Elk, deer herds showing good numbers for 2015 hunting
2014’s winter aids growth in animals
One hunting season’s loss is another one’s gain.
Strong herd numbers this year mean positive things for big game hunters converging on the Northwest Colorado area. Post-hunt estimates by Colorado Parks & Wildlife show an increase for certain herds, such as the Bears Ears elk herd in Moffat County, which stands at about 24,000, according to the agency’s count following the 2014 seasons.
The numbers are largely harvest-related, said Darby Finley, CPW terrestrial biologist, adding that 2014’s mild weather patterns had a considerable impact on the herd.
“The further west they move the more susceptible they are because of more public land,” he said.
A bull ratio for the herd of about 23 bulls per 100 cows was also a good indicator, Finley said, as well as an “exceptionally high” calf ratio — 60 calves to 100 cows.
“That contributes to the increase when you see ratios like that,” he said.
The White River elk herd is not experiencing the same kind of uptick as their neighbors farther north, with about 40,000 to 45,000 by CPW estimates.
“That herd is showing a slightly increasing trend, but it’s been holding stable,” Finley said. “They’re still good elk numbers, for sure. We’ve actually increased numbers for recommendations for the Bears Ears herd, but we’re keeping a status quo for White River, no change there.”
Numbers for deer in the Northwest corner are also solid, partly thanks to a milder winter that supported better fawn survival. In the Bears Ears area, the animals are at about 40,000 to 45,000, and around 35,000 to 40,000 for White River.
As far as pronghorn in the Northwest, Finley said numbers are on the rebound after several years of decreasing trends, with 11,000 to 13,000 antelope following the respite in 2014 from earlier, harsher winters.
Greater details on numbers throughout the years can be found at http://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Statistics.aspx and includes elk, deer and pronghorn, as well as bears, moose and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, among other bigger animals.
The right kind of climate will keep hunters happy this year, and Finley expects first season to be especially strong. CPW is being “fairly conservative” with deer and antelope licenses this year, though he still anticipates some good activity.
“I think our buck hunting the next few years is going to be phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve had ideal conditions to grow deer, a good year for antler growth, and the quality of bucks are going to be above what people have seen in the recent past.”
Finley added that CPW is currently utilizing radio collars for certain deer and elk to monitor survival rates through movement and distribution. He reminds hunters that collared animals are not off-limits, though a return of the equipment following a harvest will be greatly appreciated.
“If they can turn them in to the Craig warehouse or the nearest area agency office in Meeker or Steamboat,” he said. “They can be reused, and it really helps us keep things full circle.”
I spent this past Saturday morning preparing for Sunday’s lunch branding — at least what I could get done early. I cooked pasta and boiled eggs. I made a gelatin salad. I decided to bake a banana cake, a family favorite, for dessert.