New preference point hunting system being implemented in state of Colorado

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— Hunters who have been waiting for their turn to take a shot at a Colorado bighorn sheep, mountain goat or moose may have a better chance at drawing a tag for one of these coveted hunts during the 2001 season.

A new plan has been developed by the Big Game License Allocation Process (BGLAP). Under the new system a hunter has little or no chance to draw a license for the first three years but after the first three years those who continue to apply will get additional "weight" during the drawing. A preference hunter with at least three points will have at least some chance of drawing a license.

Under the current preference point system that has been used by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) for many years, the hunter who correctly applies for a big game license and is unsuccessful in drawing the license receives one preference point for that species. Preference points are used for deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, moose, black bear, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. One preference point is obtained for each year the hunter if unsuccessful at drawing a license. The points accumulate until the hunter is successful at drawing their first choice license, then hunters' points return to zero. Hunters with more preference points draw a license before hunters with fewer preference points. That is the basic system. Under this system it can take 15 years or longer to draw a license for one of the more coveted areas in the state. This is a concern for older hunters who may not be able to physically make the hunt when they finally draw a license.

The DOW compares the new preference point system to drawing names out of a hat.

"This is much like having your name in the hat more times than the others," stated the DOW. "You have a chance to draw but those with their name in the hat more times have the greatest chance."

According to the DOW, the previous system of increasing preference points, one preference point per year, a level of preference point develops below which no one has a chance to draw.

The change in the preference point system comes due to concern by resident hunters that the proportion of nonresident hunters drawing limited licenses, particularly in quality units, has increased to a level where the system is no longer fair to resident hunters.

According to Todd Malmsbury, chief of information for the DOW, the new system should eliminate some of the frustration by resident hunters.

"Residents were upset over the fact that nonresidents were drawing licenses after applying for only five or six years when some residents were waiting 15," said Malmsbury. "The new system should keep that from happening mathematically."

The debate over the preference point system is not being treated as a specific big game season structure issue by the DOW, but the DOW will be taking public input on the issue during regular big game season structure workshops, debates and meetings.

The DOW has recognized that a change in the preference point system can not be implemented quickly if the system is to remain fair to hunters who have applied for licenses in quality units for years. The DOW states:

"Fairness in the drawing process is paramount to a successful draw and the preference point system is a primary component of the total drawing process."

Malmsbury doesn't believe that this new preference point system will be implemented for elk and deer in the near future.

"It is very unlikely that we're going to get into a similar situation with elk and deer because in most units it only takes a few years to draw an elk or deer license," said Malmsbury.

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