bull-elk

Bull elk bugling – photo courtesy of David Hannigan

Colorado Hunting Information  

With the archery seasons for deer and elk starting in only 19 days I feel bad that I have not done more writing to share information and help hunters be prepared.  I have just been busy with a lot of things, and I have been neglecting my writing, I apologize for that.  To try and make up for it, I do have a lot of information to share, and I will try to get out more articles over the next couple of weeks.

To begin with, if you plan on hunting in northwest Colorado and you typically take Highway 9 between I-70 and Kremmling, you should either plan an alternate route or expect lengthy delays on Highway 9 due to a construction project.  Backups could be as long as 45 minutes, and nothing is worse than sitting in your truck in a traffic jam when you are anxious to get hunting.

The project itself is actually a long-needed project to improve the safety of that highway and decrease the amount of vehicle collisions with wildlife.  I have driven that highway with white knuckles hundreds of times on my way to and from hunting near Rabbit Ears Pass, and it is dangerous!  Over the last twenty years, the narrow stretch of Highway 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling has seen a significant increase in traffic and approximately 600 motor vehicle accidents, including over a dozen human fatalities and 200 injuries.  In addition, because portions of the highway intersect a main migration route, there have been at least 600 incidents of wildlife killed by vehicle collisions, primarily mule deer, in the last 10 years alone.  The Colorado Department of Transportation’s project will feature wider lanes, improved sightlines and seven wildlife crossings, including two overpasses – the first of their kind in Colorado.

For more information about the project, including construction dates and alternate routes, hunters can  click hereIn addition, hunters can call the project hotline at 970-724-4724, request information by sending an email to SH9Kremmling@publicinfoteam.com, or contact CPW’s area office in Hot Sulphur Springs at 970-725-6200.

Hunting with horses is my favorite way to get deep into the wilderness with all of my gear, and they make packing an elk out so much easier than packing them out on your back.  I have written a couple of articles about hunting with horses which you can read by clicking here and here.  Here are some other tips on taking horses or mules into the wild:

  • Horses are required to have a brand inspection when transported over 75 miles totally within the boundaries of Colorado, and every time they leave the state. Contact the Brands Office at 1-303-869-9160.
  • Hay, straw and mulch must be certified as “weed free.” Only the following products are allowed on national forests in Colorado: cubed and pelletized hay, steamed grain, treated/steamed mulch from tree fibers. For information, call the Colorado Dept. of Agriculture at 1-303-239-4149; or for a list of regulations and vendors, click here.
  • Don’t tie horses to trees in camp. This causes tree damage and vegetation around the tree to be trampled.
  • Highline or picket your stock. If you use a highline, please use tree-saver straps to avoid damaging trees.
  • Move horses often to keep them from trampling vegetation or overgrazing an area.
  • Keep stock 100 feet or more from lakes, streams, wetlands and trails.
  • Restrictions on horse travel in wilderness areas are often greater than in other areas. Be sure to read notices at trailheads. Many wilderness areas carry maximum group size limits, which regulate the number of livestock and people that are allowed to travel together. Contact the U.S. Forest Service or BLM in the area where you’re hunting for complete information.

Finally, know where you are authorized to hunt.  Harvesting a deer or elk in the wrong Game Management Unit is not only illegal, it can be very expensive. Consider the experience of an Oklahoma couple hunting in southwest Colorado.

mule-dee-buck

Mule Deer Buck – photo courtesy of Michael Seraphin.

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer drove into their camp late one morning during the first rifle season. When he asked how the hunt was going the husband explained that they had each killed a cow elk about a mile away from their camp.  The officer congratulated them and then asked to see their licenses. After looking at the licenses he asked exactly where they’d hunted.

“Well, we were just over that ridge there,” the husband said, pointing to the west.  The officer shook his head slightly and said, “Well, I’ve got some bad news. You were hunting in the wrong unit.”

The man protested and attempted to point out their location on the basic map that’s printed in the Big Game Hunting brochure. The map provides little detail, shows only the location of major roads and offers no topographic markings.

The wildlife officer pulled out a topographic map and showed the man that they were at least 15 miles away from where they were authorized to hunt.

“But we’ve been hunting here for years,” the man said.  Politely, but firmly, the wildlife officer explained the consequences: The meat would be confiscated and donated to a local food bank, and each of them would be fined $1,500. The couple’s hunting privileges in Colorado were subsequently suspended.

“There is no excuse for hunting in the wrong unit,” says Matt Thorpe, area wildlife manager in Durango. “Most unit boundaries have been in place for years and they seldom change.”

Despite that fact, hunting in the wrong GMU is a common mistake.  Here’s how to make sure you are hunting in the right unit:  Go to page 61 in the 2015 Colorado Big Game Brochure, find the GMU number and read the official location description.  Buy a high-quality topographic map that includes the GMU area and locate the boundaries; then mark the map.  After you arrive at your hunting location, study the map and the landmarks in the area to make sure of the boundaries of the GMU.  If you have any questions, contact the nearest Parks and Wildlife office.

Moose

Moose in the river – photo courtesy Dyann Walt.

Hunters must also be aware of the location of private land. To hunt on private land you must obtain permission. In Colorado, landowners are not required to post or mark their property.  I had this happen to me one year when I was coming down a mountain at the end of the day and I ended up on private land, although I didn’t know it.  Suddenly the land owner drove up and he was irate!  After I explained my route and how I ended up where I was, he was a little less upset, and actually ended up giving me a ride for two miles down the forest road towards my camp, I had simply gotten lost.  I was lucky he didn’t turn me in, and I should have known where I was, but that was a long time ago, I’m better about knowing where I am now.

I hope you are all getting ready for the coming hunting seasons, that you are out practicing shooting and getting your gear ready.  August has always been one of the most exciting months of the year for me; the anticipation of archery elk hunting and hearing a big bull bugle in the early morning light is very inspiring to me.  I’ll have more information for you soon, and thanks to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife for some of the information used in this article, they are a wealth of information!