Preference Program.

These changes could make your landowner tag invalid if the correct procedure is not followed, leaving an unsuspecting hunter guilty of poaching while hunting on an invalid license. What an unpleasant surprise that would be to find out the hard way, at a wildlife check station.

Given the new changes, we asked our resident wildlife legal expert Jason Peak to give us a quick rundown on the newly revised law, so you don’t accidentally find yourself in the “hot seat” during a standard Colorado license check this fall.

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COLORADO LANDOWNER PREFERENCE PROGRAM

Landowner tags are controversial for the DIY hunter, for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.  Every state in the West that has a form of landowner tag system runs their program a little differently.  Colorado just updated and somewhat overhauled their landowner tag system, and the policies behind doing so are sound and quite different than other states.  For many years Colorado had programs, pilot programs, programs applicable to certain areas and updates to older programs all going on at once.  With the new Landowner Preference Program (“LLP”), Colorado has cleaned up all the prior programs by consolidating all the best attributes into one program with the intention of achieving the end goal of encouraging landowners and hunters to work together to benefit wildlife populations.

Some felt the prior landowner tag systems were antiquated and subject to abuse.  The initial program was developed to give landowners a way to manage wildlife populations themselves by allowing them to shoot animals on their property.  Over time, landowners began selling their tags to hunters or outfitters to do the hunting and help control populations and minimize damage to agriculture.  But stories of folks taking advantage of the system began creeping in and the focus of the program shifted to holding everyone more accountable.

Landowners

For landowners the new LPP focuses more on tracking the “paperwork” involved and making sure that the potential for abuse is limited.  To qualify, a landowner must own at least 160 acres of contiguous agricultural land and the land must be inhabited by a “significant number” of the species being applied for (either deer, elk or antelope) throughout the year.  The land itself must also meet certain requirements, such as it must either provide a winter habitat, food source, calving areas, transitional habitat or migration corridors.

Once both the landowner and land qualify, an application must be submitted for a drawing where the landowner participates in a draw.  If successful, the landowner is given “vouchers” depending upon the number of acres owned.  Colorado has a tiered voucher allocation system where the landowner with 160-639 acres can submit one application and those with 11,440 acres or more can submit 19 applications.  From that point it is an old-fashioned draw with tag allocation being anywhere from 10% of the total tag quota for units West of I-25 and 15% of the total tag quota for units East of I-25.

If successful in the drawing for a landowner voucher, the landowner must agree to allow the hunter permission and access to all the land identified on the registration and application upon which the voucher was drawn for the entire season of the hunt but may limit or restrict the method of access (foot, horseback, vehicle, etc.) to reduce harm to the land.

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When it comes to obtaining the voucher, either the landowner or the land manager must personally transfer the voucher to the hunter.  If there is a third-person involved in the transfer, the voucher becomes void.  Any hunting license obtained (more on this below) via a void voucher is also void.  If the voucher is transferred to a hunter, any subsequent transfers are void.  As the hunter, make sure you can obtain a proper and valid license before obtaining the voucher because once it is transferred, it cannot change hands again.

As a hunter, obtaining the voucher from the landowner or the land manager is only the first step.  With the voucher, a hunter must then obtain a proper and valid license by redeeming the voucher prior to the hunt at any Colorado Parks and Wildlife (“CPW”) office or license agent.  Once the proper and valid license is obtained, the hunter can hunt anywhere allowed under the specific hunt code under which the voucher was obtained.  There is the misperception that licenses obtained from landowner vouchers are limited to private land.  That is not entirely correct as there are many nuances and it can get tricky trying to determine whether a license obtained from a voucher allows the hunter to hunt both public and private lands in the unit.  The most prudent approach here would be to contact CPW and follow up on the specific lands open to hunting under the specific license.

