Weather affecting early season elk hunting

Due to warm weather dominating most of the fall, hunting has not been as productive as Craig and the surrounding areas are accustomed to.

According to Mike Porras, the Public Information Officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife's northwest region, two seasons of hunting have been less successful than normal. Elk hunting in Parks and Wildlife’s area six, which includes Moffat, Rio Blanco and parts of Garfield and Routt counties, has been characterized as below-average by a small margin.

“Elk hunting, we’re talking about average to lower than average and average mule deer,” Porras said.

Parks and Wildlife makes its determinations based on hunter feedback, Porras said.

“We’re out throughout the seasons contacting hunters as much as possible,” he said. “Later on in the process we develop more accurate information, but initially that’s how we get a feel for how things are going.”

The third hunting season begins Saturday, but aside from a few cold and snowy days the weather has not been friendly for forcing elk to migrate into the low country. That has been the chief cause of the lower numbers, Porras said.

The effects have been felt around Craig by low-country outfitters, who have not enjoyed their normal animal sightings when taking hunters out to their land.

“Our elk depends on migration,” said Jim Stehle of Colorado Outfitters Services. “We haven’t gotten a lot of snow to bring them down to our area yet.”

Colorado Outfitters, which hunts in game management units three and 301, has taken a bigger hit due to the lower number of licenses and hunters this year, Stehle said.

“The biggest change is not have a lot of hunters because the DOW (Department of Wildlife) did cut down the number of licenses they allocated,” he said. “You don’t have as many leftover licenses, so you don’t have as many hunters.”

Betty Crane of Colorado’s Mountain West Outfitters in Craig, another low-country outfitter, reported similar issues with their elk hunting in GMU three.

“We’re low-country and we hunt the migrations,” she said. “We had a few elk around during second season. We didn’t have hunters that were successful, but it takes the weather to get the elk to migrate.”

“It’s been lower than normal, but sometimes that’s the way it is. We’d like to see our hunters be more successful, but it is what it is.”

On the other hand, Crane said mule deer hunting has been very strong for CMWO after a subpar season in 2011.

“Deer hunting has been fabulous,” she said. “Deer were lower in numbers last year, but we felt they just migrated differently because of the weather. We’re back where we have the same deer we’ve always had. Our hunters see two to three hundred deer every day.”

As far as the elk are concerned, Crane knows all she can do is hope for more hunter-friendly weather.

“We just hope it gets better,” she said. “I have no idea what the weather’s going to be. It’s really hard to give any prediction about what’s going to happen. It’s just wait and see.”

Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Visit cohunter.com for more hunting stories and updates.

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