When Craig resident Jon Terry, assured his 15-year-old daughter that she would get a late-season cow elk license, he felt confident he wasn't leading his daughter on. Not getting the license makes Terry feel he may have been led on by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) has boasted about the amount of extra cow tags that have been issued for the 2000 big-game hunting season.
Citing low hunter success last year and an over population of elk, the DOW promised to issue 30,000 extra cow elk licenses this year. But residents feel the extra licenses have been spread thinly over the state and hunters like Terry and his daughter are feeling let down.
"I'm divorced and I only get her every other Christmas, so I won't get another chance to hunt with her until 2002," said Terry.
It would have been easy for Terry to blame the situation on bad luck, but when he started asking around, he found that several other people didn't draw the tags they wanted either.
"I have yet to find one single person who drew a late season cow tag in Unit 211," he said.
The rumor around Craig and Meeker is that a lot of hunters are not drawing tags, even with the increased availability of cow licenses this year.
James Veitch, Meeker Hotel employee and hunting guide, believes some hunters may have been confused about the new season structure for this year.
The DOW has adopted a four-season big game hunting strategy. The first season is all draw for elk with no deer licenses available. The other three seasons are combined elk and deer with over-the-counter licenses for elk and draw for deer.
In 1999, there were only three combined deer and elk seasons with over-the-counter elk licenses available for all three. The seasons are also earlier in the year.
"When you start changing stuff and word doesn't get out, people get mixed up," said Veitch. "It makes it pretty darn tough."
The Meeker Hotel has seen the effect of the confusion. Reservations for the 2000 hunting season are well below what they should be for this time of year.
"It just seems odd that we're not more full," said Veitch.
He uses a group of four hunters who frequent the Meeker Hotel each hunting season as an example. One hunter listed six preference points, another hunter had four, the third had three and the last hunter didn't have any preference points. None of them drew licenses and canceled their reservations.
"It could just be bad luck, or people could just want to hunt earlier when the weather is nice, but it seems odd," said Veitch.
Bruce Gordon, owner of Bullwhacker's Barber Shop, hears a lot of gossip while trimming the hair of local hunters. From what he has gathered, residents have had a tougher time drawing coveted cow licenses than non-residents.
"My 12 friends from Alabama all drew cow licenses," said Gordon. "But many residents aren't getting them."
Brad Frano, DOW public information officer, said the call center at DOW headquarters is hearing similar stories.
"We've gotten hundreds of calls," said Frano. "Most of the complaints are the same, 'My neighbor got a tag and I didn't even though I had preference points,' or 'Nobody that I know of got a tag for a certain area.'
"A lot of people assumed they were going to get tags this year because of the increased number issued, but they have to remember, those 30,000 tags are issued statewide in areas of over population."
Frano said 8,172 cow licenses are available for all four rifle seasons in the Craig and Meeker area, which include Game Management Units 3, 301, 211, 4, 441, 13, 12, 11, 22 and 23. There are 1,869 leftover licenses available that will be put up for sale in August.
In 1999, there were 5,857 cow licenses available in the Craig and Meeker area for the three scheduled rifle seasons.
The unit and season that Terry and his daughter applied for, the late season cow hunt in Unit 211, didn't have any of the extra cow licenses that the DOW boasted about.
"That definitely wasn't an area of increase," said Frano.
Frano said there were 200 cow licenses issued for that specific season and unit. There were 577 applicants.
In 1999, there were also 200 cow licenses issued and 485 people applied.
"Last year, a preference point would have almost certainly earned you a tag, but this year, it basically it took one preference point to even get into the draw," said Frano.
Frano said that he couldn't speak for the wildlife biologist who decides the number of licenses issued in Unit 211, but he said late season licenses numbers tend to remain the same.
"Typically, late season hunts are a turkey shoot," said Frano.
Overall, the number of cow licenses went down this year in Unit 211. For all rifle big-game hunting seasons, there were 340 cow tags issued in 1999 and there were only 280 cow tags issued in 2000.
This is the opposite of what the DOW said would take place on a statewide level.
Youth licenses are issued in a way that gives children under 16 a better chance to hunt in the areas they desire.
Children under 16 are allocated 15 percent of the draw licenses for antlerless antelope, antlerless deer and antlerless elk. If they don't draw from that 15 percent, they are put back into the draw with everyone else. This means youth have two chances to draw the licenses they want.
Those with questions about the big game license lottery can call the DOW call center at (303) 297-1192. By calling this number people can find out the statistics for the season and the unit they applied for, including the number of licenses offered and the number of applicants.