Parks and Wildlife Commission finalizes 2013 big game hunting regulations

Youth elk hunting program, mountain lion season modified for New Year

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“Giving us a little more time to find those toms helps control the predator population and the struggling deer population.”

Chris Jurney, of Chris Jurney Outfitting in Craig, about the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission’s decision to extend the mountain lion season in 2013.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission last week met in Westminster to finalize big game hunting regulations for 2013.

Among the more significant changes is a modification to the late season youth elk hunting program.

Originally developed to address overpopulations of elk on agricultural, private lands in western Colorado, the program is transitioning to allow young hunters with an unfilled 2013 cow or either sex tag to hunt late seasons in the general area of their original license, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release.

Though the change reduces the number of areas available to late season youth hunters when compared to past years the Commission wanted to continue the program to help achieve long-term elk population levels, the release stated.

“Allowing youth to hunt late seasons has been very popular because the late seasons typically overlap the holiday breaks from school and that makes participation easier,” said Parks and Wildlife director Rick Cables in the release. “Given this change, we’ll be looking for other ways to provide additional youth opportunity.”

Commissioners also approved a proposal to extend the mountain lion season into the month of April. In previous years mountain lion season closed at the end of March.

Chris Jurney, operator of Chris Jurney Outfitting based in Craig, is one of the proponents of the mountain lion season extension and testified before the commission last week in Denver in what he described as an emotional debate from both sides.

But Jurney cited a variety of data points in his argument for an extended mountain lion season in 2013, including the fact that during the last three years hunters in 53 of Colorado’s 80 mountain lion game management units have not been meeting their available quotas.

The reason, Jurney said, is due in part to self-imposed female lion harvest restrictions of 40 percent or less in central and southern Colorado.

Though the mountain lion population is robust Jurney argued those self-imposed restrictions on female lions have forced hunters to heavily target the state’s largest toms.

Not only is it more difficult to track those trophy toms, but the growing number of juvenile and female lions also is playing a role in Colorado’s declining deer population, Jurney said.

“We won’t necessarily kill more lions,” he said. “It isn’t that we don’t have a sufficient amount of lions, it’s just that finding enough toms to maintain that under 40 percent female harvest (rule) is a bit challenging.

“Giving us a little more time to find those toms helps control the predator population and the struggling deer population.”

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is an 11-member group appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper to provide public oversight for state parks, wildlife and outdoor recreation in Colorado.

The Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. In 2013 the Commission is scheduled to travel to Greeley, Alamosa, Grand Junction, Walden, Gunnison, Trinidad, Montrose, Lamar and Pueblo.

More information about hunting regulations will be available beginning in February when game brochures arrive at license agents, and Parks and Wildlife offices throughout the state.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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