The 2014 hunting seasons should provide good opportunities for sportsmen across Colorado. Although dependent upon constantly variable 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 due to past winter conditions, loss of habitat, predation, development and other issues. With this decrease, licenses allocated have also decreased; however, with some extra effort in scouting and a little good luck, there are still plenty of nice bucks and hunters who successfully drew 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 should also 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 is also 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. Other sources of maps includes www.huntdata.com or www.coloradohuntingmaps.com.
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, (including any 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 such as shooting the wrong animal.
Always know the laws associated with hunting, including Hunter Education requirements, tagging procedures for a harvested animal and the proper methods of take. A variety of regulation brochures can be found at www.bit.ly/yourbrochurescpw.
If you see a wildlife violation occur, please 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.
You can find harvest stats, population objectives and general information in our NW Region Hunt Guide. Pick one up at a local CPW office, or download a PDF copy from our website at www.bit.ly/cpwhuntguides.
Keep in mind that every GMU is managed by a professional and friendly District Wildlife Manager. They are the experts and a great source of information. Feel free to ask them questions about the area you are hunting, regulations or anything else that can help make your hunt more enjoyable.
You can always call or come by a local CPW office anytime to ask a question, pickup a brochure or even purchase an over-the-counter bull elk license or a fishing licenses. For the office nearest you, visit www.bit.ly/contactcpw.
Finally, remember to have fun during your hunt. Enjoying the outdoors can be a great experience for an individual or a group and spending time with friends and family can provide memories that will last a lifetime. 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.