Hunting season still going strong in Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Hunting season still going strong in Northwest Colorado

Janelle O'Dea

A herd of elk run through the sage brush near Dinosaur National Monument in late summer, 2014.

— The hunting season is alive and well in Northwest Colorado, where various breeds of hunters flock the remote corner of the state to track down their favorite animals to harvest.

Depending on the type of animal, the weather and a little bit of luck, hunting in Moffat and Routt counties is considered world class in many senses.

As temperatures begin to drop, hunters start getting excited about what the changing season means for the sport.

Craig hunter Tori Pingley said she hasn't been out to hunt yet this year, but hunting is the sole reason she's glad to see snow fall.

"It's better when you have snow on the ground because it's easier to track animals, and when it snows, they move to lower country," Pingley said.

She always enjoys the hunt no matter what she takes home, as hunting offers a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with other hunters.

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"I love to get an elk, but if I don’t, it’s time I get to spend with that person, just the two of us," Pingley said.

There are several opportunities for hunters to get out and enjoy the hunting seasons that run from August to mid-November.

Detailed information about hunting seasons and license processes can be found in Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 2014 big game brochure, available at the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

Craig Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christina Oxley said the Chamber is a one-stop shop for everything hunters need to know about hunting in Moffat County.

"We provide maps and information, primarily," she said. "We’ve got a sportsman’s information specialist on staff who is pretty well-versed, and I have three staff members right now who are extremely knowledgeable about hunting in Moffat County, migration patterns and the places to get to."

Craig and Moffat County have a vast array of services available for hunters, including restaurants, lodging, taxidermy, meat processing and more. A comprehensive list can be found in Colorado Hunter's 2014 directory, available at a variety of stores in Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs.

Currently, Parks and Wildlife is looking at a new structure for big-game hunting in Colorado.

It will approve its 2015-2019 Big Game Season Structure "within the next week or so," said Matt Robbins, Parks and Wildlife spokesman.

Parks and Wildlife sells hunting licenses in accordance with three main categories:

1. Limited licenses

Hunters apply for licenses and list their top four unit choices. If they do not receive their first, second, third or fourth choice, they receive a "preference point." The preference points are logged in Parks and Wildlife’s system so in later years, those hunters with more preference points have a greater chance of getting the unit they prefer.

Hunters can get one preference point per species per year if their first unit choice is denied. Preference points can only be used on the species they apply to; for example, if a hunter receives a preference point for deer in 2014, s/he can use it only on deer in 2015.

Applications are due by midnight on the first Tuesday of every April. These licenses include public land hunts, private land-only licenses and Ranching for Wildlife licenses.

2. Leftover limited licenses

These are the limited licenses remaining after the limited license draw and leftover draw. The leftover licenses are new this year and became available Aug. 5.

3. Over-the-counter licenses

A. Over-the-counter license with caps: A determined number of bear, antlerless elk and either-sex elk licenses is available for specific units and specific seasons on a first-come, first-served basis for in-state and out-of-state hunters.

B. Over-the-counter unlimited licenses: No application or draw is required for this license. They are available for purchase at 9 a.m. the first Tuesday of every August. Hunters can purchase them online, through licensing agents or at any Parks and Wildlife office.

According to the Parks and Wildlife website, "OTC licenses provide you the flexibility to discover new units, scout different habitat and, potentially, combine your hunt with the opportunity to hunt another species."

Bull licenses are available for in-state or out-of-state hunters for the second or third rifle seasons. The licenses can be used to hunt in 92 units throughout the state.

Either-sex and cow elk archery licenses, either-sex pronghorn licenses and either-sex and doe rifle whitetail deer licenses are available, as well.

"Either-sex" licenses permits hunters to shoot either sex of the species. Some licenses specify what gender to hunt.

Robbins said the number of licenses sold in each unit is determined by a number of factors, including demand (by hunters) and previous harvest rates.

Moffat County contains nearly 2 million acres of public land open to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.

Hunting seasons

Archery

• Deer/elk: Aug. 30 to Sept. 28

• Pronghorn, bucks only: Aug. 15 to 31

• Pronghorn, either sex: Sept. 1 to 20

• Black bear (over-the-counter with caps): Sept. 2 to 28

• Moose: Sept. 6 to 28

Muzzleloading

• Deer/elk/moose: Sept. 13 to 21

• Black bear (over-the-counter with caps): Sept. 13 to 21

• Pronghorn: Oct. 21 to 29

Rifle

• Black bear, limited (by draw): Sept. 2 to 30

• Moose: Oct. 1 to 14

• Pronghorn; draw: Oct. 4 to 10

• Limited elk, first season: Oct. 11 to Nov. 1

• Deer/elk, second season: Oct. 18 to 26

• Deer/elk, third season: Nov. 1 to 9

• Deer/elk, fourth season: Nov. 12 to 16

• Black bear (over-the-counter with caps): concurrent with deer/elk rifle seasons