Big changes being floated around for CO elk hunters

Oak

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New approach necessary for elk herds

Opening up cow licenses considered

By Charlie Meyers
Denver Post Outdoor Editor
http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~95~1912944,00.html

How's this for a flip-flop in that increasingly prickly matter of managing Colorado's elk herds?

Instead of restricting the number of cow elk licenses while allowing unlimited hunting for bulls - the way things have been done for the better part of half a century - let's try it the other way around.

Since the old method hasn't worked so well, despite more tweaking than a Broncos roster, why not reverse field and take an almost opposite approach?

Would you believe the equivalent of over-the- counter cow licenses?

That's the notion espoused by certain key Division of Wildlife managers, at least two vocal members of the Colorado Wildlife Commission and, presumably, a whole lot of hunters who will make their wishes known through a series of public meetings during the next few weeks[see link to list of meetings at the bottom of this post]. The process will help establish the next five-year hunting structure, 2005-09, to be made final at the March commission meeting.

At the crux of the matter is this basic fact: After all those years and countless variations of the current theme, Colorado still has far too many cow elk (along with a large excess overall) and too few large bulls. Further, the situation seems to be getting worse instead of better.

Pressing hardest for a change is commissioner Brad Phelps of Parlin, whose campaign centers on boosting the ratio of mature bulls. At the January commission meeting in Denver, Phelps openly castigated the DOW for allowing populations of mature bulls, four points or better, to drop below the policy goal of 20 to 30 per hundred cows across much of the state.

Phelps also is pressing for more trophy bulls: animals with six points or better. Other key players are pulling in harness with him.

"It seems strange to me that we would try to grow a bigger bull/cow ratio while selling bull tags over the counter and restricting licenses for cows," said Rick Enstrom, the commission chairman and a proponent of change.

Enstrom foresees a system in which all elk licenses would be totally managed as a way of "getting our arms around" the various problems of herd management.

"The rub is that nearly everyone wants to go bull hunting and get a big bull," Enstrom said. "That's not possible. We can't all go out looking for a bull and properly manage our herds."

The solution? Enstrom proposes making bull tags harder to get through a draw process - as was the case when the state went to totally limited deer licenses a half-decade ago - while making it more inviting to hunt cows.

"We'd still have limited cow licenses to allow for herd management," he said. "But there'd be plenty of them available for license agents to sell over the counter in the fall. Everyone still would get to hunt. It's just that we all can't hunt bulls."

Under the current system, hunters who wish to obtain a cow tag generally must apply before an early April deadline. Leftovers are sold beginning in August, but these carry geographic restrictions that would become more flexible if licenses were sold by agents, an arrangement made possible by the agency's new total licensing system.

Enstrom also proposed two other changes that offer greater incentive to pursue cows while also providing more latitude in the application process.

One would grant a preference point to anyone who harvested a cow. A separate proposal would allow hunters to allocate a certain portion of accumulated preference points on an application - much like pushing in only part of your chips when making a bet at Las Vegas.

"We're taking all the sidebars off this discussion," Enstrom said.

Hunters are certain to offer their own ideas, such as the scheme by Durango resident Jack Turner, who suggests creating a "master hunter" program to reward anyone who purchases an elk license in a designated number of consecutive seasons, say 10 or 15. That person then could hunt in any or all rifle seasons, a further incentive to harvest an animal.

Others, such as Littleton resident Kent Ingram, echo Phelps' call for quality.

"Do we want unlimited elk hunting where entire age classes of four-point bulls are culled out as annual crops? I think not," Ingram said. "A resource without five- and six-point bulls of abundance is a poor resource."

Many DOW managers, aware that big game tags make up 80 percent of the agency's total license revenue, are wary of alterations that might severely upset the budget. Others, such as state big game supervisor Rick Kahn, worry about diminished participation at a time when the agency is trying to encourage hunter involvement.

"My big concern about limited licensing is that in 1990 we had 250,000 deer hunters, most purchasing over-the-counter licenses," he said. "Now there are 80,000. We've lost 170,000 deer hunters. Many switched over to elk, but if we now change to totally limited elk licensing, I'm afraid many will just drop out of the game, quit playing."

