Following the recommendations hunters provided on surveys submitted earlier this year, the Colorado Wildlife Commission has released a five-year big game season structure very similar to past structures.
The major differences in the new season structure include a four-day break between the third and fourth rifle seasons and limited elk license sales in the fourth season.
Elk licenses will be unlimited in the second and third seasons, which are traditionally the most popular hunting seasons.
"This season structure provides hunters with a variety of opportunities while allowing wildlife managers to reach harvest objectives for big game," John Ellenberger, Colorado Division of Wildlife big game manager, said.
During the 2004 hunting season, unlimited elk licenses were available during the fourth season. The DOW will limit elk licenses next year in an effort to encourage cow hunting instead of bull hunting, spokesman Todd Malmsbury said.
Numbers of available licenses won't be set until the DOW sees how elk weather the winter. But it is "very likely" more cow licenses than bull licenses will be available, Malmsbury said.
There had been concern among hunters in Northwest Colorado that the Wildlife Commission would eliminate bull hunting from the fourth season, making it a cow-only season. Hunters thought this proposal would discourage nonresidents from coming to Colorado to hunt.
The Wildlife Commission considered the proposal, Malmsbury said, but decided to go with a combined cow and bull season.
The DOW added the four-day break after the third season to relieve pressure placed on animals during hunting season, Malmsbury said.
"There's a feeling among hunters and biologists that we should allow animals to settle back into their normal movements," Malmsbury said.
In a new regulation endorsed by the Colorado wolf management working group, which is developing a plan to manage gray wolves migrating south to Colorado from Yellowstone National Park, the Wildlife Commission made it legal for ranchers to kill wolves that attack livestock north of Interstate 70. It still is illegal to shoot wolves south of Interstate 70, even if the wolves are attacking livestock.
The Wildlife Commission reduced the maximum number of mountain lions that can be harvested to 567.
DOW wildlife managers recommended the Wildlife Commission reduce the number of mountain lions that can be harvested to more accurately reflect the actual harvest.
Currently, 790 mountain lions can be harvested. Colorado's mountain lion population is estimated to be between 4,500 and 5,500, and annual harvests have averaged 350 to 400 in recent years.
"In four out of five years, the lion harvest will still remain in that range, even though the quota will be much lower," Jerry Apker, the DOW's carnivore manager, said. "But in about one of every five years on average, when hunting weather provides ideal hunting opportunities, the harvest could exceed our objective in some units if we keep the quota at the current level."
Archery deer and elk season stays the same, with a 30-day hunt beginning on the last Saturday of August.
Muzzleloader season will begin on the second Saturday of September and last nine days.