Deer - like the one pictured here last winter - were hard to come by this bow-hunting season. According to local hunters, Mother Nature is to blame for the lower-than-normal prized kills seen throughout Moffat County.

File photo

Deer - like the one pictured here last winter - were hard to come by this bow-hunting season. According to local hunters, Mother Nature is to blame for the lower-than-normal prized kills seen throughout Moffat County.

Bow hunting harvest down

Local hunters blame harsh winter

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Blame it on the winter.

The 2008 bow-hunting season ended Sunday, and although the number of hunters donning camouflage and trouncing through Moffat County stayed the same, their success rates seem to be down.

There is no real way to calculate how many hunters bagged the big one with the bow this year, it's pretty much word of mouth.

And this year's word is that the numbers are down because of the tough winter Moffat County residents - and the game they hunt - endured last year.

Scott Moore, owner of Mountain Man Taxidermy, has been bow hunting in Moffat County for 16 years.

He knows the nuances of the land and where the hot spots are when searching for that certain prized deer or elk.

But, this year, Moore needed a little more time than usual.

"I went out every day for three weeks before I got my deer," he said of his 20-inch, 3-point mule deer bagged on Black Mountain. "There weren't very many mature bucks this year. That was the big thing. There were 2-, 3-year-olds, but not very many big, older bucks."

Moore's reasoning for the decline echoed through the bow-hunting community.

"I think it has something to do with the winter we had," he said. "I don't know whether the winter killed them, or they just got pushed somewhere else. To start the season (Aug. 30), there were very few deer; by the time the season was over (Sept. 28), there was a lot of deer. That was kind of strange. Normally they are all out when we start to hunt."

Terry Carwile, Sportsman's Information officer at the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said he's seen a steady flow of bow hunters come in and out of town, with a mixed bag of results.

"We had some people who were pleased," he said, "but the number of hunters talking about getting that once-in-a-lifetime trophy isn't like it has been."

The Colorado Division of Wildlife Web site reported last year's winter was responsible for more big-game deaths than had been seen in more than 10 years.

Leland Reiner, owner of Big Cat Taxidermy, agrees.

"I think we definitely lost some big animals in the winter," he said. "That's pretty obvious. Mating season is later this year, so the guys are having a harder time getting them called in. There are all sorts of variables that have affected it this year."

And when the success rate is down for hunters, business declines as well.

"This is probably the lowest (number of big game hunters bringing in their kills) I've received in the five years I've owned this business," Reiner said.

Much is the same for Moore.

"I got some elk, a few antelope, but really nothing from deer," Moore said. "If the best hunting I've ever seen around here was a 10, the worst being a zero, we're at about a six, I'd say.

"It was a little slow."

John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or jvandelinder@craigdailypress.com

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