Rifle seasons see slow start | SteamboatToday.com

Rifle seasons see slow start

Mild weather limits elk, deer harvest

Melinda Dudley

Wisconsin hunter Todd Babcock shops for maps Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Division of Wildlife Office.

— Mild fall weather is to blame for a mediocre elk and deer harvest this hunting season, and it also could lead to a greater chance for conflict between hunters and other outdoors lovers.

More than 300,000 people hunt in Northwest Colorado each year, and in the midst of the second rifle season for big game, Colorado Division of Wildlife public information officer Randy Hampton reminded all outdoor recreationists to be sure they are visible to hunters.

“Whether you’re riding your bike or hiking with your dog, it’s always a good idea to stop by a sporting goods store, pick up an orange vest and maybe an orange hat, and make sure everyone can see you,” Hampton said this week.

Although limited snow on the ground may encourage hikers and bikers to stay on the trails later into the fall, no significant problems have been reported locally, Hampton said.

The only hunter-related complaint received by the Routt County Sheriff’s Office was about hunters trespassing on private property, Sheriff’s Office records technician Melissa Baumgartner said.

“Conflict between hunters and other nonhunting recreationists is pretty rare,” Hampton said. “From a safety perspective, accidents are incredibly rare. In terms of hunters shooting other people, we just don’t have that,” Hampton said.

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Although specific harvest numbers aren’t available until the end of hunting season, anecdotal reports from hunters and DOW staff indicate kills are down in Routt County and surrounding areas, particularly for deer and elk, DOW area wildlife manager Jim Haskins said.

“This time of year, if you drive (U.S. Highway) 40 through the valley, especially the Hayden area, you usually see deer starting to bunch up on the meadows,” Haskins said. “From archery (season) up until now, judging by what we’re hearing from the hunters and what we’re checking on in the field, the numbers are down.”

Although wintry weather could help move big game out of more remote areas such as the Flat Tops and Mount Zirkel Wilderness, it won’t help everywhere, Haskins said. In many places, elk move more in response to hunting pressure than to weather, he said.

“It’s not that there’s no animals, it’s not that there’s no hunters. The animals are simply up high,” Hampton said. “And then you throw the economy in, and that’s the other wild card.”

Other factors, such as whether animals are on public or private land, are beyond the control of the DOW and hunters, Haskins said.

“But that’s hunting. Some years it’s good, some years it’s not,” Haskins said.

If you go

Remaining big game hunting seasons

Second rifle: Oct. 18 to 26

Third rifle: Nov. 1 to 7

Fourth rifle: Nov. 12 to 16