Elk, deer harvest tally low across Western Slope
If you really want to learn how well hunters are doing in their quest for elk and deer, check out the local meat processors.
A quick tally Monday of the carcasses hanging in coolers across the Western Slope revealed this year’s elk harvest might be a bit down overall while deer hunters are well down from recent years.
That’s reflective of the move by the Colorado Wildlife Commission to reduce elk and deer licenses across much of the Western Slope.
Last summer, the commission opted to cut nearly 8,000 deer tags and more than 10,000 elk licenses from the pool of available licenses.
Meat processors are usually the first to see the impacts of fewer licenses.
“Elk have been up a little bit but deer were a little off again this year, and they were down considerably last year,” said Matt Anderegg of Old World Meats in Grand Junction, which has been processing big game for Colorado hunters since 1967. “We’ve been staying busy, but elk haven’t been as strong for us as last year, and that’s a little surprising with the weather we had last week.”
The fast-moving storm that dumped up to 18 inches of snow in Colorado’s high country late last week was considered a good sign by wildlife managers hoping it would move elk to elevations where hunters might reach them.
But the storm might have been too much for some hunters, said Jay Purkey of Purkey Packing Plant in Meeker.
“So far, our harvest is down,” he said. “We were hit with a big snowstorm and maybe it was too much for some hunters who didn’t show.”
Purkey is a second-generation meat cutter at the plant founded by his father, Bryce.
He knows every hunting season is different and says the decision by the Division of Wildlife to reduce elk licenses and cut back on deer licences has hurt his business.
The deer harvest is “way, way down after they limited the licenses,” Purkey said.
His business from the elk hunters might be off as much as one third, he said, which comes as a surprise.
“We had a really good first season but the second was 25 to 30 percent off, and so far this season is looking like it’s going to be off that much, too,” he said. “It’s been a little bit slower with elk than we were hoping.”
Statewide, cow and either-sex elk licenses were reduced 7 percent, with some of the biggest decreases in units around Meeker and north to the Wyoming border.
Also, the largest reduction in deer licenses was in the northwest, particularly in game units around Meeker, Craig and Steamboat Springs. In that area, deer licenses were cut by more than 6,600.
Todd Good, of Good’s Processing LLC in Montrose, said his deer business has been steady due to private-land only deer licenses issued this year.
“We’re a little below last year but not much,” Good said. “We’re down just about only 30 animals. We have lot of those doe tags around here and we’re seeing those” show up at the processing plant.
Good said the successful elk hunters have harvested some big bulls.
“I have a 300(-class) bull in front of me now,” he said. “I’ve heard hunters aren’t seeing as many animals, but then I usually only talk to guys who got something.”
He said there’s still a lot of elk available to hunters.
“I’m going out (Tuesday) to a place where there’s about 150 elk and I’m planning on getting me one,” Good said.
One ray of hope is that the weather has remained cool enough in the high country that hunters aren’t hurrying to get their animals processed.
“Maybe they’re waiting until the rest of their hunting party gets something before they come down,” Anderegg said. “But we’ve been hearing both sides, just like every year. Some people say they’re seeing a lot of animals, and others say they really had to hunt hard for this one animal.”