The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced Coloradans’ love for the outdoors, with parks and open spaces bustling along with backcountry skiing launch points.

Apparently, hunters and anglers are ready to get out too.

According to data provided to The Gazette, Colorado Parks and Wildlife received 624,104 applications for its annual big game draw. That’s up from last year’s 609,366.

“We really didn’t know what was going to happen,” said CPW spokesman Travis Duncan, citing the agency’s concern for drop-off with field offices closed. Many prefer to submit applications in-person rather than online.

“I think it shows how motivated people are,” Duncan said.

Depending almost entirely on permits and fees for funding at a time when the number of sportsmen and women is dipping nationally, CPW also has avoided a decline in fishing license sales.

As of this week, 14,443 had been sold since registration opened March 1. Through the first two months of sales last year, 13,545 were distributed.

The increases are signs of relief for an agency bracing for a financial hit due to state park campgrounds being closed. Parks’ operating budgets largely rely on reservations that would otherwise be ramping up now.

Revenues from big-game tags, with applications costing residents $7 and nonresidents $9, are anticipated to continue rising.

In a change for 2020, CPW is hosting a secondary draw, which, unlike “leftover day” of the past, will require applicants of the primary draw to pay another application fee. That’s if they so choose to seek any elk, deer, pronghorn and bear license not issued through the first lottery.

“Leftover day” had been reserved only for customers of the primary draw who missed out on tags or who wanted to try for more. This secondary draw will be open to newcomers, so long as they have a qualifying license. Whether they draw a tag or not, they’ll be charged an application fee.

Applications will be accepted June 5 through July 8. It’s uncertain what backcountry rules will apply then — currently developed campgrounds are closed while the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region has discouraged dispersed camping — let alone what they’ll be come hunting time.

Duncan said CPW is paying close attention.

“It’s tough for me to say what protocols will be in the fall or what different mountain communities will be concerned about come big-game season. But, in general, bring your own supplies, minimize contact with the local community, keep in mind the limited medical resources in these rural communities. That’s a message we’re definitely sharing now.”

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