A hunting mecca

It isn't hard to understand why Northwest Colorado is the premier big-game hunting area in the state.

With more than 50,000 elk inhabiting the area near Craig, the region has more elk than the rest of Colorado.

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the White River elk herd south of Craig has about 40,000 elk, making it the largest migratory elk herd in North America.

The Bears Ears herd, which is north of Craig, has about 12,000 elk, according to the Division of Wildlife.

The elk populations can be controversial at times, but during hunting season, the only concern area hunters and guides have is that there are plenty of elk in the field.

And the thousands of hunters who make the trek to the region every year usually meet with success.

According to the division, hunters took home 12,000 elk from the White River Herd in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Hunters took another 8,000 elk from the Bears Ears herd.

The more than 20,000 elk killed in Northwest Colorado accounted for more than 30 percent of the elk killed statewide in 2004.

Ken Fleming grew up in Steamboat Springs and has been hunting in Northwest Colorado for most of his life.

This area has more elk and better hunting than the rest of the state -- even better than other areas of the Western Slope, said Fleming, who works at Outdoor Connections, 34 E. Victory Way.

"That's why we have the most hunters," he said.

Elk season runs from Aug. 26 to Nov. 19.

If hunters are new to the game or if they want to hunt some of the best hunting units in the region, they can contact area outfitters who can take them on a guided hunt.

But if hunters aren't interested in taking down one of the region's many elk, there are plenty of other options.

In the Routt National Forest in northeastern Moffat County, hunters can go after black bears and mountain lions. The region also has wild turkey, deer and antelope.

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