Deer hunters appear to have fared well this season

Early reports from the 2011 regular rifle big-game seasons underscore an age-old truth: hunters putting in the effort to get away from the roads saw more animals and enjoyed better success.

With the gift-giving holidays rapidly approaching, there is nothing like the impetus of a fast-approaching closing time to help you nail down that final gift.

In that spirit of frenzied buying, we offer a few tips for anyone with an as-yet unfilled deer or elk tag feeling the urge to head out for this final day of the 2011 regular rifle big-game season.

Deer hunters this year appear in general to have fared well, a bit of news that comes with the usual caveat that deer herds still haven’t fully recovered after several hard winters.

As you might expect, hunters bothering to get away from the roads saw better success than those who didn’t, said Ron Velarde, Northwest Region manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Especially in the second season, they were more successful,” Velarde said. “The deer were back in the trees, using them for thermal cover, and hunters really had to go in after them.”

It’s not like deer were plentiful but there were some very nice bucks to be had.

“The last couple of winters really kicked our herds,” Velarde said. “But overall the condition of the deer is good. At our (game check) station we noticed the deer are bigger and hunters said they could be little more picky.”

Hunting was good in the Meeker area and “fair” on Grand Mesa, he said.

A promising story was heard from J Wenum, area wildlife manager for Gunnison. He said the Gunnison Basin deer herds are on the rebound from the heavy toll exacted during the winter of 2007/2008.

“Overall (this year) was pretty successful deer hunting,” said Wenum, recalling the emergency feeding program four years ago that at one time was providing rations to nearly 9,000 mule deer in the Gunnison Basin.

“At the time, I predicted it would take three to five years to get to where we are today,” he said. “You really can’t compare hunting now to what it was like prior to the winter of 07/08. Then, it was jaw-dropping.”

Wenum said buck-to-doe ratios prior to the deep cold and heavy snows were “absolutely phenomenal” and overall deer populations were way above desire levels.

“That bad winter pulled things back to reality,” he said.

But this year, deer hunters in the Gunnison Basin reported seeing more young bucks, an indication sex ratios are improving.

“I think we are starting to turn the corner,” he said. “It may be another year or two before we are back on good solid footing but we’re seeing a rebound in young bucks again.”

Some hunters even reported turning down opportunities to shoot a small buck in hopes something bigger could be had.

Wenum said that as of mid-week there hadn’t been enough snow to push deer or elk out of the high country.

“The deer are finally starting to move but from what I’ve seen and heard there hasn’t been enough snow to push the elk around,” Wenum said.

He said during the second season there still were does hanging out above 10,000 feet.

“That last weekend in October I was out hunting with one of my kids at 11,500 feet and we were seeing does bedding down in 10 inches of snow,” he said. “I’ve never seen that this late in the year.”


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