Big game regions unlikely to expand

Moffat county -- The Colorado Wildlife Commission is soliciting suggestions for areas that should be made into trophy elk hunting regions, but Moffat County may not be the most likely place for the change.

The county already is home to four game management units where bull elk hunting is limited to a draw only. The areas comprise some of the most coveted hunting in the state, including units 1, 2, 10 and 201. Most of the remainder of the GMUs in Moffat County offer unlimited, over-the-counter bull tags during the second, third and fourth rifle seasons. The exceptions are units 3, 4 and 301, which are closed to unlimited bull hunting during the fourth season.

It's unlikely that more draw-only hunting will be added in Northwest Colorado, said Tyler Baskfield, a spokesman for the DOW.

"Due to the amount of trophy hunting that already exists in Northwest Colorado, it's not likely," Baskfield said.

However, the decision will be left to the Wildlife Commission, Baskfield said. And if nearby communities were supportive of the idea, it could happen, he said.

The Wildlife Commission will increase the amount of trophy hunting regions in the state to as much as 30 percent of the total hunting area. Thirteen percent of the hunting regions are managed for trophy animals. By allowing fewer people access to hunt bull elk in certain regions, the age and quality of the bulls increases.

"Obviously, people wait 15-plus years for a chance to hunt a big bull, so there is demand out there," Baskfield said.

More limited hunting in a region would result not only in bulls with bigger antlers, but a less-crowded, higher-quality hunting experience, Baskfield said.

The Wildlife Commission has decided that numerous local groups would have a say about the proposals. Groups that nominate regions for trophy hunting would have to inform chambers of commerce, outfitters, local governments and others.

The number of hunters allowed in a trophy region would be reduced by 25 percent, 50 percent or 75 percent, according to the DOW.

"Twenty-five percent might not be enough to produce an older age class of bulls," Baskfield said.

The mere idea of limiting the number of hunters that come to Northwest Colorado encountered vocal opposition at a DOW meeting that was held in Meeker in February.

The Denver Post reported that units in which chronic wasting disease has been found will not be allowed trophy status. According to the DOW, animals that test positive for CWD have been discovered in all of the units in Moffat County that would be eligible for the new trophy designation.

Randy Hampton, a public information specialist for the DOW's Northwest Region said that there are concerns about CWD, but the Wildlife Commission has not entirely ruled out the possibility of including CWD units for consideration.

"We don't want to discourage anyone who might want to nominate a region," Hampton said. "This program was put in place to see what local communities might want as a hand in management."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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