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Proposed Big Game Season Structure (BGSS) 2025-2029 - Colorado

COEngineer

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Today, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) released its preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations for the 2025-2029 Big Game Season Structure (BGSS). Over the past year, CPW carefully considered various biological, social, and economic factors, as well as internal and external input received during its extensive public outreach process, when developing these BGSS recommendations.

The BGSS planning process is a critical component of big game management and big game hunting regulation development in Colorado and provides a framework for CPW staff to make annual license recommendations. The central purpose of the BGSS planning process is to determine what, when, and where various types of big game hunting opportunities are available, and to determine how the timing of opportunities are divided among hunters. Through this planning process, CPW is better able to maintain healthy wildlife populations in keeping with management objectives.

2025-2029 BGSS Staff Recommendations
  • Change to the previous season structure (2015-2019) for regular deer and elk rifle seasons.
  • Maintain the status quo for season structure for early seasons (archery and muzzleloader) for deer and elk west of I-25 and GMU 140; in addition, there shall be an additional stand-alone limited archery antlered deer season that opens August 15th and closes September 1st, annually. This season would be optional and determined on a herd-by-herd basis (DAU/GMU), allowing for regional flexibility. This optional antlered deer season would not replace existing antlered, either-sex, and antlerless deer archery seasons.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) archery: Limit all resident and nonresident archery licenses - limited licenses to be available through the draw by management area (Data Analysis Unit (DAU) or Game Management Unit (GMU)).
  • OTC rifle: Maintain the status quo; keep unlimited licenses available for antlered elk during the second and third general rifle seasons in OTC units. Keep limited either-sex or limited antlered elk licenses available in remaining limited units. All antlerless elk licenses remain limited. Limited licenses issued by GMU/DAU.
  • Addition of an optional* rifle deer hunt during the first regular rifle season (currently elk only).
  • Addition of an optional* second regular rifle buck and doe pronghorn season.
  • A change to the BGSS cycle length was considered. CPW recommends maintaining the status quo of conducting a review of the BGSS every five years.
  • Administrative topics (cow moose): Optional late cow moose season that would be additional to the regular moose rifle season, and would be valid for all regular rifle deer and elk seasons (with no hunting during the breaks between seasons) when necessary to meet management objectives for moose.
  • Administrative topics (private-land-only (PLO) black bear): Modify the existing language to clarify that PLO rifle bear licenses are not required to be unlimited OTC for every population/DAU (managers could still choose an unlimited PLO OTC strategy).
*Optional: CPW staff would have the option to utilize this season as a tool to meet biological objectives (established in Herd Management Plans) and/or social management objectives; would be determined on a herd-by-herd basis (DAUs).

CPW will present these preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations to the Parks and Wildlife Commission at the March Commission meeting in Denver; staff are planning a three-step approval process, with the Commission making final decisions on season structure in June.

If members of the public are interested in providing a comment on the BGSS preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations, they are encouraged to either 1) submit a written comment to the Commission inbox ([email protected]) to ensure their comments are included in the record and provided to the Commission or 2) sign up to provide a verbal comment at the upcoming March Commission meeting.

Additional Information
Visit our Big Game Season Structure Engage CPW webpage to find more information on the Big Game Season Structure process and ways to continue to be involved.
 
Seems like a lot of items there could work if they are implemented together but if you only pick and choose from those recommendations' things could go a little sideways.
 
I really hope they don't do a 1st rifle deer hunt. Already early above timberline deer hunts plus 2nd, 3rd, 4th, plains, etc. Also early October isn't exactly prime time for mule deer. Full disclosure I also really enjoy hunting 1st rifle elk and it's lack of crowding.

i'm surprised that's a staff recommendation. as i recall there was very little public support for it in the survey results.

if i was king i'd kick 3rd rifle elk to the curb though and make it deer only.
 
Today, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) released its preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations for the 2025-2029 Big Game Season Structure (BGSS). Over the past year, CPW carefully considered various biological, social, and economic factors, as well as internal and external input received during its extensive public outreach process, when developing these BGSS recommendations.

The BGSS planning process is a critical component of big game management and big game hunting regulation development in Colorado and provides a framework for CPW staff to make annual license recommendations. The central purpose of the BGSS planning process is to determine what, when, and where various types of big game hunting opportunities are available, and to determine how the timing of opportunities are divided among hunters. Through this planning process, CPW is better able to maintain healthy wildlife populations in keeping with management objectives.

2025-2029 BGSS Staff Recommendations
  • Change to the previous season structure (2015-2019) for regular deer and elk rifle seasons.
  • Maintain the status quo for season structure for early seasons (archery and muzzleloader) for deer and elk west of I-25 and GMU 140; in addition, there shall be an additional stand-alone limited archery antlered deer season that opens August 15th and closes September 1st, annually. This season would be optional and determined on a herd-by-herd basis (DAU/GMU), allowing for regional flexibility. This optional antlered deer season would not replace existing antlered, either-sex, and antlerless deer archery seasons.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) archery: Limit all resident and nonresident archery licenses - limited licenses to be available through the draw by management area (Data Analysis Unit (DAU) or Game Management Unit (GMU)).
  • OTC rifle: Maintain the status quo; keep unlimited licenses available for antlered elk during the second and third general rifle seasons in OTC units. Keep limited either-sex or limited antlered elk licenses available in remaining limited units. All antlerless elk licenses remain limited. Limited licenses issued by GMU/DAU.
  • Addition of an optional* rifle deer hunt during the first regular rifle season (currently elk only).
  • Addition of an optional* second regular rifle buck and doe pronghorn season.
  • A change to the BGSS cycle length was considered. CPW recommends maintaining the status quo of conducting a review of the BGSS every five years.
  • Administrative topics (cow moose): Optional late cow moose season that would be additional to the regular moose rifle season, and would be valid for all regular rifle deer and elk seasons (with no hunting during the breaks between seasons) when necessary to meet management objectives for moose.
  • Administrative topics (private-land-only (PLO) black bear): Modify the existing language to clarify that PLO rifle bear licenses are not required to be unlimited OTC for every population/DAU (managers could still choose an unlimited PLO OTC strategy).
*Optional: CPW staff would have the option to utilize this season as a tool to meet biological objectives (established in Herd Management Plans) and/or social management objectives; would be determined on a herd-by-herd basis (DAUs).

