Granby " Hunting harvest rate lags behind goals for thinning big game herds |

Granby " Hunting harvest rate lags behind goals for thinning big game herds

Will Bublitz
Grand Countyy, Colorado

The first two rifle hunting seasons had lower than hoped for harvests of deer and elk in Middle Park, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW).

The first rifle seasons were Oct. 11-15 (separate elk) and Oct.18-26 (combined deer and elk).

Two more seasons remain: Nov. 1-7 (combined deer and elk) and Nov. 12-16 (limited, combined deer and elk).

“It’s been a light harvest so far, but that was expected,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager at DOW’s Hot Sulphur Springs office.

Sidener explained that not as many hunters take advantage of the first season, which is a separate elk season.

“The first season has lighter pressure on the elk because of fewer hunters and the milder weather we’ve had,” Sidener said. “We just needed to get a heavy snowfall to move the elk down from the higher elevations.”

As for the just-completed second season, Sidener has seen increased numbers of hunters and a rise in successful hunts.

“The deer hunters were out there and there was increased pressure,” he said. “They were getting some deer and a reasonable number of elk. But we’re hoping for a turn in the weather to improve the harvest. Right now, it’s a little light, but we expect it to pick up for the next two seasons.”

DOW estimates that Middle Park has a deer population of about 12,000 animals as well as close to 8,500 elk.

The state agency’s wildlife managers are hoping to reduce the area’s deer and elk numbers to meet its established “herd objectives” for each Data Analysis Unit (DAU), which is made up of a group of Game Management Units (GMU). The goal of these herd objectives is to ensure the local deer and elk populations stay at healthy levels.

DOW has set a deer herd objective for Middle Park of 10,500. To help achieve that goal, 4,000 licenses have been issued for this hunting season in the eight GMUs.

In comparison, elk in Grand County are managed as two different DAUs. The Williams Fork DAU has an estimated elk population of 5,000 animals. DOW has set its herd objective at 3,000. To reach that objective, 4,500 licenses are being issued for it.

For the Troublesome DAU, the elk population is estimated at 3,500 animals. DOW’s herd objective for it is 2,700. A total of 4,800 licenses are being issued to reach the objective for that DAU.

While appearing to be very high compared to the size of the herds, the number of licenses that are issued is based upon the “average success rates” for hunters within those areas over past hunting seasons.

How successful the hunting seasons have been in reaching DOW’s herd objectives cannot yet be determined. Sidener said DOW is getting only a rough estimate of the number of animals being harvested by the number of deer and elk heads being turned in voluntarily by hunters at CWD (chronic wasting disease) testing stations.

“It’s yet to be seen how close to our objectives we are,” he said. “We’ll get better estimates when we conduct our aerial surveys of the herds in December and January.”

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