Early storms bode well for elk hunting season | PostIndependent.com

Early storms bode well for elk hunting season

There were about five inches of snow Tuesday at 10,200 feet near the Hell Roaring trailhead where John Howe owns a hunting base camp. Howe, owner of Capital Peak Outfitters, said he is looking forward to an excellent hunting season in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness because of this week’s cold temperatures and early snows. “It’s going to help us,” he said of the snow. Best of all, he said, “We’re full this year.” Howe’s hunts didn’t quite fill to capacity last year, but this year, he’s booked. That’s particularly good news because he said the bow hunting season, which ended Sept. 25, was “a little slow.”The early snows could push elk into the lower elevations and will “definitely move elk around,” said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Wildlife. “Hunters should be pretty encouraged to see colder weather.”As usual, he said, the hunting hot spot this season is the Flat Tops Wilderness and the surrounding area, home to one of the largest elk herds in North America.He said there are still some leftover hunting licenses available for many game management units in Colorado, so it’s not too late to make plans to go hunting. Hampton said a list of units with licenses available can be found online at the CDOW’s Web site. With more than 400,000 “hunting visits” to the White River National Forest expected this season, the White River officials plan to step-up the forest’s law enforcement, even though it doesn’t have many officers to do it, said White River recreation program manager Rich Doak. A hunting visit accounts for one person who enters and exits the forest one time. If a hunter leaves the forest then returns, that qualifies as two hunting visits. Several hundred hunter visits are expected this season on the Rifle Ranger District alone, said district recreation staffer Larry Sandoval. To prevent road and forest damage, Sandoval said hunters should take motorized vehicles only on roads that are marked as open to vehicular use. A hunter violating forest regulations could be fined $75 on the first offense, he said. “If (a road) does not have a number posted on it saying it is open to motorized travel, then it is not open to motorized travel,” he said. Two-track roads are off-limits, and so is retrieving game off-road with a motorized vehicle. Each year the Forest Service receives complaints that some hunters use all-terrain vehicles to retrieve game, ruining others’ hunts – something forest officials will keep an eye out for, Doak said. Recent weather may make it easy to damage dirt roads in the forest, he said. “You can get a ticket for tearing the road up,” he said, adding that hunters shouldn’t drive a road that is wet and could be easily damaged by a vehicle. He said hunters should read the official White River map to find out which areas have travel restrictions. Because the map was last updated in 1991, the latest information is available at all ranger district offices, he said. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management does not tally hunting visits on its land, but BLM Glenwood Springs Field Manager Jamie Connell said she expects this to be an “active year.”BLM vehicular travel regulations are similar to those on the White River National Forest. Connell said hunters should check with the local field office in West Glenwood to get the latest information. The BLM currently has no local Web site on which to find more information. Only one BLM law enforcement ranger patrols public land within the Glenwood BLM office’s domain, however, Connell said she plans to have office staffers in the field to answer hunters’ questions. Several BLM staffers will be at the hunter’s hospitality tent, which the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce will set up during the height of the season to welcome hunters to the area. The tent will be set up Oct. 19-21 and Nov. 2-4 at the Rifle Rest Area off of Interstate 70, Exit 90. Hunting and lodging information and free coffee will be available.Hunters visiting the area spend $21 million annually in Garfield County, said Glenwood Springs Tourism Director Stephanie Kiester. “I think it’s pretty clear that hunting is a vital part of tourism in Glenwood Springs,” she said.

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