While quickly changing weather characterized much of last year’s hunting season, Mother Nature didn’t dampen results. Numbers show an increase in big game harvesting, with Colorado Parks and Wildlife reporting elk and mule deer success rates climbing slightly over 2012.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as a big year, but it was a little better than the year before,” says Bill de Vergie, Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager for Area 6, which includes Moffat, Rio Blanco and parts of Routt and Grand counties. “A lot of it had to do with the drastic changes in the weather.”
Northwest Colorado saw wet months in September and October, including significant snowfall followed by prolonged warm weather, which kept many elk from migrating earlier in the season. In Moffat County, a lot of the success happens when elk herds migrate west of Colorado Highway 13 out into the open. But that time never came in the third and fourth rifle seasons, de Vergie says.
“Normally, we’ll get a good snowstorm followed by cold,” he says. “This time we had the snow, but then it got warm again.”
A later migration did spell opportunity for hunters in the high country and farther east. Rick Myers, of Buck Mountain Outfitters, which hunts northwest of Steamboat in GMU 214, says elk were abundant every season. “We’re east of Hayden, and a lot of those elk stayed in the trees which still had leaves,” says Myers, calling it an excellent year. “The snow came and went fast. We’ve saw big herds of up to 300 that weren’t in a hurry to go anywhere.”
Pinnacle Peak Adventures hunts private land in GMU 4 northeast of Craig, and manager Bill Green says they had good opportunities as well. “We had more elk than normal,” he says. “Those early snows got them moving, and then late moisture gave them plenty of feed.”
Mule deer hunters also had a high rate of success, continuing a trend from the last couple of years, with few hunters receiving licenses as part of Parks and Wildlife efforts to grow the herd populations. In 2012, every GMU in the Green River and Yampa regions had a higher success rate than the five-year average.