Colorado proposes reduced limited tag quotas following severe weather and winterkill

Published On: April 22nd, 2023
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colorado winterkill

Limited Big Game Licenses for Colorado Parks and Wildlife: 2023 Recommendations

Following severe Colorado winterkill, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has released its limited big game license recommendations for the upcoming 2023 hunting season. The recommendations include a total of 236,600 limited licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bear. The number of licenses recommended for this year represents a 12% decrease from last year, reducing the total number of licenses by 32,000. These licenses will populate 2,800 individual hunt code quotas, which provide the majority of hunting opportunities for over 800,000 big game animals.

Colorado Winterkill Severe Winter Zone

The most notable changes in the 2023 recommendations are related to the severity and duration of the historic winter in the northwest corner of the state from Rangely to Steamboat Springs and to the Wyoming state line, which is referred to as the severe winter zone. In this area, the winter at lower elevations where mule deer, elk, and pronghorn winter was the worst in at least 70 years because of deep, long-lasting low elevation snowpack. This includes surpassing the historic 1983-1984 winter in the severe winter zone. Snow storms began at the end of October, continued through the entire winter, and persisted relentlessly until April.

License Recommendations for Severe Winter Zone

Colorado has issued the below recommendations for overall limited licenses in the state. While the Big Game Draw has already closed, the recommendations are not yet finalized. The CPW Commission we be finalizing results before issuing tag results.

Overall Tag Quantity Recommendation by Species vs 2022

Species Statewide vs 2022 NW Region vs 2022
Deer -12% -33%
Elk -12% -23%
Pronghorn -16% -49%

Tag recommendations in the remaining districts in the state are all within 2% of 2022 allocations, with the exception of Pronghorn Southwest Region, which is 12% below 2022. CPW has made most of the tag reductions in rifle seasons and antlerless / either-sex tags, with muzzleloader and archery being less affected. Below is a summary of the recommended tags by weapon and tag type, specific to the hard hit Northwest Region.

NW Region Tag Quantity Recommendation by Species and Weapon vs 2022

Species All Rifle Rifle Female & Either-Sex All Archery All Muzzleloader
Deer -36% -61% -18% -20%
Elk -31% -33% **134% -4%
Pronghorn -60% -67% -28% 15%

**The increase in Northwest Region elk is due to DAU E-14 converting from unlimited OTC to limited licenses, otherwise this region would also be reduced.

Options for hunters in the draw

While limited licenses are not substantially reduced for archery and muzzleloader hunts, herd numbers are expected to be substantially lower than in prior years and horn growth could also be impacted. Hunters can elect to not purchase drawn tags, or pay for their tag (but not receive it) and get their preference points returned if they choose not to hunt, as detailed here.

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