(COLORADO) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Parks and Wildlife Commission are changing big-game hunting licenses with reductions and shorting some season dates due to severe weather conditions this past winter.

CPW said the past winter had the most severe snow conditions seen in the past 70 years for the state’s northwest corner. Multiple heavy snowstorms with strong winds created hard-packed snow that severely buried food for elk, mule deer, and pronghorn.

The weather conditions impacted the survival rates of GPS-collared animals in the area. Based on those findings, CPW recommended that the number of hunting licenses be limited to allow herds to recover from the harsh winter.

“This winter has been historic in many ways,” said Darby Finley, Meeker Area Terrestrial Biologist. “These recommendations were not easy to make, and we know they will impact more than just CPW, including hunting opportunities and local economies. However, we believe these substantial reductions in licenses will allow herds to recover as quickly as possible.”

The Commission approved the following regulations for the 2023-2024 big-game season:   

  • CPW is issuing 236,600 licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bear. These license changes include a reduction of 32,000 (-12%) limited licenses from last year. 
  • Statewide, CPW is issuing 12,600 (-12%) fewer deer licenses than last year. For the northwest region, it’s a reduction of 12,800 (-33%) deer licenses.
  • Statewide, CPW is limiting 107,700 licenses for elk, down 15,400 (-12%) licenses from last year. 
  • Archery licenses for hunt code E-E-004-O1-A and muzzleloader licenses for hunt codes E-E-004-O1-M and E-E-014-O1-M have been reduced by an additional 25%. Only the number of licenses issued has changed. Dates for archery and muzzleloader season in these hunt codes remain the same.

“This winter is a great example of why CPW sets license quota recommendations in late spring,” said Brad Banulis, Northwest Region Senior Terrestrial Biologist. “By using the data and biological information we collect from late fall through early spring, we can evaluate conditions and make the best license recommendations to meet herd management objectives.”