State elk harvest up for 2006

Year's total of 56,993 animals still below 2004's record-setting haul

The Colorado elk harvest in 2006 showed higher results than the previous year, but the numbers still were below the 2004 record-setting harvest.

"The harvest was pretty darn good," said Randy Hampton, public information officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "The success rate was about 24 percent of hunters looking for cows or bulls."

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In 2006, a total of 236,518 big-game hunters purchased licenses in the state and 56,933 elk were harvested in Colo-rado.

In 2005, a total of 56,462 elk were taken, and the record harvest of 2004 saw 63,336 elk fall to hunters.

Local elk

The elk herds in Northwest Colorado, including the Bears Ears and the White River herds, remain close to DOW population objectives.

"We had some challenges managing the Bears Ears herd," Hampton said. "They're movement and concentration makes them hard to count. We're looking at, in the next few years, possibly reducing those numbers."

Hampton said the number of cow licenses issued will climb in 2007, but the DOW likely is a few years away from issuing more bull licenses in the area.

Complaints from landowners suffering from game damage in areas 3 and 301 north of Craig have the attention of the DOW.

"The division has been taking a lot of elk out of there to get to our objectives," Hampton said. "The estimated harvest from the Bears Ears herd last year was 6,600 animals."

The objectives are set by the DOW, taking into account a number of issues including what the habitat will support, what land owners and the public wants to see, the availability of licenses and the quality of the hunts, Hampton said.

This summer, a number of surveys and public meetings will take place to receive public feedback on wildlife populations, and new counts will be made to again estimate herd sizes.

The White River elk herd, covering a much larger area than the Bears Ears herd ranging from Craig to Glenwood and Steamboat Springs, had an estimated harvest of 12,000 elk in 2006.

Deer

Rebounding this year after a number of years of declining numbers is the Colorado deer population.

"Hard winters created problems for the deer," Hampton said. "We've had limited licenses for deer in Colorado since 1999."

Although the deer population is climbing, Hampton doesn't see a return to unlimited licenses in the future.

"We need to keep the ability to manage the population. Last year, doe licenses were made available to hunters in addition to their buck licenses," he said. "Statewide, deer hunters harvested 44,784 deer in Colorado."

Deer populations remain over the objective set by the DOW in the White River area, and 6,000 leftover licenses went unclaimed last season.

The division is encouraging deer hunts in that area, especially youth and senior hunters looking for a less strenuous hunt.

Harvest numbers in North-west Colorado show the Bears Ears herd had 5,400 deer taken, and 7,000 deer were harvested from the White River area in 2006.

Looking ahead

Many factors influence hunting and harvest numbers in Colorado, including weather and the price of gasoline, Hampton said.

New in 2007 is a different method of license distribution for muzzle-loading pronghorn antelope season.

The former statewide license for pronghorn antelope has been replaced by licenses for specific game management units, as is the case with deer and elk licenses. That move should make more licenses available in Northwest Colorado, Hampton said.

He said trophy big game hunting areas remain open only to those hunters that have acquired the preference points needed, and likely will see no change.

"Hunting opportunities in Northwest Colorado are as good as it has ever been," Hampton said. "Elk licenses are plentiful and deer are available."

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

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