GLENWOOD SPRINGS — State wildlife officials do not anticipate a major impact on big-game rifle hunting seasons as a result of the federal government shutdown, with the possible exception of a run on some of the prime dispersed camping spots on national forest lands.
The partial government shutdown, which entered its 11th day Friday, prompted the closure of all developed U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, as well as national parks and monuments.
That means campgrounds commonly used by hunters during Colorado’s big-game hunting seasons, such as the Avalanche Creek and McClure campgrounds south of Carbondale, and Coffee Pot Springs northwest of Dotsero, are behind locked gates.
“There could be some issues, especially with the campgrounds being closed,” said Perry Will, area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). “There are definitely some areas that get more use than others during hunting season, so there will be some effect.”
Still, “There is a lot of dispersed camping available,” added Mike Porras, public information officer for CPW’s Northwest Region.
“Overall, we don’t expect that the impacts of the shutdown on hunting will be significant,” Porras said. “Hunters will still have access, and there should be no issues getting onto public lands.”
The first of four Colorado big-game rifle seasons opens on Saturday and continues through Oct. 16.
Unless Congress ends its political impasse over a continuing resolution to fund federal government operations and end the shutdown, agency offices and facilities on federal lands will not be available to the thousands of hunters who will be heading into the high country.
Porras said CPW’s message to hunters who have inquired about the effects of the federal shutdown on the hunting seasons is that “Colorado is open for hunting.”
“We do always encourage hunters to check with the appropriate land-management agency if they have any questions about an area,” Porras said. “With the shutdown, there may not be a way to do that.”
There is always the possibility that anyone accessing the national forest may find a road closed for whatever reason, whether it’s related to the shutdown or not, Porras said.
If that happens, hunters are asked to respect the closure order, including not using any closed campgrounds, he said.
Porras said his and other state agencies are dealing with the shutdown of federal agencies as best they can.
“We do have mutual interests in some respects, and we do often work with the Forest Service and BLM on different issues,” he said. “Obviously, that’s not there right now.”
As far as the upcoming hunting seasons go, “We’re just letting people know we are open for business,” Porras said.
The second, and traditionally the biggest hunting season in terms of the number of permits issued, runs from Oct. 19-27. Additional big-game rifle seasons run Nov. 2-10 and Nov. 13-17.