Off and running

In archery hunting season's second week, hunters excited for year

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Traveling more than 2,000 miles to hunt in Northwest Colorado was no problem for Kevin Garman, of Maryland. Although he's heading home empty-handed, it was the hunt that brought him to Craig.

"It was great. We saw lots of elk," Garman said. "I could have made a kill, but I was looking for a trophy."

With archery season in its second week and muzzle-loading starting Saturday, many Craig experts say this year is off to a good start.

"I just had a gentleman show me his elk that he got in unit 13 of all places," said Ned Miller, sportsman information specialist at the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

Miller said that unit 13, southeast of Craig, is not an easy hunt because of the mountainous terrain hunters must cross to access the area.

"The hunters are in town and have been for several weeks," Miller said. "This gentleman was smiling from ear to ear when I took a picture of him with his elk."

Miller said that he asks as many hunters as he can to check back in if they have success. A few this hunting season have said that they have had good luck.

Miller expects this season to be about as good as the last year for hunters, but that may change.

"The herds are getting down to manageable sizes," Miller said. "There may be fewer licenses available next year."

At Outdoor Connections, business has been good.

"It's real busy," owner Todd Nordstrom said. "The other day, a guy bought a bow, and then got a six-by-six elk over by Elk Mountain in Steamboat (Springs)."

He also had a hunter report to him that he got an elk by Twentymile Mine, but a bear had discovered the kill by the time he got back with his vehicle.

"It's going pretty good. The elk are coming to cow calls, but it's still a couple of weeks before the bugling really starts."

Nordstrom is an archery hunter himself and got a mule deer on Wednesday evening. He expects things to really pick up at the store when muzzle-loading season begins Saturday.

Between archery hunters and Ranching for Wildlife permits being filled, Dave Tafoya, owner of Custom Quality Meat Inc. is staying busy.

"We're about the same as last year," Tafoya said. "We've had some antelope, but mostly elk."

Tafoya said that about 75 percent of the antelope he processes comes from archery hunters.

He has been hunting for about 30 years.

"I'm hunting now, but getting the time off is hard," Tafoya said.

Taxidermist Scott Moore, owner of Mountain Man Taxi--dermy, has had a couple of heads come in for mounting since the season opened.

"One guy brought in a good-sized antelope buck that made Pope and Young (trophy record book)," Moore said. "He got that over by Walden."

Most hunters drop off their trophy heads to be mounted and pick them up next hunting season, Moore said.

At the Colorado Division of Wildlife testing office for chronic wasting disease, things are also about average for this time of year.

Wildlife technician Terry Ivie said that the two or three heads turned in for testing each day are typical.

Donnie Jones, who flew out to Colorado with his group of nine hunting buddies from southern Maryland, is resting at the Taylor Street Bed & Breakfast.

"I've never seen so many antelope," Jones said.

Although his group didn't see a lot of elk due to dry conditions this year, they managed to harvest one cow and one bull among them.

Seeing the elk and getting an occasional shot has made their hunt a success, Jones said.

"We stuck with it," Jones said about the tough hunting conditions. "We are a lot smarter now than we were a week ago. We'll be back."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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