PC: Mike Eastman

Thanks, to Eastmans’ Forum member ColoradoV, I got my hands on the 2021 Colorado recommendations. In it were some interesting charts that show the trends in Colorado elk, deer, moose, antelope, and bear applications and licenses. Let’s look at the first three.

Elk

Look at the elk chart. Even though applications were flat for a long time and recently went up 20%, the long term trend in licenses is down. The result is that it is now twice as hard to draw the average elk tag as it used to be. That’s all tags including cow tags, you know that the better bull tags have seen a lot more point creep. 

Take Unit 49 1st season rifle. Last year it took 13 points for a nonresident. Ten years ago it took 5. With licenses down almost 1/3, you can attribute at least 2 points in most units to lower license totals. However, with Unit 49, licenses are actually up since 2010, so here it is all point creep.

Remember, what drives point creep is that when there are more applicants than licenses, all those unsuccessful applicants have another point to use the next year. If there are more applicants next year  than what is drawn that year, min points will go up again. In a preference point system, you will always have point creeep when there are unsuccessful applicants that apply the next year and number more than licenses awarded. If you think about Unit 49, point creep should go up 1 per year, increasing the 5 points to 15 and then factor in that there are 20% more tags and you come out to roughly 13.

Deer

Now look at deer. Again, it is overall roughly twice as hard to draw. The application numbers continue to climb and I think the number for 2021 will turn out to be much higher than the preliminary estimate pictured because of the new later season dates, maybe as many as 250,000 applicants. Aside from the increasing demand, the number of tags is also still well below what it was before the winter of 2007-2008. And, with the higher success rates the later seasons are going to cause, licenses will probably drop in the next few years, making things more difficult.

Pronghorn

Demand for Colorado pronghorn had been moving steadily higher but has accelerated the last four years while licenses are slightly down. It’s almost surely the result of not having to pay upfront anymore and while that does give the State more application fees, which is really not that much, it has made it a lot more difficult to draw. 

Anyway, I’ve never quite understood why people spend double-digit points to hunt Colorado pronghorn when they can hunt them next door in Wyoming for 1/3 or ¼ of the point cost and have much higher success. Maybe because it costs almost nothing to apply once you’ve bought a qualifying license, and resident licenses, as in most states, are cheap, less than an oil change, but don’t get me started on that.

Moose

The moose chart shows you a real Colorado success story. Here I had to put licenses on the right-side scale and you can see the incredible increase in moose licenses from 80 in 2003 to 532 in 2021. Don’t you wish sheep licenses had increased almost seven times! So, applications are way up but licenses have kept pace. 

Of course, moose licenses are drawn with Colorado’s trophy species’ weighted point system that starts giving weighted points in the fourth application year and divides a randomly assigned number by the number of points, with the lowest product drawn first. So, like any point system that has a random element, the lowest number to draw jumps all over. People actually drew last year with 0 weighted points. 

Back in 2010 the most points anyone had was 9, now it is 19, but again, it is not a preference point draw, so point creep comes into play, but not in the same way as minimum points. There is no other state where moose are rapidly increasing or where the ratio of applicants to moose licenses has held steady for 14 years. And, if you’ve been reading our MRS, you know that Colorado’s place in the record books for Shiras’ moose puts them right in the mix with Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, the big 3. At the very top end, Colorado is actually the leader over the last 10 years. Hopefully, it will be a few years yet before the wolves start eating into the number of licenses.