Northwest Colorado faces draw on deer, elk

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— It is possible the 1999 hunting season will be that last that hunters can buy an over-the-counter license for deer and elk in Northwest Colorado.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has nominated seven of the game management units (GMUs) surrounding Craig for draw in rifle deer and elk hunting. The GMUs were chosen in the September five-year big game season structure alternatives. The GMUs up for draw for both deer and elk hunting are 3, 301, 4, 441, 5, 14 and 214.

The DOW is calling the proposal a move to add more units as "quality animal management." If the proposal passes, the seven units will join GMUs 1, 2 and 201, in the northwest corner of Moffat County, as complete draw units for the opportunity to hunt deer and elk.

The current elk population of the seven units is 13,064 elk and 38,308 deer, according to the DOW.

If the proposal is passed it could have a devastating effect on businesses in Craig since most of these units surround Craig. The numbers of hunters staying in Craig would be drastically cut according to David Hutton, owner of Craig Sports a local sporting goods store.

"If it goes through there will be no need for any of the hunters that don't draw to stay in Craig," said Hutton. "They will all go to Meeker or Rifle."

Craig business owners are not the only people who would be affected by the change. If the proposal is passed it would mean local hunters would have to travel south to hunt unless they draw a license in the area.

There is still time for people to comment about this proposal. The DOW has put together a form that allows people to vote either for or against alternatives in the September five-year big game season structure. A copy of the alternatives may be obtained from the DOW and returned with either "yes" or "no" votes on all of the separate alternatives. For the input to be included in the DOW decision-making process the forms must be completed and returned by Oct. 12. The other way the public can give input on the alternatives is to attend the remaining Colorado Wildlife Commission meetings. The next one is Thursday starting at 8:30 a.m. in Grand Junction at the Grand Vista Hotel.

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