Kahn also emphasized that change will be for reasons of hunter preference rather than biology, since overall breeding success hasn't been impacted by dwindling numbers of mature bulls.

"It's a matter of personal choice," Kahn said.

Every hunter can play an important role in making that choice over the next few weeks. After that, the only thing left will be five years of complaints.

Public meeting places and times (Voice your opinions, folks!)

Oak
 

Hunterman

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Dang Oak,,,If Colorado has that many elk in it
I would say ship some to Washington State
we could use them...But then that would just give more to the Indians


Hunterman(Tony)
 

Elkhunter

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Colorado has a plate full and no matter what they do, there is going to be a lot of bitching. No one likes change. Thanks for the article Oak.
 

schmalts

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sounds like a good plan in my opinion. I think with the numbers they have for elk, they should manage the heard a lot better. they need to take a little look at other states and compare what they have.
They bitch that not enough cows get killed but yet try to get 250$ for a cow tag. The nonres say no, and the DOW pays out anyway for other management means.
 

KC

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CO:

The DOW has been trying to reduce the elk herd by increasing the number of antlerless licenses issued. Each year only about 25% of hunters take an elk. About 15% of hunters kill about 85% of the elk. So increasing the number of licenses only increases the number of unsuccessful hunters. If we want to reduce the herd, we have to develop ways to make all hunters more successful and to allow those hunters with proven records more opportunities to hunt. I will be at the meeting in Colorado Springs and I will make several suggestions.

We should increase the hunting opportunities for people using modern rifles because those tools are more effective at killing elk. So I will suggest that we adopt a season structure that allows more time in the field for modern rifle hunters and moves the first modern rifle season into the end of the rutt. In 2004 that season structure would look like this.

Archery Aug 28 - Sept 26
Primitive Rifle Sept 11 - Sept 26
1st Rifle Oct 2 - Oct 10
2nd Rifle Oct 16 - Oct 24
3rd Rifle Oct 30 - Nov 7
4th Rifle Nov 13 - Nov 21

This structure perserves exclusive access for archery hunters during early September. It continues the practice of allowing archery hunters and muzzle loaders to hunt during the rutt. It includes a non-hunting period at the peak of the rutt so elk can be most effective at repoduction during that time, thus ensuring a sustained yield. It also moves the first modern rifle season into the end of the rutt and this should result in more elk being taken during that time.

There is a five-day non-hunting period between each rifle season. This should result reduced stress on the elk and increase hunter success on the first weekend of each season.

Each modern rifle season is nine days long, which should result in more time in the field for hunters. The Saturday through Sunday structure coincides with our most common work schedule.

Note that the fourth season is late in November. This should be a very productive time for hunters since herds should be consentrated in the foothills and lowlands thus making them easier to find.

I will suggest that we allow hunters to buy a license in any September hunt and in any post-September hunt. So we could hunt with archery or muzzle loaders during September AND hunt with a modern rifle in October or November.

I will also suggest that we allow those hunters who kill an antlerless elk this year to buy a license in two of the modern rifle seasons next year. In those GMUs where antlerless license are now "additional", those hunters should be allowed to buy a bull tag as well as an "additional" antlerless tag for each season. In order to be elligible to buy licenses in two modern rifle seasons, a hunter must this year present his/her tagged antlerless elk to a DOW officer, who will issue a certificate allowing the hunter to buy a license in two modern rifle seasons next year.

These measures should increase the time in the field for all hunters and increase hunting opportunities even more for successful hunters. It should make hunters during the 1st modern rifle season and 4th season more successful. These measures combined should result in an increased harvest. Since additional hunting opportunities would be associatd with additional licenses, it will also simultaneously increase revenue for the DOW.

KC

 

Boman

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KC,
You've got a great plan, that's the best one I've seen. I would only add to your plan the chance to earn an extra point if you take an extra cow in the units that need thinning. I think that would be a real nice motivator.
 

Oak

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KC,
Some of your ideas sound feasible, but I have my doubts about others. First, I don't think we need a rifle season during the rut to reduce the population. The way to manipulate the pop. is through cow harvest. As it is, hunters typically have a low success rate during the first season if the weather is hot and dry. By pushing that season up a week, you're just going to exacerbate that problem. As stated in the article above, one of the problems needing to be addressed is the fact that our bulls are being hammered, creating low bull/cow ratio. If the season were moved up a week, I think they would (should) severely limit (or exclude?) bull licenses for that season.

