Hunting success rates reflect hard work

Sitting on the couch, holding a video game controller in one hand and a bag of chips in the other will not simulate hunting in Northwest Colorado.

"It's not like your PlayStations," said Randy Hampton, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman for the Northwest region. "You actually have to work for it. You have to get out of the truck or off the ATV and be quiet for a while. Hunting is hard work."

Consequently, success rates reflect the amount of scouting and research hunters do before the hunt. Last year, a record 65,000 elk were harvested in Colorado. About 22,000 elk were harvested from the two herds the DOW refers to as data analysis units E2 and E6. The herds are called the Bears Ears herd and the White River herd, and they are two of main reasons Northwest Colorado is arguably the nation's premier hunting destination.

"In terms of elk, (Northwest Colorado) is home to the largest migratory herd in North America," Hampton said.

Success rates are based on the number of hunters in an area and the percentage of those hunters who kill an animal. The DOW conducts a phone survey to chart success, and the response was generally positive from 2004.

"We had really good hunter success, so I think most people were happy with their experience," said Darby Finley, terrestrial biologist in the DOW's Meeker office. "(Last year) was a huge success and a record harvest. From that standpoint, it was very successful."

The DOW recommended a slight increase in the number of elk licenses issued this year and a slight decrease in the number of deer licenses. Last year, 22,375 deer were killed.

"We had a slightly higher than normal deer harvest last year, so that accounts for some of the changes in numbers," Hampton said.

Hunters only can hunt deer with limited licenses, and, new this year, the first and fourth elk seasons are limited-license seasons only, as well.

Limited licenses are issued through drawings only and are game-management-unit specific.

Leftover licenses went on sale Aug. 9. This year, they will be available for purchase at license agents, through DOW offices, by mail order and at 1-800-244-5613. Starting Aug. 10, sales also will be available online through the Total Licensing system.

General over-the-counter big game licenses, as well as over-the-counter bear licenses with caps, are available for purchase Aug. 10 by Internet, telephone, license agent and DOW offices. No application or drawing is necessary.

This is a new way for the DOW to distribute bear licenses.

Although hunters enjoyed a successful 2004 season, there is no way to predict the number of big game that will be harvested in 2005. Hampton said there are a number of factors needed to create the "perfect storm."

"Weather can be an important factor," Hampton said. "If it's warm, the animals will go into the dark timber and stay there. When it's colder, the animals come closer to the roads, but keep in mind, most of the valleys are private land. Then, it becomes incumbent to put pressure on private lands to move those animals around. If a hunter can scout, put in his time and get the weather perfect, with the proper amount of private pressure, you have a pretty good chance of getting your animal."

There are two types of hunters who primarily come to the region: the one seeking a mantle piece and the one looking to fill the freezer. For the trophy hunters, the northwestern-most corner of the state is home to such elk where an animal must have at least four points on one side of the rack to be harvested.

There is no unlimited hunting, and it takes years to acquire a license to hunt GMUs 1, 2, 10 and 201.

Otherwise, most of the state is open for hunting on public lands, but hunters are required to know the rules and regulations regarding their licenses and their seasons.

For more information about the upcoming season, visit the DOW Web site at www.wildlife.state.co.us. n

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