Bill de Vergie, Colorado Division of Wildlife area wildlife manager, speaks Tuesday night to Moffat County residents during a public meeting at the American Legion Post 62. De Vergie spoke about the DOW's plans for hunting in Northwest Colorado and encouraged residents' feedback on the agency's next five-year big game season structure.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Bill de Vergie, Colorado Division of Wildlife area wildlife manager, speaks Tuesday night to Moffat County residents during a public meeting at the American Legion Post 62. De Vergie spoke about the DOW's plans for hunting in Northwest Colorado and encouraged residents' feedback on the agency's next five-year big game season structure.

Roughly 70 residents attend DOW meeting Tuesday night

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— There seems to be one simple and quick fix that would address several of the criticisms regarding the Colorado Division of Wildlife's big game hunting season structure, said Justin Gallegos, 33.

"Move all the seasons back two to three weeks," said Gallegos, who owns Majestic Trophy Outfitters. "Keep the structure just about right as it is now. Everybody's talking about how the animals aren't moving. Well, let's adapt to the animals and have hunting when the animals are moving."

The move would solve problems with animals staying at high altitudes because of warm winters - heavy snows haven't hit until December the past two years - which would help hunters succeed and make them eager to come back, Gallegos said.

He was one of about 70 Moffat County residents who filled American Legion Post 62 on Tuesday night.

The crowd gathered to hear DOW officials speak about the agency's existing five-year big game hunting season structure and to provide their own input on tweaks and changes they'd like to see in the next five-year plan, from 2010 to 2014.

Jeff Comstock, Moffat County Natural Resources Department director, said it was possibly the best DOW-hosted meeting he had seen in Moffat County.

After it was over, Comstock complimented Bill de Vergie, DOW area wildlife manager, for how he conducted the event.

"I thought he got some really strong comments from people, and he seemed very sincere in listening to them," Comstock said. "It was truly an attempt to get community input. I think people here sensed that."

The were more people at the DOW meeting in Craig than at the other six meetings in Northwest Colorado combined, de Vergie said.

One of those residents, 62-year-old Jake Garcia, wasn't as enthusiastic about the meeting as Comstock, but said he was happy to see the DOW making an effort to reach out to local residents.

He just isn't so sure the DOW will be able to make people happy.

"Until everybody in that room puts the same thing down, nothing is going to change," said Garcia, who guides hunters for a local outfitter.

He himself is divided on what to do.

On the one hand, he agrees with Gallegos that pushing hunting seasons back a few weeks could help hunters harvest animals and thereby help landowners attract hunters.

On the other hand, Garcia also thinks wildlife need a chance to recuperate from hunting season before winter starts. It helps animals have the strength to migrate and forage.

He wasn't sure what suggestions he would submit to the DOW, but Garcia said he would think long and hard about it all.

After all, there's a chance he could be one of the people who gets listened to, he said.

Several suggestions from the meeting were met with de Vergie's agreement, including Gallegos' point about later season dates.

"I think there's a pretty good chance" the dates could be pushed back, de Vergie said. "I think it's a good suggestion."

Residents who did not attend the meeting still can submit comments to the DOW, though agency officials have said it's best to provide input by mid-March.

The agency also wants residents to comment on the current point system for drawing hunting permits in special limited license areas, such as near Browns Park in northwest Moffat County.

Officials are concerned the current system suffers from too much inflation. That is, it takes more points every year to draw a tag in a limited area, de Vergie said.

Comments can be sent electronically either via e-mail to wildlife.bgss@state.co.us or by filling out the online form at www.wildlife.state.co.us/bgss. The Web site doubles as a central hub for information on the season structure planning process.

The DOW plans to submit a draft structure plan to the Wildlife Commission by its meeting May 7 and 8 in Grand Junction. It is expected to approve a final structure plan at its September meeting in Colorado Springs.

The commission plans to hear public comments at every meeting after it gets the first draft until it approves a final plan. There is a planned workshop Aug. 10 and 11 in Silverthorne, which will be the closest commission meeting to Moffat County before September.

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