For the same reasons, I think that your 4th season extends too late in the year. Hunters will be hammering the bulls once the snow pushes them down. If it's going to be that late, we'd need to limit the numbers of bull licenses.
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I will suggest that we allow hunters to buy a license in any September hunt and in any post-September hunt. So we could hunt with archery or muzzle loaders during September AND hunt with a modern rifle in October or November.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>This sounds like a good idea, and I used to wish the same thing, however... Black powder licenses are already a very competative draw. By allowing folks to hunt both seasons, you'll pull into the blackpowder draw those who would not otherwise be willing to give up their rifle hunting. I think it's unfair to the regular ML hunters. Also, there's been leftover ML licenses for cows the last couple of years. That's because there's much more demand for bull licenses (if someone wants to shoot a cow (meat hunter), they're typically going to use means that improve their chances (hunting during rifle season). The only possiblity I see with this idea is to perhaps make leftover ML cow licenses "additional". Increasing the # of ML licenses in order to accomodate the additional applicants wouldn't be an option because you can't put too many people in the field for those early seasons. It pushes the elk onto private property too early in the year, which will reduce the rifle harvest. That's why many units in the NW part of the state went to totally limited archery and ML licenses.
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> those hunters should be allowed to buy a bull tag as well as an "additional" antlerless tag for each season <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>This sounds like you're advocating a hunter being able to buy more than one bull license. Bad idea if you're trying to increase bull numbers. <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>In order to be elligible to buy licenses in two modern rifle seasons, a hunter must this year present his/her tagged antlerless elk to a DOW officer, who will issue a certificate allowing the hunter to buy a license in two modern rifle seasons next year.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>The DOW is already short on manpower. That's why we don't have (as many people have asked) a mandatory check system for harvested animals. Personally, I'd rather have a DOW officer out in the field enforcing the laws than checking in hunter kills and issuing licenses.

Ultimately I think they're going to have to sweeten the pot for cow hunters, or limit bull licenses. Perhaps they should let folks buy cow licenses for as many of the rifle seasons as they want. It's a tough issue with no clear answers.

Oak
 

KC

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CO:

Good comments. I agree with some and dissagree with others.

Yes some muzzle-loader tags are getting hard to draw. That's why we have a preference point system. Those people who currently hunt exclusively with muzzle-loaders are taking a higher percentage of mature bulls. My suggestion may result in distributing available tags throughout a wider number of hunters and that seem more equitable to me. It may also result in some ML hunters ocasionally hunting during a modern rifle season. I'm OK with that. We might also want to think about allowing cross bows to be used during the ML season.

You make a good point about more licenses resulting on more bulls killed. So I will propose that in order to take a bull in the 1st or 4th rifle season, a hunter must first take a cow. I think we have to issue bull tags because most hunters want to take a bull and they may not hunt in Colorado, if they don't have that opportunity. So we should link taking a bull, during the most vulnerable times, to taking a cow first.

I dissagree that DOW officers should spend most of their time on law enforcement. Their primary mission is game management.

KC
 

Bambistew

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What about making cow tags good for not just one season but for all seasons? That would increase oppertunity for the cow hunters thus increasing the harvest. To take into account for hot weather or no snow, etc.

What about hunt cows for three years, harvest two and get a premium bull tag/ triple preference points? They need to give out some incentive to shoot the cows...

I agree the pressure should be put on the cows not the bulls... Rifle hunting during th rut is a bad idea. There aren't that many mature bulls running around, hunting them during the rut will wipe them out completly!
 

Oak

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KC,
Everyone currently has the opportunity to apply for and draw a ML tag. They just have to choose. Therefore, I don't think that by allowing hunters to hunt ML AND rifle season means that you would be distributing the tags to a wider # of hunters. Nobody is restricted from applying for those now. It seems that if ML hunters are taking a higher percentage of th mature bulls, then that would be incentive enough for someone to put in for the ML tag. I don't think we need crossbows during that time of the year, either.(JMO)

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>So I will propose that in order to take a bull in the 1st or 4th rifle season, a hunter must first take a cow. I think we have to issue bull tags because most hunters want to take a bull and they may not hunt in Colorado, if they don't have that opportunity. So we should link taking a bull, during the most vulnerable times, to taking a cow first.
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>So are you proposing that this be a "next year" situation? For example, you kill a cow one year, and then you can buy the bull tag the next? I'm not sure how that would work with non-residents. That requires them to make two trips to CO to hunt a bull in one of those seasons, OR pony up money for two tags in one trip. If it doesn't sound good to me as a resident, I doubt it's gonna sound good to the non-residents!