Conclusion

Based upon recent estimates Colorado’s lands are approximately 57% private versus 43% public.  Over the years Colorado developed landowner tag programs to not only give landowners the ability to hunt their own lands but also the incentive to maintain wildlife habitat and “tolerate” wildlife populations on their property.  The landowner tag program has developed over the years with several changes being implemented reflecting fluctuating wildlife populations, and now Colorado has the LPP that has been developed and designed through the decades to facilitate private landowner involvement in wildlife conservation and population growth.

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About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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13 comments

  1. I live in Colorado and I personally feel that ANY landowner voucher should only be valid only for the property that it was drawn on. I personally know of landowners that sell these and then do not let the person who bought the tag hunt on the property. These tags are to help keep the animals from gathering on the private property where the average hunter cannot hunt.

    • If you personally know of abuse then turn them in. This is illegal. If you don’t you are part of the problem and you should lose your hunting privileges for your illegal activity for failure to report. Your personal views seem irrelevant when you support illegal activity. This is a good program when run responsibly. Let’s not let a few bad apples spoil the program. Quit complaining about it and help fix the problem. Act responsibly and report those you know that are abusing the system.

  2. I totally agree, another thing I see is wayover priced fees they charge for the tags, I belive they should be made to put a limit on what they can charge for them. The animals belong to the state not the land owners!!

    • But the landowners supply the habitat that supports the animals at their own expense on private lands. If not for them there would be no animals. They have the right as capitalists to recoup a return on investment for supporting the animals. I would challenge that they are way over priced. We should support them for investing in supporting the animals. Without them there would not be any animals to hunt on private lands and less animals to support hunting on surrounding public lands which is detrimental to all of us. As stated in the article, 57% of lands are private and they only receive an opportunity to sell 10-15% of the available tags so if we alienate them we alienate the majority of the land management that supports hunting. The private land owners are the ones that can make or break the State’s management of the animals.

  3. The other new thing this year is that the vouchers the landowners receive are split in half between restricted(private land only) and unrestricted(unit wide).

  4. with comments above but many landowner’s will exit the program and then go back to the game damage payments instead. there are many landowners that simply will not allow people to hunt their land thus prompting them to get out of program. the other thing that can be an issue is the access. some of these ranches could restrict it to foot travel access only making it impossible for hunters to get there. that is what will happen to some land that I hunt on. it will also make the landowner give the vouchers to only people they know thus again screwing the public hunter!!! nothing really has changed from last year just they might take a closer look at some of the tag brokers and make sure they don’t illegally transfer the vouchers.

    • Amen. We need to support game management at all levels. As long as we support game management to improve habitat and opportunity on both private and public, we all win.

  5. I agree with landowners charging the prices they do for vouchers. A lot of times that pays the guide,ranch maintenance and such. Covering their expenses. But I strongly feel that the voucher should only be available to hunt the ranches property and not public lands that borders it. As a resident hunter I choose to hunt public land and not pay to hunt private. I put into the point system while waiting to draw premium tags. I don’t feel that it is fair to allow someone to buy a landowner voucher then allow them to hunt the public ground while hunters are still waiting to draw that tag. Especially now that some units take upwards of 20 points to draw.

  6. I have not purchased a land owner tag recently but when I did it was great!! I hunted a great ranch for trophy antelope and got room and meals for free. Best hunting for antelope in the area
    I paid 1000-1500 for the tag and killed 3 bucks 81 3/4 to 83 5/8. the neighbor was charging 4K plus a trophy fee for a 80+ BC buck. Also I’m a Colorado resident. So for me it was a win win!!

  7. Hello, I’m new to Colorado (moving from Texas). What/where is the best source for finding and viewing options for the new land owner tag system? Most of my search results are coming up with the old broker driven system. Is there a place that aggregates these tags for hunters to browse?

  8. I say If you want to hunt with a PLO ( Private Land Owner) tag you should contact Colorado DOW to get the correct information on how these work. Some tags are good for several months and some are only good the a particular season. Check with CODOW.

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