Colorado hunters have plenty of game to track despite dry summer, CPW says

A bull elk grazes near Milner Pass at Rocky Mountain National Park in August 2021. (Photo by Eli Pace / Sky-Hi News)

As the region eases into a much-needed wet season following another drought-dried summer, the state agency charged with keeping track of the open spaces and animals therein isn’t seeing a major impact from the dryness on hunting, specifically.

Despite numerous real impacts of the warming climate and historic drought, big game, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife area manager Bill deVergie, hasn’t been overly affected.

“Not too much,” deVergie said by phone Monday. “Obviously we’re coming off a very dry, drought-type summer, and so animal distribution is a little different. They’re having to stay closer to water sources — ponds, streams, lakes — so there’s a slight change in where they are in general, but nothing drastic.”

Additionally, deVergie pointed out, the recent and impending moisture has helped and will continue to.

“There’s potential for weather this week, and that could actually benefit hunters, especially if there’s snow, for tracking,” he said.

Drought conditions change some animal behavior, deVergie said, but the big game — elk, deer, etcetera — aren’t seeing immediate, short-term changes of any particular consequence from the summer’s dryness.

“For rifle season especially, I wouldn’t tell folks to change any plans or methods hardly at all,” deVergie said. “Things haven’t changed that much. I’d favor hunting a little closer to a water source than maybe they have in the past — and also they might get here and look at the old sources, maybe a spring or pond or stream, where they used to historically hunt by, and this year that source is dry, and they might think about an adjustment there. Other than that, I don’t think they’ll have a problem tracking.”

Reporting plenty of forage, especially in the higher elevations, deVergie said the animals in question are actually doing pretty well at the moment. He said that he hasn’t seen a change in numbers for the primary game in the region, drought notwithstanding.

And that’s a good thing, deVergie added, because there has been an uptick in visitors to the great outdoors of northwest Colorado.

“From COVID in 2020 to now, maybe even more in ‘21, people are outside more,” deVergie said. “Folks having been restricted from some of their work locations, not going to the office, not meeting as much, maybe virtual or remote, we saw parks, wildlife, recreation, all, more people were out in the field. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, ATV, whatever last summer, then into this summer was similar. I think people realize it’s fun outside, and maybe COVID gave them an excuse to get out more. We’re expecting a very similar hunting season as far as numbers (this year) as last year.”