Landowners throughout Colorado have come one step closer to guaranteeing themselves the right to hunt on their own property.
New regulations established by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) have increased the chance for landowners to acquire hunting licenses or preference points. The number of licenses or points issued will be related to the number of acres owned by the individual.
House bill 1098, which became law in 2000, required the DOW to formalize new landowner preference regulations by July 2001.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Marianna Raftopoulos, Moffat County Commissioner and member of the Wildlife Commission. "I think that people who supply the habitat for these elk, deer and other animals should be allowed to hunt that land. Sometimes, there are landowners who want to hunt, but have to wait two or three years before they can hunt their own land, and that is not really fair to the landowners."
The previous system provided landowners with two license applications for every 160 acres they owned, regardless of the amount or quality of the land. The new system will allow for one application for a 160-acre property and six applications for properties of 5,000 acres or more.
Landowners use the applications to apply for hunting licenses. If they are denied a license, they are issued a preference point.
To receive hunting preference points, landowners must fill out a property deed registration form with the DOW by the second Friday in January. If a landowner does not submit a property deed form and application in the first year, they will have difficulty drawing a voucher because they will be a year behind in the application preference point curve, according to the DOW.
"Public access to the BLM lands is also very important," Raftopoulos said. "In many areas, they are checkerboarded so that it is difficult to establish what is public and what is private. Hopefully, this will also help to alleviate that problem so access will be easier to these areas."
Landowners and sportsmen were the main reason for the changes, and DOW officials think that they will be the ones who will benefit the most.
"The landowners really had an outcry for something like this to be passed," DOW spokesperson Tyler Baskfield said. "They made a strong push in the Senate because many people believe that it's a shame to own land and not be able to hunt it. With the amount of support that landowners had for the bill, I think the DOW realized the importance of how they felt, so they decided to do something about it."
The pilot program was designed by the Private Land Licensing Group, a working group of landowners and sportsmen who felt it was necessary to design a program that recognized landowners who provide quality wildlife habitat while improving access to public land. The group's recommendation for the detailed program were supported unanimously by the Wildlife Commission.
"It is important that hunting remains an available hobby for everyone, not just for those of privilege," Baskfield said. "In some areas, hunting has already turned into a business of sorts, but I think it is important that hunting doesn't turn into big business so that a regular person can't go out and do it."