Tracking deer in tough terrain

Preliminary indicators say 2005 hunt on pace with last year

Although dry terrain is making elk and deer tough to track, the hunting season is strong, observers say.

But some snow would help lure elk down from higher elevations, said Kyle Revelle, owner of S&K outfitters of Craig.

"Snow usually helps," he said.

Revelle said his customers have bagged plenty of animals so far.

With elk populations larger than the Colorado Division of Wildlife would like, the division wants hunters such as Revelle to have continued success.

"We are hopeful we will have a good harvest this year," division spokesman Randy Hampton said.

According to the division's statistics, after last year's hunting season, the White River herd south of town had about 41,000 elk. The division's objective is 28,500 elk.

The Bears Ears herd north of town has about 16,700, elk according to the division compared with the Bears Ears objective of 12,200.

Inaccurate counts in the early 1990s, when objectives were set, are to blame for the abundant elk populations, officials have said.

Based on discussion with hunters, Hampton said, the elk harvest got off to a slow start during the first season, which was Oct. 15 to 19. But after the second season, Oct. 22 to 30, the harvest was about equal compared with the same period last year.

The division won't have an exact count of how many elk and deer were harvested this season until after it surveys hunters this winter.

Preliminary numbers are based on talking to hunters at checkpoints set up by the division, Hampton said. At the checkpoints, wildlife officers ask hunters about the animals they killed and the animals they saw, he said.

Jim Caserta traveled to Northwest Colorado from Ohio to hunt during the first season. He said he had plenty of success.

"We couldn't be happier with the trip," Caserta said before heading back to Ohio.

Caserta hunted south of town with three other people, and all but one of them filled their tags.

About 20,000 elk were harvested in 2004 in the Bears Ears and White River herds, that accounts for about 30 percent of all the elk killed in Colorado.

Rifle season ends for elk and deer Nov. 20.

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