Big game hunter’s prospects are looking good for this years hunting season, according to Kirk Oldham, a local big game wildlife biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Deer and elk populations in the area are at or above objectives due to the relatively mild winter season and the wet and productive spring and summer, which brought a high rate of survival for calves and fawns, according to Oldham. Moose populations are up as well with more moose licenses becoming available this year.
Bow hunting season is under way, and the first rifle season is a little more than a month away.
Deer populations in the area are estimated to be well above the objective population of 10,500 to 12,500 and are reported to be hovering around 16,000, according to Oldham.
The deer in the area are considered to all be part of the Middle Park Deer Herd, and the deer with radio collars that Colorado Parks and Wildlife tracks are still occupying the summer range at higher elevations.
Oldham said those animals will remain at those higher elevations until colder whether and moisture begin to push the deer around and into lower elevations.
The end of September is when Oldham said he usually sees those animals begin to transition to winter range in the lower elevations.
Doe and Buck licenses are already sold out for the season, despite Parks and Wildlife increasing the number of licenses sold this year.
All in all, Oldham expects a good deer-hunting season with the potential for some good bucks to be harvested.
“There are a lot of bucks out there for the buck hunters to see,” Oldham said. “We are really hopeful for a good harvest this year.”
The two elk herds in the area are also at or above the Parks and Wildlife objective population.
The herd north of Highway 40 is called the Troublesome Herd and the heard to south of the highway is called the Williams Fork Herd. Both herds function fairly similarly, according to Oldham.
The bull-to-cow ratio for the herds is estimated to be at 23 bulls for every 100 cows, a strong ratio according to Oldham, which means good prospects for hunters looking to bag that trophy bull elk.
The elk herds are currently staying fairly high in elevation due to the fairly warm weather, however they will begin their annual movement into lower elevations when the temperature drops and more moisture sweeps through the area.
Oldham commented that rut could be in full swing as early as this weekend, which brings those bulls down into the lower elevations to begin assimilating into the cow and calf groups.
Tips for a successful hunt
Oldham says one of the keys to being successful this big game season will be getting away from the road during a hunt. He recommends getting at least a quarter- to a half-mile from any motor vehicle road to hunt.
“The chances of success really go up,” he said.
Hunting pressure in the area could be significant this year as over-the-counter bull elk licenses are unlimited for the second and third rifle seasons.
“I think it is going to be a good big game season,” Oldham said.
Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334