Welcome to Colorado and the 2018 hunting season. You are hunting in one of the country’s premier big game hunting areas and we’re glad you chose Colorado as your destination. We look forward to helping you have a great hunt.
Colorado offers hunters what few other states can: some of the largest big game herds in the country and rugged wilderness. For many, it’s an experience not too far removed from what the pioneers experienced when they settled the West.
Because of the challenges of hunting here, prepare yourself and be ready to adapt your strategies to sudden changes in weather conditions, road closures and other events. Successfully overcoming these challenges often provides memories that will last a lifetime.
Remember, a hunt doesn’t always end with a harvest. Spending time with friends and family in our beautiful mountains is a reward in and of itself; but by doing your homework and adapting your strategies as needed, you can significantly increase your chances.
There is a significant amount of public land in northwest Colorado, allowing ample hunting opportunities. Maps exist at such websites as www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/Maps.aspx, www.huntdata.com or www.coloradohuntingmaps.com, providing much of the information you’ll need, including GMU boundaries and other important information. Using modern equipment such as GPS units and Google Earth is also advised. Remember that it’s your responsibility to know private land boundaries; never trespass onto private land.
Contacting the District Wildlife Manager responsible for your GMU is another good idea. They know the backcountry and are a valuable resource if you have questions about regulations, places to camp, access or general information about big game in the unit.
Hunt carefully and legally. This helps you remain safe, but also protects the species you’re hunting and demonstrates to the public that hunters are ethical and law-abiding. Remember, you’re the best ambassador for the sport.
During the rifle seasons, all hunters are required to wear 500 square inches of visible fluorescent orange or pink garments, including any head covering, and visible from 360 degrees. Placing a camouflage backpack over an orange or pink vest or coat reduces your visibility. Visibility equals safety in the woods.
Being 100 percent sure of your target before you shoot is critical and can help you avoid accidents, shooting the wrong animal or worse. Always know the laws associated with hunting, including Hunter Education requirements, tagging procedures and the proper methods of take. Regulation brochures can be found at www.cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/hunt.aspx
Unfortunately, not everyone chooses to be responsible and ethical. If you see a wildlife violation occur, please call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Verizon customers can use #OGT.
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.cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/BigGameHuntGuides.aspx.
Winter conditions in 2017-18 were exceptionally mild, with survival for deer and elk higher than average. Unfortunately, mild winters often result in dry conditions in the following summer. While drought conditions here are less severe than other portions of the state, moisture levels have been sparse and it’s expected to remain below average through the summer. This will likely result in concentration of deer and elk in areas that retain higher soil moisture.
Elk populations in the NW Region remain within the desired long-term objective ranges in most herd units, and hunting opportunity is similar to past years. An exception is increased cow license numbers in the Bears Ears herd to maintain elk numbers within objective. However, calf elk recruitment in the herds south of Interstate 70 has been in decline for several years. Accordingly, CPW substantially reduced license numbers in the Grand Mesa and Frying Pan elk herds for 2018 in an attempt to increase the herds, with cow license numbers reduced to the lowest level possible in the Frying Pan, short of closing the seasons.
Deer populations in many areas of the region are below the desired long-term objective. Exceptions include the Middle Park, Bears Ears, and State Bridge herds. Decline in deer numbers led to the West Slope Mule Deer Strategy, a multi-faceted effort to stabilize the drop in the population (info: www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/CO-WestSlopeMuleDeerStrategySummit.aspx). Even though certain deer numbers are below desired levels, the proportion of buck deer is at, and often well above, long-term objectives. This results in excellent hunting opportunities across the region.
Pronghorn antelope herds across the region are generally stable. License availability is similar in 2018 to previous years, except in the Great Divide herd which has grown in the past couple of years.
Black bear populations within the NW Region remain quite high, and abundant bear hunting licenses are available this year. A change in structure initiated in 2015 allows hunters with a valid big game license during one of the four rifle hunting seasons to hunt bears in the area during any of the rifle big game seasons.
Finally, remember to have fun during your —hunt. Enjoying the outdoors with friends and family is a great experience that can provide memories that will last a lifetime. Have a great hunt this year.
— JT Romatzke, CPW Northwest Regional Manager