Rifle hunting season good for deer, bear

RBC I Hunting for deer and bears was pretty successful, however, hunters seeking elk found the elusive game a little tougher than normal to harvest this year, according to a local Colorado Parks and Wildlife official.
Bob deVergie, the area game manager out of the CPW’s office in Meeker, said the elk hunting this year was a little below average due to shifting weather conditions.
“We had snow one day and it was 50 degrees the next, and when that happens the elk normally will stay up high and remain buried deep in the forest,” deVergie said. “We really needed several cold days in a row to pull them out of the deep forests and bring them down lower, and that just didn’t happen during any of the four rifle hunts.
“Usually, it gets easier as the hunts move on and it gets lots of snow and really cold temperatures,” he said. “But that didn’t happen this year. It actually got tougher as the seasons moved on.”
deVergie said the elk season was not a complete bust as several “really, really nice” bulls were harvested by the hunters.
“I saw a couple of six-pointers this year that I would love to have shot,” he said. They were taken off the forest land as well as off private land.
“As a matter of fact, combined I saw more five- and six-point bulls this year, and several of those were much bigger than I was used to seeing over the past couple years.”
He said the biggest he saw this year were the six-by-six bulls and that he liked several of those he saw, there just weren’t quite as many of them.
“Occasionally you’ll see an atypical elk throw an extra point or two, but typically a good mature buck is a six by six,” he said. “I am certain there were some larger elk killed this year, but I didn’t see any myself or hear of any monsters anywhere.”
deVergie pinpointed a couple areas of high success. He said the area north of Craig and straight south of Meeker were the two best areas for hunting elk this season. Another top area was the hogback off the left or east side of Highway 13 headed toward Rifle.
“Overall, there were some good elk taken, but I would say it was a little bit fewer than in the past,” deVergie said. “We can control a lot of things, but the weather isn’t one of them, and I would say the weather played a major role in this past hunting season because the elk were healthy and the numbers were good. They just weren’t moving like in a normal year.”
The deer seasons this year proved to be “very good,” deVergie said.
“I saw more deer this year than in quite some time,” he said. “It made a difference I think that we limited the number of permits this year, and that meant a good number of deer were available for fewer hunters, and that usually means a higher rate of harvest than normal.
“Overall, the size of those bucks killed were at least a little bit bigger than in the past; I’d say it was a good season for the deer hunters.”
There were fewer does harvested this year, but deVergie attributed that to a limited number of permits.
“We really limited the doe permits this year to keep the healthy females ready for another good breeding season,” he said. “As far as I know, there were not very many does taken at all.”
deVergie named the Piceance Creek/Basin area, around the Jensen State Wildlife Area as well as just above Meeker as the top areas of success for the deer hunters.
“Around the entire area, we also had several landowners report that good bucks were killed on their lands,” he said. “There were more and they may have averaged a little larger than normal.”
This was also a “great” harvest years for bears, deVergie said.
“We have had a pretty good bear season for the past couple of years,” deVergie said. “But I think I can safely say this year was even above the past couple of years; they were everywhere.
“I have not seen the numbers yet regarding bears, from what I hear it was the largest harvest in a very long time,” he said.
The top areas for the bear hunters this year were the upper part of the Piceance Basin, the Roan Plateau and the divide between the north and south portions of the Piceance Basin. He said another great area for bears this year was the entire White River National Forest, both north and south of the White River.
“The hunters seeking bear and several hunters looking for other game throughout the entire region were seeing bears, so it should have been a great year for those who were looking or them,” he said.
The tragedy of the season is that three moose were accidentally killed by hunters who thought they were elk, deVergie said.
“All three cases were mistaken identity,” deVergie said. “We lost two cows and one young bull, and that is never a good thing to report.”
Assessing the overall hunting sessions this year, deVergie said, “I am glad to say that there was nothing really horrible happen and that is a good thing. I would assess the season as perhaps a little bit less than normal – call it a fair season of hunting.”
Again he pointed to the weather as a real detractor from what everyone thought would likely be a spectacular season.
“We had extremely wet foliage headed into the seasons, then we we had a mix of days that were hot then cold, then hot then cold, then dry and wet, followed by dry and wet,” deVerge said. “That always makes it tough for the hunters, who really don’t know for sure where the elk are or if they are moving up or down.
“This year, it may take quite a cold snap before they start dropping down; it takes a lot of cold weather to freeze out the elk,” he said.