Local hunters expressed disappointment that the Colorado Division of Wildlife's new five-year big-game season structure won't allow hunters to purchase bull elk tags over the counter for the fourth rifle season.
The Division of Wildlife hosted a meeting Wednesday night at Shadow Mountain Clubhouse to introduce changes in big game hunting structures and hear local hunters comment on the changes.
Darby Finley, a wildlife biologist with the DOW's Meeker office, told the 20 hunters that the DOW planned to maintain the status quo on most hunting seasons, though some alternatives have been proposed.
Most of the changes involve alterations to parts of bear, deer and elk, and pronghorn seasons.
Among the four alternatives to regular rifle deer and elk seasons, the DOW has suggested altering the season structures to lengthen the breaks between seasons and creating a season to put more pressure on cows. Another alternative would allow unsuccessful rifle bull and cow hunters to purchase a cow tag during the fourth season.
Local hunters liked the extended breaks between seasons, but they wanted to be able to purchase elk tags for the fourth season over the counter. Currently, hunters have to draw tags early in the year for the fourth season.
"There's not going to be hunters up here unless you offer bull licenses over the counter in the fourth season," said Dean Gent of Moffat County.
"I don't think it's fair to public hunters and small private landowners to do it that way," he said, calling the status quo "unreasonable."
Randy Baird of Moffat County concurred with Gent. Baird farms near Hayden and operates Yampa River Outfitters.
"The fourth season is the best chance to get a big bull," Baird said.
That's when the bulls follow the cows out of the mountains as the snows come, he said. But it can take years to draw a tag to hunt a bull in the fourth season.
Baird's wife, Sandra Baird, said separating the seasons is one of the best things the DOW has done. Without separations, the motels, restaurants and processors get inundated with an overlap of hunters during the beginning and end of each season. The separations give out-of-town hunters a chance to cycle through.
"Now it seems they're going to give us some breathing room," she said.
Proposals to bear season include allowing hunters to purchase second tags, limited by a draw, if their first archery, muzzleloader, or rifle tag is unfulfilled.
Proposed changes in muzzleloader, deer and elk season included making existing bull elk tags open to either sex or limiting muzzleloader licenses by the DOW's analysis of particular units. The DOW is accepting comments on the season structure until July 26. A second draft of the structure should be written by September, and the final adoption process should be concluded in November, Darby Finley said.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.