If you’ve got an opinion on how hunting seasons are scheduled in Colorado, or just about wildlife management in general, now is the time to speak up.
Every five years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reevaluates how hunting seasons are structured in the state for deer, elk, moose, pronghorn and black bear hunts.
The current hunting structure expires this year. CPW is now in the process of updating the season schedule for 2020 through 2024.
Part of that process is an extensive public outreach to get people’s comments on how hunting seasons are working in Colorado, as well as any issues with wildlife.
Specifically, some topics include issues over season length and timing, overlap among different hunting seasons and whether to implement breaks in between hunting seasons to allow animals some rest.
Several public meetings will be held in early 2019 to get the public’s input on these issues and more. In Durango, the local meeting will be Feb. 6 in the Florida Room at the La Plata County Fairgrounds Extension office 6-8:30 p.m. An online survey also allows people to weigh in.
Danielle Isenhart, regulations manager for CPW, said the most controversial topic in this round of updating the hunting seasons is how to deal with the overcrowding of hunters in the backcountry during archery season in September.
Isenhart did not immediately have the specific number for how many hunters are in Colorado’s forests during this time, but she said the number of archery hunters has increased fourfold in the past 20 years.
The Durango Herald previously reported some local hunters in Southwest Colorado believe the overcrowding of hunters during this time is causing elk populations to suffer in the region.
Isenhart said some options are available to help address the issue, such as limiting the amount of elk tags or splitting up the season.
“There are a lot of alternatives,” she said.
Another main topic is whether to increase breaks in between hunting season to give animals more of a chance to rest from the pressures of hunters.
Isenhart said CPW will take public comment into account while at the same time relying on the best science available when making a proposed decision on how the hunting seasons should be restructured.
CPW said big game hunting seasons generated more than $840 million for the Colorado economy in 2017, citing a 2017 Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation in Colorado report.
CPW itself is largely funded by the money made off hunting licenses. In fiscal year 2016-2017, CPW’s total revenue was $241.9 million. Of that amount, $6.5 million came from 158,000 in-state residents buying hunting tags. A total of 70,400 out-of-state tags generated $40.3 million
“We have biologists that will weigh in what’s the best for our herds and we also have to take into account what we hear from public,” Isenhart said. “And then balance the two.”
Public comment closes Feb. 4. Then, CPW staff will present an overview of what the public had to say to the CPW commission in March.
Isenhart said CPW staff hopes to have a proposed hunting season schedule ready in early summer, with the aim to get it approved by late summer. The new schedule would take effect in 2020.
Hunting seasons for bighorn sheep, mountain goat and mountain lion are scheduled through a different process.