Preference points stir debate |

Preference points stir debate

Brandon Johnson

Robert Winn of Craig has been trying to hunt in one of the state’s premier hunting units since he was in high school.

The 27-year-old has accumulated 14 preference points, but still hasn’t drawn a tag for unit 10 in Western Moffat County.

Under the Division of Wildlife’s current rules, hunters earn a preference point each year they apply for a license. The more points a hunter has, the better the chance of earning a tag in a premier unit.

But in premier units where hunters apply for tags year after year and come up empty, the number of points needed to get a tag grows every year.

For example, if five hunters who each have 15 points apply for a unit with two available licenses, three hunters will be denied. Those three hunters will then have 16 points, increasing the number of points required to get a license.

DOW calls the issue “preference point creep.”

“You can’t catch up,” Winn said of the ever-growing number of points needed to hunt premier units.

Winn said he’ll be about 35 years old when he finally gets a tag for unit 10. He thinks he’ll be in his 60s by the time he draws a license there again.

“That’s pretty much the end of a hunter’s life,” Winn said of waiting that long.

DOW formed a License Allocation Work Group, LAWG, last spring to address hunting license allocation issues, including preference point creep.

The LAWG came up with a package of recommendations in July and held public meetings throughout the state to get feedback on the recommendations. Public meetings wrapped up Thursday night in Craig.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission will make a decision in October or November based on the committee’s recommendations.

The LAWG came up with three recommendations for reducing creep: stop giving preference points when an application is denied because it contained an error, not returning points to hunters who draw tags and decide not to hunt, and canceling all of a hunter’s points if they don’t apply to hunt a species for three consecutive years.

The LAWG also recommends charging hunters a fee for preference points unless they purchase some sort of hunting license.

Dave Lovell, LAWG project manager, said at Thursday’s meeting in Craig the changes won’t affect creep in a major way.

But DOW spokesman Tyler Bakersfield said Friday the recommendations are “a step in the right direction.”

He said charging a fee for points will make hunters pay attention to the number of points they have. “It will make people a little more serious about acquiring preference points,” Bakersfield said.

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