A letter from Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The 2013 hunting seasons should provide good opportunities for sportsmen across Colorado. Depending upon always changing weather conditions, these seasons should be a fun challenge for all hunters.

The elk population in Northwest Colorado has been stable for the past several years and license allocations have not changed noticeably. With over-the-counter bull licenses available during the second and third rifle seasons, there is always an opportunity for a sportsman to hunt elk in Colorado.

Overall, elk numbers look good, as this past winter did not significantly affect their population. The numbers of bull elk have been slightly higher the past few years so there are reasonably good opportunities for a hunter to see a bull.

Deer populations in Northwest Colorado have been lower than desired for several years because of past winter conditions, loss of habitat, predation, development and other issues. With this decrease, licenses allocated also have decreased; however, with some extra effort in scouting and a little good luck, there still are plenty of nice bucks and hunters who draw a deer license for most GMUs should have good opportunities.

Antelope herds are also doing well and hunters who have drawn a license should find plenty of opportunities and be successful. Northwest Colorado has some of the highest antelope numbers in the state.

Bear seasons also should be good. Our bear populations have been growing and there are more license opportunities now than ever before. Just keep in mind that hunting bears takes plenty of patience and some luck.

Hunting success depends upon many variables, including putting some time into researching an area, using current maps, computers or other methods. Early, on-the-ground scouting trips can be beneficial, even though the animals may not be in that particular area at the time. Becoming familiar with the road, private land boundaries, terrain and habitat type before the hunt also can help immensely.

Understanding the general movement or migration patterns of the animals can increase the odds of success. Weather always plays a role in tracking, locating and moving animals from higher elevation ranges into lower winter ranges. So keep an eye on the forecast.

There also is a significant amount of public land in Northwest Colorado, allowing sportsmen plenty of hunting opportunities. With a good set of maps such as those at www.bit.ly/cohuntingatlas, a GPS unit or even Google Earth, sportsmen can find a variety of hunting areas that will fit their needs. Remember that it’s the sportsman’s responsibility to know in which land — private or public — that they are hunting.

Sportsmen should always be safe and law abiding. During the rifle seasons, wearing a daylight fluorescent orange garment is critical. In Colorado, you are required to wear 500 square inches of visible fluorescent orange garments and an orange head covering that is visible in 360 degrees. Placing a camouflage backpack over an orange vest or coat can minimize the visible orange and thus reduces your visibility. Visibility equals safety in the woods. In addition, being 100 percent sure of your target before you shoot is critical and can help you avoid serious accidents.

In addition, if you see a wildlife violation occur, call your nearest Colorado Parks and Wildlife office or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Operation Game Thief — a tip line for wildlife violations at 1-877-265-6648.

Always know the laws associated with hunting, found at www.bit.ly/cpwregs. Knowing your hunter education requirements, tagging procedures for a harvested animal and the proper methods of take are very important. More information can be found at cpw.state.co.us or www.bit.ly/cpwbrochures, with contact information for all Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices at www.bit.ly/CPWoffices. A little basic homework can prevent big problems in the field.

Finally, remember to have fun during your hunt. Enjoying the outdoors during a hunt can be a great experience for an individual or a group and spending time with friends and family can be irreplaceable. Northwest Colorado provides some of the most spectacular views and scenery anywhere in the country and we wish you luck and hope you have a great hunt this year.