CPW will present these preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations to the Parks and Wildlife Commission at the March Commission meeting in Denver; staff are planning a three-step approval process, with the Commission making final decisions on season structure in June.

If members of the public are interested in providing a comment on the BGSS preliminary alternatives and staff recommendations, they are encouraged to either 1) submit a written comment to the Commission inbox ([email protected]) to ensure their comments are included in the record and provided to the Commission or 2) sign up to provide a verbal comment at the upcoming March Commission meeting.

Additional Information
Visit our Big Game Season Structure Engage CPW webpage to find more information on the Big Game Season Structure process and ways to continue to be involved.
Comments sent.
 
Pretty pissed about archery otc going away for residents and then keeping the rifle otc… 1st deer… give me a break, dumb idea ( I could see them doing this to just issue more tags that will be super hard to fill most bucks are timber ghosts) Also late cow moose tags? Why not wait a few years and see what those woofs do to our Shiras population. If anything we should be dropping elk tags from 4th rifle, should keep 1st an elk only season, and 4th a very limited deer only season…
 
Pretty pissed about archery otc going away for residents and then keeping the rifle otc… 1st deer… give me a break, dumb idea ( I could see them doing this to just issue more tags that will be super hard to fill most bucks are timber ghosts) Also late cow moose tags? Why not wait a few years and see what those woofs do to our Shiras population. If anything we should be dropping elk tags from 4th rifle, should keep 1st an elk only season, and 4th a very limited deer only season…

luckily these recommendations won't be proposed until the june commission meeting, they'll be presented at the march, i believe. lot's of time for comment.

i think there are plenty of things on there that don't have much public support so let em know.

at least the 1st rifle deer thing would optional as it's written, leaving it up to biologists and DWMs to use if they think it would be helpful in meeting objectives. so i could see not many 1st rifle seasons even existing if they did approve it.

or perhaps, in the name of CWD, all of the sudden the 1st rifle woods would be abound with deer hunters. either way i don't like it, so i'm gona let em know.
 
luckily these recommendations won't be proposed until the june commission meeting, they'll be presented at the march, i believe. lot's of time for comment.

i think there are plenty of things on there that don't have much public support so let em know.

at least the 1st rifle deer think would optional as it's written, leaving it up to biologists and DWMs to use if they think it would be helpful in meeting objectives. so i could see not many 1st rifle seasons even existing if they did approve it.

or perhaps, in the name of CWD, all of the sudden the 1st rifle woods would be abound with deer hunters. either way i don't like it, so i'm gona let em know.
Yep will do the same. I mean as much as I want tags in my home state, I also really want healthy wildlife populations now and in the future. I’m glad that 1st deer is optional. I can’t imagine with the shape of deer across the west that we need to make another season, I think we need to put the 2-3-4th season back, the deer are getting smacked pretty hard the last 4 years…
 
at least the 1st rifle deer thing would optional as it's written, leaving it up to biologists and DWMs to use if they think it would be helpful in meeting objectives. so i could see not many 1st rifle seasons even existing if they did approve it.
My problem is that if they are truly using this as a management tool, why not just increase tags during the rut in those areas that need thinning? Why not add the tags when the animals are more active and in a way that doesnt add extra stress to the elk during 1st season. I think this is a terrible idea
 
seems like they went directly against survey responses on the additional deer seasons and full draw for archery, I can't think of a worse program than making archery draw while leaving the rifle seasons OTC to absorb all the people who don't draw archery...
Could not have said it better; your comments echo exactly what I said re: the changes to OTC for archery but not rifle... its just going to concentrate those OTC people even more during 2nd and 3rd. I even sent them pics of what an OTC covered hillside looks like in even a large unit.
 
My problem is that if they are truly using this as a management tool, why not just increase tags during the rut in those areas that need thinning? Why not add the tags when the animals are more active and in a way that doesnt add extra stress to the elk during 1st season. I think this is a terrible idea
Careful what you wish for!
 
seems like they went directly against survey responses on the additional deer seasons and full draw for archery,
Literally - those were the lowest-ranked options from the public comments:

Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 4.07.04 PM.png
Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 4.07.25 PM.png

I tend to give CPW the benefit of the doubt with a lot of these as they have historically stuck fairly close to their guns on giving high attention to the highest-ranked public concerns (e.g. the 'Breaks between seasons' thing). Taking the literal opposite path is just a head-scratcher.
 
Careful what you wish for!
totally... but if these 1st season hunts are going to be "as needed" then so too could those very same tag numbers during an already existing season. My first choice would be no first season at all, but was trying to propose an alternative
 
My problem is that if they are truly using this as a management tool, why not just increase tags during the rut in those areas that need thinning? Why not add the tags when the animals are more active and in a way that doesnt add extra stress to the elk during 1st season. I think this is a terrible idea
I have a feeling they total deer tag numbers wont change in a single unit. For example, they may give out 100 tags total. They give 50 2nd season, 30 3rd season and 20 4th season. I imagine they will just redistribute some quantity to 1st while maintaining the same total in the unit.
 
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