Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports western Garfield County hunting is booming
License sales data is not available for the fall hunting season yet, but anecdotally, hunting in western Garfield County is continuing to trend upward, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson said.
“Early snow is always a good thing for tracking animals,” said Ivan Archer, a CPW area wildlife manager. “The way animals behave in the weather, especially in the snow, makes hunting a little easier. Being out there hunting is a little harder, but the snow increases your chances of harvest.”
At the Hayward Ranch, a private hunting resort with access to 25,000 acres, hunting parties have harvested six bull elk since the area’s first rifle season opened, said Tor Hayward, who owns Hayward Ranch Outfitters.
“It’s been a fantastic season so far,” Hayward said. “We’ve got 6 inches of snow on the ground and plenty of meat already hanging.”
While archery and muzzleloader seasons for deer and elk began in September, the Western Slope’s first elk-only rifle season started Saturday and ended Wednesday. The second rifle season, which permits deer and elk hunting, is scheduled between Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, and the area’s third rifle season, also a combination of deer and elk, runs Nov. 13-19, Archer said.
As the pandemic pushed more and more people outdoors, CPW saw an increase in hunting license sales — a trend that is continuing in 2021.
“The majority of hunters in Western Garfield are residents,” Archer said. “Out-of-state hunters are definitely a component, but the majority are local.”
More hunters means more time in the field for CPW’s game wardens.
“They’ve been incredibly busy this year and last,” Archer said. “While law enforcement is a component of what we do, the vast majority of the time, we’re making contact with people in the field and ensuring public safety.”
At the Hayward Ranch, Hayward said his hunts are booked out years in advance for the first time since creating the outfitting company about 20 years ago.
“The pandemic has been a horrible thing, but with people being holed up in their homes for so long, we’re seeing them want to get out and explore this amazing state we live in,” he said. “We’re already booked through 2023.”
Increased interest in the sport is but a single aspect of the ranch’s success.
“All our guides are amazing and local,” Hayward said. “They live in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, and I can’t say enough how lucky we are to have such a great team.”
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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