DURANGO, Colo. – Archery hunters in southwest Colorado are now required to apply through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife limited licensing program to obtain a license for elk hunting.
The new requirement applies to Game Management Units 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 711, 741, 751, and 771. The change was made because of concerns about the declining elk population and concerns by the hunting public that there were too many bowhunters in the field.
Archery hunters will apply to hunt in a specific GMU or group of GMUs[WB1]. Previously, archery elk licenses in these units were over-the-counter either-sex tags that were not unit specific. Now, archery licenses will be broken down into unit specific limited bull, cow, and private-land-only either-sex licenses.
The deadline to submit an application is April 7. All hunters can start submitting applications on March 1 through the CPW website.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, on Jan. 15, made the decision to limit these licenses based on recommendations from CPW staff and input from the public.
Brad Weinmeister, terrestrial biologist in Durango, explained that cow-calf ratios have been in serious decline for more than a decade. The ideal ratio is 40 calves per 100 cows. During recent aerial classification flights he found the lowest cow-calf ratio that’s ever been recorded in southwest Colorado – just 18 calves per 100 cows.
“That’s not enough calves to sustain the population,” Weinmeister said.
Another factor in the decision was the growth of the number of archery hunters in the last decade. In these game management units, depending on location, the numbers have grown by 45 to 80 percent; and those archers could hunt bulls or cows. During the same period, in an attempt to halt the decline in the elk population, CPW reduced licenses for rifle and muzzleloader hunters by 80 percent[WB2] .
Despite those reductions, elk populations have not responded with the growth biologists were hoping to see.
CPW wildlife managers in Durango are now discussing how many and the type of licenses that will be available. That decision will be made locally in March and then forwarded to the Parks and Wildlife Commission in May for approval.
Two public meetings to discuss elk herd management in this area are scheduled: Norwood, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m. at the Lone Cone library; Durango, Feb. 13,6:30 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. At the meetings CPW staff will explain the history of the local herds, current status and proposals for managing elk into the future. The public is invited to ask questions and provide comments.
For those who cannot attend the meetings, an online survey is available at: https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/HerdManagementPlans.aspx. The deadline for completing the survey is Feb. 25.