Prime hunting territory

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, the region simply has more elk than the rest of the Colorado.

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

The Bears Ears herd, which is north of U.S. Highway 40, 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.

If hunters aren't interested in bagging some of Northwest Colorado's big game, they can take down smaller animals, such as coyotes or prairie dogs during the summer and early fall. Bird hunting seasons start in September and October.

Ed Gorman, Colorado Division of Wildlife small game coordinator, said small game hunting has some benefits that big game hunting doesn't.

Big game hunting often requires a lot of preparation, Gorman said, but small game hunting is more convenient.

"It's something you can do in two or three hours after work, or make a weekend out of it," Gorman said.

To purchase a small game license, a hunter's safety card is required. To purchase a duck license, a federal and state duck stamp must be purchased.

A one-day small game license costs $11for both in-state and out-of-state hunters. A yearlong license costs $21 in-state and $56 for out-of-state hunters.

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