Finding the hot spots |

Finding the hot spots

John Vandelinder

— Rifle season opens today, with more than 130,000 hunters expected to head into Moffat County’s hunters’ paradise.

Ned Miller, sportsman’s information specialist for the Craig Chamber of Commerce, called the entire area one large hot spot.

But he also said the experienced hunter will know where to be.

And when.

Miller has been a hunting Craig resident his whole life and has been doing search and rescue for lost hunters for more than 35 years.

“I know the country better than most,” he said. “I’m not an expert, but I do have the experience.”

From his experience, Miller can tell you good hunting spots to try if you are going out Saturday for the first time.

“If I was heading out for the first rifle season on Saturday, I would definitely hit the South Fork fortification circle or GMU (Gaming Management Unit) four,” he said. “Heck, I’d hit it three days in a row.”

Miller hinted that the stock are up high in the mountains this early in the rifle season. Once temperatures drop, herds are expected to migrate east out of the mountains.

The two largest herds – the Elk Head Herd in Routt National Forest and the White River Herd in White River Forest – will eventually move east into the Craig area.

During the first rifle season – Oct. 13 to Oct. 19 – hunters are expected to have a better chance searching for game in the mountains.

Joe Herod, owner of Craig Sports, said right now the mountains are the place to be.

“Because of the weather, unit four and unit 12 are where it’s at,” he said.

Craig resident Danny Wambeles and his brother Kenneth are heading to the mountains, but to a different area.

“I always head to the Black Mountains,” Danny said. His brother was just there to tag along.

“I just go where he goes,” Kenneth said. “I just shoot his leftovers.”

During the second rifle season – Oct. 20 to Oct. 28 – hunters could have a difficult time locating prey.

“The second season is for the gamblers,” Miller said. “Who knows where the game will be. If it’s warm, they may stay in higher ground; if not, you might see them heading down from the mountains.”

The third rifle season – Nov. 3 to Nov. 9 – hunters have the best opportunity to catch that prized buck.

The two main herds will leave high ground, heading directly through Craig within 50 miles.

“In the third season, the best spots are (units) three and 301,” Miller said. “The deer and elk migrate right into us, searching for low sage brush to seek shelter. That’s where you need to be.”

Miller said it’s not just about picking a spot and hanging out, hoping some game will pop up on your radar. It’s more in the tracking technique.

Drive north on a county road, looking for big game tracks in the snow. If you pass some tracks, check to see if there are any more tire marks over those tracks. If not, you are in luck. The game will be heading east, so head a little more northwest, circle back south, and park. Walk to the spot where you saw the original big game tracks west of you, and wait. The game will come to you. It sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Of the more than 130,000 hunters expected to probe these grounds for that trophy kill, more than 42,000 are expected to leave with carcass in hand. That’s a 32-percent success rate.

If you fall into that category, be pleased.

The game probably isn’t.

John Vandelinder can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or

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