<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> I dissagree that DOW officers should spend most of their time on law enforcement. Their primary mission is game management. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>The regular rifle seasons are where the majority of hunting occurs, and those rifle seasons take place over the course of only 5-6 weeks. I think it's more important for the officers to do law enforcement at those times and spend the majority of the other 46 weeks of the year on "management". There's only approximately 150 commissioned law enforcement officers in the state, so they're already stretched thin.

Oak
 

Oak

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Bambistew,
The multiple season idea might work...I mentioned something similar above. I suggested, however, that you make the hunter buy a license for each season he/she wants to hunt. One problem with this approach is the fact that the whole reason CO has the structure of many short seasons rather than one long one is to reduce hunting pressure during each season. If you think it looks like a pumpkin patch out there now, only being able to hunt one season, imagine what it will be like if everyone could hunt every season. It might be counter-productive to the goal of a higher harvest, although it could increase revenue.

Oak

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ 01-28-2004 15:13: Message edited by: Colorado Oak ]</font>
 

Oak

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Ithaca, I think they're on their way, whether we want them or not! CO is currently putting together a wolf management plan so that they're prepared when they get here. Personally, I couldn't care less if we have wolves, but I'm sure that the majority of hunters don't want them. Some folks have already floated around the idea of wolves to control the population here. I'd say that should be incentive enough for hunters to shoot cows. I'm not sure hunters will be able to do the job though, no matter how many tags they issue. The major barricade to getting the harvest we want now is lack of access to the elk on private property. We shall see....

Oak
 

DeerKing

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Everyone wants a big bull but in the end 95% of the elk shot are raghorns and other assorted dinks. As an experiment designate half?? the over the counter units 5 point or bigger on bull elk to be legal. You'll weed out the meat hunters and those that are really after big bulls right away. In a few years you will see the number of mature bulls go up dramatically in these units. Leave the other units the same for all the meat hunters. Also make all cow tags a 2-carcass tag and be able to hunt multiple rifle season with the same tag. Hell I don't know, but apparently neither does the DOW, and them guys get paid a lot more.... and its there job.
 

Iron Buck

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Wow.....looks like a big shake up in Colorado is pending. I'll bet this plan will bring along it's share of debate. Just like the herd reduction and Antler Restrictions going on here in PA.

I have been elk hunting Colorado every year for the past few archery seasons. I love the mountains, the trip and I find enough decent bulls to make me happy. BUT............The cost of elk tag, airfare, vacation time, pay outfitter for horses, motel cost for first and last nights etc all add up. I go self guided for the joy of hunting and it saves me $$$. It is all worth it to me to hunt a BULL. I would not spend this money to go hunt cow elk. I'd stop hunting elk instead. If I could get archery mule deer tags where I could take a buck I'd continue to go. But if I did not draw a buck or a bull tag.....I'd skip Colorado that year.

I can get all the meat I want by hunting deer here at home. I'd suspect that many would feel the same way. I hope the Colorado DNR has an alternate plan for funding.....because the out of state license sales will drop dramatically. Again.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ 01-30-2004 06:29: Message edited by: Iron Buck ]</font>
 

schmalts

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Washington Hunter:
I don't understand why hunters need an incentive to shoot cow elk...isn't 300 lbs. of elk meat enough? That's all the incentive I would need.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

NO! not if i have to pay 250 bucks and drive across the country. The DOW needs to pull a head out of an ass if they think the average Non resident will stand for any more fee increases to cow tags.
 

Washington Hunter

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Why is a bull worth more than a cow? The hunting experience is the same, and the meat is the same. What can you do with the antlers? The priorities of some hunters need to change. Antlers should not be what hunting is about. Remember, you can't eat the antlers!
 
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