Having just spoken to the last of the five area wildlife managers in Northwest Colorado, I’d say all conditions exist in this quadrant of the state for darned good hunting, regardless of the species being sought.
Conditions brought on by the late April snows and the start of the afternoon showers associated with the annual monsoon season bode well for those who will be stalking elk, deer, moose, bear, mountain lions, big horn sheep, mountain goats and antelope.
Each of the managers said that forage for the ungulate animals is in great shape this year; much better than recent past years. With the forage being good and the cow-calf ratios as good or better than hoped, the bears and mountain lions have been able to find prey. As an aside, the precipitation has brought about a great year for berries, to help round out the diet for the bears.
Almost without exception, the bear season is expected to one of the best ever with large numbers of bears and increased bear licenses.
Perry Will, the area wildlife manager out of Glenwood Springs, made the statement, “We’ll take all the bear hunters you can send us.”
Will’s area covers all of the Flattops to the Colorado River, to the top of Vail Pass, to the top of Black Mountain and all the way to the Frying Pan River and Aspen.
“I’m looking for a robust bear season,” he said. “We have lots of bears, lots of licenses, the forage season has been good and we have been increasing the number of licenses.”
Each of the other area’s game managers echoed similar themes for bear, and most were almost as enthusiastic about the upcoming elk season. All stated that the herds and numbers are up over the past few years, that the cow/calf ratio is good and that there are a number of good elk to be taken in the coming season.
Nearly all of the area game wardens were optimistic about the outlook for the upcoming deer hunt.
Meeker area game manager Bill deVergie said he looks forward to seeing how this deer season will turn out.
“We’ve had down seasons and down numbers for about five or six years now, and that can be a good thing for the hunters,” he said. “We have dropped the number of licenses, but we have a steady number of deer this year.
“The deer are there,” he said. “There have been some great deer spotted, and with fewer licenses that means fewer hunters. That leaves lots of room for those hunters who draw deer tags in this area.
The farther north and farther east the deer hunters have their tags, the game managers are saying that numbers are not down and are even up in their areas. It seems the southern part of the state is still seeing problems, they said, but that the spring precipitation in Northwest Colorado and the start of the summer rainy season has left the herds and forage — particularly the grasses and sagebrush — in much “better than average” condition.
According to Jim Haskins, area game manager in Steamboat Springs, even though there are fewer doe licenses in his area, the herds are healthy and in good numbers in Routt and Jackson counties and that there are quite a few deer in North Park that head to Wyoming early, causing the creation of an early deer season in North Park to keep a number of good bucks from crossing the Wyoming line.
Other areas with good prospect for deer hunters are Unit 22 in Piceance Creek, Unit 301 north of Craig, Unit 44 south of Eagle heavy with trophy bucks, Unit 30 and the Douglas Pass areas in the Grand Junction area, there was good doe/fawn and even good buck survival rates in the Hot Sulphur Springs area around Kremmling (with OTC licenses available for does), and the areas in and around North Park in the Steamboat Springs area.
It also looks quite promising for those who have antelope licenses this fall. While not all areas have antelope herds or licenses, those that do report good numbers, good foraging conditions, plenty of water and the urge to migrate.
The best areas are the grasslands north of Craig and along the Wyoming area as well as north and east of Kremmling.
Moose also appear abundant in most of Northwest Colorado, with the transplant of moose from mostly Utah exceeding hopes and predictions.
J.T. Romatzke, the area wildlife manager out of Grand Junction praise the reintroduction of moose on Grand Mesa, where licenses for both sexes are available.
“We have permits for fie cows and 10 bulls this season, and I expect to see that numbers grow for next few years at least,” Romatzke said. “We have seen the herd grow from the 90 that were transplanted to more than 350 now.”
Most of the other wildlife managers agreed that the herds are thriving. Depending on the area, there may not be a lot of licenses available to hunters, but those who do obtain licenses “should have plenty of opportunity” they stated.
There are also hunts for mountain lions, mountain goats and big horn sheep scattered throughout Northwest Colorado. There are not a lot of licenses available in any of the areas, but the wildlife managers agreed, if the hunter is fortunate enough to gain the illusive licenses, the numbers are good, the forage and lichens are good and the access is good in most places to make for successful hunts.
As a reminder, all the leftover tags from the state draw are now available over the counter at CPW offices and at regular licenses outlets. However, the managers said, it would be wise to call the CPW before making a license purchase because there are some areas without a lot of licenses and other licenses will go fast, so it’s best to confirm that licenses for particular animals and specific units are still available.
Each and all of the area wildlife managers made two requests of hunters very clear. In many of the lower areas and some of the high areas there is an abundance of private property. They advised the hunters to obtain permission before hunting on private land and the many private landowners will allow hunting if approached respectfully.
The other advisory for for particularly the elk, moose and deer hunters. They urged hunters to double confirm what they are sighting in because each year there are several hunters who shoot an animal that is not designated on their licenses.
“It can be quite difficult at times and from long distances to not confuse, say, a cow elk or a cow moose,” deVergie said. “That is an expensive mistake to make, and it can be avoided by hunters knowing what to look for in each type of animal and confirming that what they are sighting in is the same animal for which they have a license.
You readers might have noticed that the Herald Times has not contained the regular feature “Home Of…” last week and this week. Such will be the case for the next couple of weeks.
The column began in roughly 2006, and we have had an extensive list that has been pretty much exhausted. We also want to restructure the column but keep it going while still alternating weeks between Meeker-area and Rangely-area residents.
The list we have been working on doesn’t contain the name of a single person who has moved to the area since about 2008, and we need to expand the list to include more residents who have moved here within the last several years.
While we are not going to move away from the long-time residents of the county, we find that some on “the list” have had their stories told more than once.
The new list will introduce some newer residents to the communities and have them tell their stories — with the hopes that letting their interests and hobbies be known might help open doors to new friends and neighbors with similar interests.
Please be patient, and we will get back to “Home Of…” in the near future.
Well done to those who planned, managed and carried out the operations at the Rio Blanco County Fair last week. A great time was had by a great number of county residents and visitors to the fair.
Understandably, there are always hitches when such a large undertaking occurs, but those problems seemed to be minimal and the fair seemingly went off without any major hitches.
All of the participants should be congratulated whether or not ribbons were won. It takes unique individuals to enter in the first place, and it is a shame that not everyone can win Best of Show, Grand Champion or Reserve Champion ribbons.
However, each individual fair entrant is a winner in that they gave their all, from the 4-H and FFA youths to those in the baking, flower arrangement, photography, painting, vegetable growing or other competition.
The fair was well done and all of the entrants as well as those who headed up the various programs as well as those who coordinated the overall fair should be proud.
An enjoyable time was had by all attendees I spoke with.