Hunters Would Prefer Frequent Opportunities for Deer and Elk Rather Than Occasional Trophy Animals, Colorado State Survey Shows

Both Colorado hunters and nonresident hunters place more importance on frequent opportunities to hunt than they do on bagging trophy animals, a Colorado State University survey shows.

More than 3,000 licensed deer and elk hunters were asked to consider realistic tradeoffs–that is, what they’d prefer given limited choices about hunting experiences in the state. The results, according to Michael Manfredo, leader for the Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Unit at Colorado State, showed hunters valued having a wide variety of available opportunities. They clearly recognized natural constraints on certain experiences, such as not being able to hunt for a trophy animal every year.

"Hunters repeatedly indicated that when constraints are increased, they will still seek ways to participate, even by switching to other methods of take," Manfredo said. "Being able to go hunting consistently is a defining factor for individuals in planning their hunts over a five- to 10-year period."

Although respondents weren’t unanimous in their opinions, most agreed they would prefer to hunt moderate-sized animals and have more frequent opportunities to hunt.

The survey compared hunters by method of take (rifle, bow or muzzleloader) and other characteristics, including using private land, all-terrain vehicles or pack animals.

"We asked that this survey be conducted as part of our goal to better understand what types of opportunities hunters want," said John Mumma, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "We know that there is a demand for a wide variety of hunting experiences. The information will be important as the DOW continues to work with hunters and other members of the public on development of our five-year season structure for big game.

"This work by Colorado State represents an important part of our efforts to provide the best information to the Wildlife Commission, hunters and the public as part of our continuing efforts to listen to and factor in their needs and wishes."

Peter Fix, a Colorado State research associate who helped design and implement the survey, noted that the survey didn’t just seek broad preferences but instead asked that individual hunters consider realistic choices.

"Obviously, the ideal hunt would have big animals and few other hunters around, and you could do it every year," he said. "But that’s not biologically feasible, so this survey used a format that presented choices to hunters that they actually face, including tradeoffs of hunt frequency, trophy opportunities or solitude experiences."

The research was representative of the hunting public, involving more than 3,000 randomly selected resident and nonresident hunters who use rifles, muzzleloaders and bows.

Manfredo said the results should provide crucial information for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, now in the middle of their Big Game Season Structure Process, which outlines deer and elk hunting management for the next five years. The results are being provided to the Colorado Wildlife Commission for discussion at their May 6-7 meeting in Gunnison, the first meeting to discuss policy issues affecting big game management beginning in the year 2000.

John Smeltzer, human dimensions section manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, believes the survey results indicate what is most relevant in providing hunting recreation.

"This is information that can help us ensure that planning efforts consider deliberative hunter preferences," he said.

Other information will be considered in planning for elk and deer hunting, according to Colorado State researcher Cynthia Pierce.

"We have also been working with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to provide information that indicates the possible consequences in providing different hunting opportunities, including biological impacts, public involvement input and economic and local impacts," Pierce said. "We’re trying to provide the division and commission with a range of alternatives that might be considered in planning for future hunting opportunities. This is both a responsive and comprehensive approach in providing information for future wildlife management decisions."