DOW: Colorado hunting license sales may be slipping |

DOW: Colorado hunting license sales may be slipping

Baron Zahuranec
Rifle correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. ” Natural gas drilling and the nationwide economic downturn could mean fewer hunting licenses sold in Colorado this year.

“We’ve been hearing anecdotally from people that they won’t be hunting the same areas because of the drilling activity,” Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said. “We don’t have the license numbers yet, so we can’t really be sure how this year will turn out.”

Some of the areas that have been heavily affected by drilling are from Rifle north to Rio Blanco County and west of Colorado Highway 13 heading up to Craig, Hampton said.

Hunters could also be moving to areas that haven’t seen as much hunting activity in recent seasons, Hampton said.

Through archery, muzzleloader and the first rifle season, the numbers have been ” a little bit slow, but not substantially slower than [in] the past,” Hampton said. “Usually, people that plan trips do so months in advance and use that as a big vacation.

“People are still coming and will hunt. If they’ve planned the trip, they’re still going to come.”

Hunters are also grappling with closures of some land that was once public. In the 1980s, the Bureau of Land Management sold land to energy companies with the stipulation that the land would be open for 25 years. Some of that land is closed now, but sections have been kept open by EnCana Oil and Gas and Shell, Hampton said.

A key regulation change out-of-state hunters need to watch out for concern the use of an off-highway vehicle, or OHV.

“[Colorado] State Parks regulate the permitting,” Hampton said. “They require all out-of-state OHVs to have a Colorado permit. In the past, Colorado had a reciprocal agreement with neighboring states to accept their state’s permit. Now, out-of-staters have to buy a temporary, yearly permit to ride in Colorado.”

Those permits can be bought at any state park or DOW office, along with some retailers who sell outdoor-related supplies, Hampton added.

Another small change relates to OHV users who get caught breaking the law. Passed in legislation last year, all federal OHV rules are enforceable by state statute.

“Any law enforcement officer can write a state-level citation for violating OHV rules,” Hampton said.

In past years, if a DOW officer was checking fishing or hunting licenses in a wilderness area where OHVs aren’t allowed, that officer would have to take down all the driver’s information and turn it over to the appropriate authorities, the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. Now, that officer can write a citation without having to hand it over to another governing body, Hampton said.

“It helps to make sure the rules are being enforced,” he said.

Hunters with questions about land they plan to ride on should contact a local Forest Service or BLM representative to find out what usage is permitted.

For other questions about hunting seasons and regulations, contact Hampton at (970) 255-6162.

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