There's an undeniably devilish irony in cupid's arrows flying on the deadline day for Colorado's spring turkey hunt this year. Can you just imagine the camo-clad card writers on Valentine's Day? "Love is in the air. Quick, shoot it."

While I wouldn't count on Hallmark publishing that one before Thursday, hunters who hope to make the most of a wild gobbler's amorous intentions this spring can add another item to their list of romantic to-dos this week: (1) Buy flowers; (2) Make dinner reservations; (3) Make sure your application for spring turkey hunting is received or postmarked before dinner on Thursday.

There's no question that Coloradans love their turkey hunting, and 2013 is offering just a little bit more to adore. Western Slope hunters now have the option to hunt the growing turkey population in Game Management Unit 30, near Grand Junction. According to state wildlife officials, the turkey population in GMU 30 has increased continuously since the mid-1990s.

As a result, the GMU traditionally open only to youth turkey hunting now includes 10 licenses available to public hunters of all ages through the spring draw. Youth licenses in the unit on the west edge of the state also increase from five to 10 this spring as game managers attempt to mitigate agricultural damage. Organizations sponsoring youth turkey hunts will have more opportunity as well this spring as youth outreach licenses statewide have increased from 50 to 200.


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Adults applying for the spring draw take note: You must have a 2013 Habitat Stamp to apply for a license, or include the required $10 with your application. Otherwise it will be disqualified. Drawing results will be announced March 8.

Huge economic impact. While the chronic need to justify the value of hunters and anglers in society can seem tedious, the refreshing news coming out of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation last week is that the 919,000 people who hunt and fish in Colorado had a $1.3 billion impact on Colorado's economy in 2011, with a ripple effect of $2.1 billion. According to the CSF, sportsmen supported 18,693 jobs.

In relative terms, that's more than the combined revenues for corn and hay, the second- and third-highest grossing crops in the state ($1.3 billion vs. $1.29 billion). Those 919,000 people are nearly the equivalent of Denver (state's largest city) and Aurora (third largest) combined (925,236) and Colorado's resident sportsmen (727,000) could fill all of the state's professional sports venues four times.

Nationwide, the numbers are even more impressive. According to the CSF's national report, the 37 million-plus hunters and anglers age 16 and older (roughly the population of California) spent $90 billion on the pastimes in 2011. That's comparable to the combined global sales of Apple's iPad and iPhone that year.

Perhaps most important, the combined license and stamp fees, motorboat fuels, excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment and membership contributions to conservation organizations by hunters and fishermen directed $3 billion toward on-the-ground conservation and restoration efforts in 2011. Factor in private habitat acquisition and restoration work for hunting and fishing grounds and the CSF report adds another $11 billion to the mix.

Save this date. Colorado sportsmen will want to put an early save-the-date reminder on their calendars for Feb. 20 in Grand Junction. That's the day Colorado Parks and Wildlife has set aside for its regional sportsmen's caucus in the state's wildlife-rich northwest region. In addition to a discussion of wildlife issues, attendees will select two delegates to represent the region's wildlife concerns at the newly formed Sportsmen's Roundtable held in Denver next month.

The roundtable is made up of 24 licensed and active anglers or hunters — 16 statewide members and two delegates from each of the four regions — who will provide sportsmen direct access to agency officials and wildlife commissioners over the course of a two-year term. Statewide members are selected through an application process found at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/Pages/Roundtable.aspx. The application deadline is Feb. 15.

The Feb. 20 meeting gets underway at 6 p.m. at Grand Junction's Clarion Hotel (755 Horizon Drive). It's not an opportunity to complain, but to do something about it.

Scott Willoughby: 303-954-1993 or swilloughby@denverpost.com