CPW asks for public input in future big game regulations during Kremmling meeting
Grand County, with its vast open spaces and abundant wildlife, is a mecca for hunters. During westward expansion, Colorado’s big game population decreased dramatically as they were overhunted. Elk, moose, deer and pronghorn returned to healthy numbers as their populations were better managed.
Hunting is an important part of big game management, especially since natural predators, such as wolves and mountain lions, are scarce. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages how many hunting licenses are available each season to ensure the right balance between hunters and wildlife.
Parks and Wildlife is currently gathering public input on hunting regulations for Colorado’s 2025-29 Big Game Season Structure. The season structure outlines where and when hunting seasons will be to disperse a certain number of hunters throughout areas known as Game Management Units known as GMUs. The agency pays close attention to the condition of the animals and their habitat, and listens to public input to inform their decisions.
The latest of these public meetings was in Kremmling on June 6. At the open house, held at the CSU Extension Hall, local hunters, ranchers and community members gathered to meet with Parks and Wildlife staff members.
Attendees visited posters at different booths where they could mark down their thoughts on a number of topics. These included:
- Whether to limit over-the-counter licenses for certain seasons.
- How to distribute licenses.
- What alternatives could work instead of over-the-counter licenses.
- If rifle deer hunting should be added to the regular rifle season.
- Whether to add a second regular rifle pronghorn season.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife official Alex Strasser explained that the amount of licenses they offer affects how many hunters, both residents and nonresidents, will be in the Middle Park area for this four-year period. Limiting licenses can help prevent hunters overcrowding areas as they convene in Grand County to scout out big game.
Attendees could also mark down if they would like to change the dates for certain hunting seasons. These included regular rifle, archery and muzzleloader seasons.
Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager Jeromy Huntington and biologist Elissa Slezak also spoke to Sky-Hi News about the reduction of big game hunting licenses in Northwest Colorado for the 2023 season. Parks and Wildlife has called the reductions “unprecedented,” but they were necessary.
Huntington explained that the past two winters have been especially harsh for animals such as deer and elk. These animals struggled to survive and find food beneath heavy snowpack. The severe winter zone extended from Rangely to Steamboat Springs and up to the Wyoming border. According to the agency, this past winter was the worst in at least 70 years.
“We’re not trying to reduce the populations anymore, we’re trying to stabilize them,” Huntington said.
Thus, they don’t require hunters as a management tool to keep herds in check.
Huntington added that Middle Park fared a little better when it came to license cuts – some nearby areas, like Craig, experienced cuts as high as 94%.
Slezak said that for some GMUs in Middle Park, the herd numbers are healthy. Thanks to the herd population being within Parks and Wildlife’s objective range, they didn’t have to make many license cuts. In GMUs where the herd has struggled over winter and their population is down, Parks and Wildlife reduced licenses to protect herd numbers.
Parks and Wildlife will continue to gather public input for the future Big Game Season Structure at meetings throughout Colorado. Community members can also share their thoughts on upcoming regulations online by visiting EngageCPW.org. After receiving all the public input from in-person meetings and online, officials will present the information they learned at the Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting to be held in Steamboat Springs in August.
Hunting licenses for Middle Park 2023 season
Pronghorn (GMUs 15, 18, 26, 27, 28, 37, 181, 231 and 371)
No changes to license numbers
Deer (GMUs 27, 18, 181, 28, 37, 371)
Doe licenses and either-sex private land only licenses: reduced by 75%
Either-sex archery licenses: reduced by 50%
Buck licenses: reduced by 25%
Elk (GMUs 18, 181): Herd within population management objective range
First and fourth season either-sex licenses (regular and private land only): no changes
First, second, third and fourth season cow licenses: reduced by 10%
Late cow season and extended private-land only cow season licenses: reduced by 20%
Elk (GMUs 28, 37, 371): Herd below population management objective range
First and fourth season either-sex licenses (regular) and first, second, third and fourth season cow licenses: reduced by 10%
First and fourth season either-sex, private-land only licenses and extended private-land only cow season licenses: reduced by 30%
Late cow season licenses: reduced by 50%
GMU 18: added 2 cow moose licenses
GMU 28: added 4 cow moose licenses
GMUs 36/361, 37/371, and 15/27: no changes
Hunters can view the 2023 Colorado Big Game Hunting brochure at cpw.State.co.us. Visit cpw.state.co.us/Learn/Maps to view the GMU map.
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