Should buck stop here?
Opposition to controversial ‘Governor’s Tag’ program sprouts at local level
Times Staff Writer
Originally published 2013-01-31
A group of local sportsmen is requesting that Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reconsider the structure of a controversial, state-wide “Governor’s Tag” program.
In a letter sent to CPW’s big game manager Andy Holland, dated Jan. 22, the Gunnison Wildlife Association (GWA) lays out a multifaceted argument against the ethical standards being used to fill those mule deer tags.
“We all understand that money doesn’t go as far as it used to and in the wake of the recent budget shortfalls, there has been a need to look for alternative ways to raise revenue,” states the letter, which was signed by GWA secretary and treasurer Jo Ann Stone. “However, as sportsmen we feel management agencies should not sacrifice hunter ethics and our model of wildlife management for the sake of money.”
Annually, CPW distributes four deer tags to wildlife conservation groups, which either auction or raffle them off. From the typically high-priced auctioned tags, 80 percent goes to the CPW and the other 20 percent to the conservation groups.
The tags can be used in Colorado basically anytime between late August and the end of the year — on any public lands open to hunting or private lands by permission.
For the group of individuals behind the letter, it’s the high volume of those tags that are filled in the Gunnison Basin — as well as the timing of when those tags are filled — that is at the top of their list of concerns.
“If these guys want to come out and hunt, more power to them, but don’t come out in December and fly helicopters around,” said Navid Navidi, owner of H&H Towing in Gunnison. “One other issue is that they happen to come to Gunnison more often than not.”
The licensing program for mule deer — auction/raffle tags also exist for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk and antelope — was enacted in 2000, and since then 11 of 39 bucks have been harvested in the Gunnison Basin. Three out of the four tags in both 2007 and 2010 were harvested locally.
In the most recent example, which took place in mid-December, Texas resident Guinn Crousen bagged a trophy-sized buck — with a gross score of 244 inches — in the Centennial area, just north of Blue Mesa Reservoir. Centennial is located in Game Management Unit 54, in which regular deer hunting seasons end on Nov. 15.
GWA is suggesting that the program be revised for further consideration of when big game animals are located on their wintering grounds and are most susceptible to stress from factors outside of their environment.
“They could still start hunting in August, but they’d have to end their hunt when hunting season ends for that particular unit,” said Randy Clark, owner of Trader’s Rendezvous in Gunnison. “It would stop the guys from hunting when these deer are clearly on their wintering grounds.”
GWA is also suggesting that a “quota system” be put into place, which would allow only a certain number of these tags to be filled in a specific region over the course of a certain time period.
As for the questionable tactics that have recently been used to locate these trophy animals, the GWA isn’t very high on those either. In the case of Crousen, who is reported to have hired more than a dozen guides from within the Gunnison Basin and as far away as Utah, a CPW investigation into the improper use of a helicopter for scouting remains open.
The GWA has yet to hear back from the CPW about the status of their request. But in the meantime, they are circulating the letter and a petition of support throughout businesses in the area.
“We hope everyone involved in the decision making on this issue will keep in mind the money raised is for (the) benefit of the wildlife and the sport of hunting and we don’t want to hurt either in the process,” the letter states. “We encourage you to visit some of the hunting forums on the web such as ‘Monster Muleys’ to get a better feel for how the hunting community in general feels about these Governors hunts.”
A copy of the letter and the petition can be found at H&H Towing, Trader’s Rendezvous and Trophies Unlimited Taxidermy in Gunnison.
(Matt Smith can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com)