MEEKER | Approximately 50 people gathered at Mountain Valley Bank in Meeker Jan. 7 as participants in Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) public involvement meeting about what the five-year big game season structure beginning in 2020 should look like. Rio Blanco County outfitter and CPW Commission member Marie Haskett, and CPW Area Manager Bill deVergie led the presentation, discussion and opinion-testing experience.
About a quarter of the crowd were CPW employees. Many of the rest were involved in the big game outfitting business. The questions posed had been set by the CPW Commission. These questions included what should be the overall length and timing of the elk, mule deer, moose and bear seasons? For example, should there continue to be only Saturday opening days, or would weekday season starts and increasing break time between seasons help with season structure concerns? Topics that are not being considered at this time, deVergie explained, are bighorn sheep, mountain goat or lion seasons, preference points or resident/non-resident allocation ratios.
In addition to meetings like this one around the state, CPW is providing opportunities to weigh in on the issues via a questionnaire that can be completed online, telephone town halls, focus groups and testimony at commission meetings. CPW urges interested parties to visit the next five-year season structure page of their website at cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/SeasonStructure.aspx or contact the Meeker Area Office at 970-878-6090. Early process public comment is being compiled through February 4.
Amid growing concern about overcrowding in bow-hunting season, the Meeker group was asked their opinion on the current archery season. By electronic response, the group registered in at 16 percent very dissatisfied, 27 percent somewhat dissatisfied, 23 percent neither, 23 percent somewhat satisfied, and 11 percent very satisfied.
With regard to archery season crowding specifically, 22 percent indicated not being at all concerned, 11 percent somewhat concerned, 13 percent moderately concerned, and 36 percent very concerned, with 18 percent not hunting or involved in archery season.
On their top three preferences for archery season changes, 25 percent chose limiting all archery elk licenses, 22 percent chose modifying over-the-counter (OTC) either sex licenses to be bull or cow when herd size is below the set objective, 18 percent chose making archery elk licenses OTC with caps (quota sales limits), 13 percent chose limiting all archery cow elk licenses, 12 percent suggested no change, and 9 percent chose making the archery deer season earlier.
Regarding the current deer and elk rifle seasons, 14 percent registered very dissatisfied, 50 percent said somewhat dissatisfied, 9 percent said neither, 16 percent somewhat satisfied, and 11 percent were very satisfied. If modified, the group “voted” 13 percent to keep existing season lengths, 13 percent for keeping the existing number of weekend days, 15 percent for keeping the existing number of rifle seasons, 40 percent favored keeping or expanding the breaks between seasons, and 18 percent voted to finish all rifle seasons before December.
CPW staff will now compile public feedback to be presented to the commission at its March meeting. Based on commission reaction, a draft structure will be presented for further discussion in June, followed by approval at the July meeting. These meetings, respectively, will be in Denver, LaJunta and Telluride.
Other questions raised last week included addressing the muzzle-loader/archery seasons overlap? Should there be an early rifle bull elk season? Should there be multiple September rifle seasons set for bear, bear combination hunts, or one all-fall bear season? With bear licenses that cover larger areas (more game units)? An optional second moose season? It was also announced that citizen petitions have been filed asking for unlimited OTC licenses for muzzle-loading elk and pronghorn.
Some participants registered concern that the big game seasons go on for too long. A couple indicating they saw no reason to be hunting cow elk, one way or the other, from August through Jan. 15. Concern was also raised that the rut seasons in general were getting later and later.
Haskett closed the meeting reminding everyone that the commission wants to hear from people—urging participation in this process. Both Haskett and deVergie also reminded everyone of CPW’s White River Mule Deer Herd Management meeting to be at Mountain Valley Bank next week, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m.graphics for big game season structure
By REED KELLEY | firstname.lastname@example.org