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RUFFNECK's picture
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What's your opinion

Recently I have been reading on another forum that high elk harvests and winter kills have brought down the number of elk in Colorado, and that the quality of hunting has diminished due to all the otc tags. They say that the commision is money hungry and have released to many unlimited elk tags to non residents also.

What do you guys think should they cut back on otc tags or get rid of them completely like the buck tags. Just curious on what the conscensus is!

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IMO Colorado gives out way to many elk tags, especially the over-the-counter bull tags. The elk get hammered every year in most areas. In one of the areas I hunt the majority of the elk are already on private land before archery season is over and I'm talking 1,000's and 1,000's have moved off before rifle season even starts. Many ranches are owned by anti-hunting out of staters or anti-hunting in staters. The elk learn quickly where to go as soon as the pressure hits. Colorado might have 250K or so elk but many of those aren't huntable. The public land gets hunted to death in most areas. The only way to fix this, in my opinion, is to limit the number of tags or work with these landowners to get some pressure on these ranches so the elk will move off.

exbiologist's picture
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They have to play a delicate balance by raising money and keeping hunters happy. Don't blame it on out of staters, we have unlimited tags and the animals are no worse for wear. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is probably most the financially sound of the western game departments because of all the out of state money. It pays for things like state land acquisitions, in depth game surveys, sheep transplants, moose transplants and the biologists and wardens are paid better here than nearly anywhere else. I worked in Nebraska for a little while and knew of employees that made $30,000/year with a college education and OVER 10 years experience. You can't recruit or retain intelligent people with that kind of pay.
There are clearly areas in Colorado where very few bulls over 2 years old live to see the next year, and that is a problem for far fewer people than you may want to believe. We have trophy managed areas, crowd controlled units and several underutilized over the counter units. The areas with the reputations for having the most elk, receive the most pressure. I don't like hunting those areas, so I don't. I'm not wedded to one spot, I know how to scout and hunt, so I move when I don't like what's happening in my area.
Right now you have a wonderful opportunity to have your voice heard through the Limited Elk Unit Nomination process. I have submitted areas that I think are deserving of limitation based on facts, not gut feelings. You must also submit notice to the local chambers of commerce, sportsman groups, and outfitters who depend on the large influx of hunters to suuport the local economy. Trust me, none of these folks, including the outfitters, want you to limit out of area money coming in.
I'm sure you realize that the average statewide success in most places, not just Colorado, is close to 20%. So MOST guys go home empty handed year after year. Those same guys, whether you deride them or not for shooting 2 year olds, would be tickled to take any bull. There is also a huge subset of elk hunters who claim to just be out for the meat, and maybe thats because they've never shot a big bull, but antlers just don't hold the same mystique to them as they do for me, and probably most guys on this site who harvest elk more regularly.
We have a lot of options in this state to take advantage of. The crowd controlled units tend to have pretty good bulls(and most of those require no points), and of course you have the trophy units. When you don't draw, you don't have to be stuck at home, you can still go elk hunting in an OTC unit.
With all that being said, I have no doubt that when Colorado went to a draw only system for mule deer, it really helped the success and trophy quality. A limited draw for elk, despite how you might feel, will please a smaller group of people than you think. And then we lose MILLIONS (100,000 non res liecenses per year, do the math), not just our game department, but the local economies in the places we hunt will suffer.
Don't forget, have your voice heard and nominate a unit for limited elk hunting only, but your hunting may get limited also, not just the out of staters. We NEED them.

RUFFNECK's picture
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Location: PUEBLO, CO
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What's your opinion

Exbio I totally agree with you but on that other forum these guys think we are going to loose our elk numbers or something I dont know! I think like you you have to adapt to your areas or find new ones. Im closely involved with the Dow and am getting a degree in Wildlife bio and from what I have seen the elk numbers are fine and the few that die off during the winter is insignificant what I think has a greater toll on our animals is poaching.

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I love elk and I love deer, but we truly do have places where their populations are too high for either habitat conditions or social tolerance. However, it's almost impossible to destroy a population through the hunting of male animals. The DOW and Oregon Game and Fish have produced studies that show that you don't start negatively affecting elk reproductive success, rut timing and calving timing until the bull:cow ratio is less than 10:100. Offhand, I don't think there are any DAUs that have less than 18:100 POST SEASON.
Cow harvest is the only way to reduce elk populations, and they may be poached extensively on private land during severe winters. Elk rarely die as a result of winterkill, but they are more susceptible to many other issues, such as predation (but not much of that in Colorado, even by lions). This is why the DOW manages their populations based on the amount of pressure the winter range can handle and the ranchers and farmers can tolerate, not the summer and transitional range.
So for the guys worried about us losing our enormous elk population, in some areas that is exactly the goal, whether you like it or not. The DOW realizes it messed up with the Poudre Canyon(7,8,9,19,191) herd reduction, and is now relaxing on the cow and doe harvest because it didn't affect the CWD transimission rate, which may have been present in our herds much longer than we realize. Reducing the elk population to more sustainable levels also increases the health of those who don't die of acute lead poisoning, thereby creating larger, healthier bulls, calves and cows. Which in turn creates more elk again, which we then get to shoot. In part of the San Luis Valley, hunters and the DOW can't actually kill enough elk.
Look at the Quality Deer Management movement, and look at the incredible number of record whitetails shot every year. Having fewer elk will create better elk bull elk. We are not going to lose any significant numbers of elk due to loose management, especially with bull tags. We do lose cows due to accidental kill, rancher intolerance (I'd be pissed if I had 100 elk eating my cattle feed every night, too), blatant poaching and other issues, but you've got to kill several thousand cow elk (and in some cases 10s of 1,000s) to make a dent in the Flat Tops, Bears Ears, South San Juan, Uncompahgre, Grand Mesa or any of the other large populations.

RUFFNECK's picture
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Location: PUEBLO, CO
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What's your opinion

Very well said my friend! Thumbs up

SoCoKHntr's picture
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I think elk numbers in Colo. are just fine and exbiologist has posted a lot of good info. My uneducated opinion is that due to high numbers of hunters in the regular rifle seasons elk are becoming hard wired after several generations to hightail it the hell out of 'danger' areas and head for safer areas ASAP once shots are heard.

Also, I don't agree with Hiker that the majority of land owners are anti-hunters, but rather business minded and have seen in the last twenty years that biggame is a lucrative cash crop in addition to their regular sources of revenue.

If you are a landowner/rancher who is lucky enough to have their land in prime elk habitat you are not only drawing in crop damage $$$ due to the good elk numbers, but can use landowner and regular over the counter permits to bring in a pretty good haul over the biggame seasons. So, after Sep. rolls around you have elk either heading to the nastiest ugliest hard to get to public land where they are unmolested or to private land where hunting pressure will be much less severe.

So, you have tent and camper cities in traditional high elk areas like Gunnison with one million hunters and few filled tags. Much of this due to the fact that 'most' hunters aren't getting very far past the roads and camp. First season you might have opening or second day hunters getting into a herd and killing a few animals and then their gone Johnson.

Also, as all Western hunters know for the later rifle seasons snow plays a huge part and if you don't have a huge snow in Nov. to push them into areas where hunters can get to them your up a creek. We've had hot dry Novembers lately.

I think it boils down to access to the elk which either by unforgiving terrain on public land to fences with 'NO HUNTING' signs by either 'tree hugging owners' or ranchers cashing in on one more cash crop.

I fear as land disappears to development and the only land left is private biggame hunting will be relegated to the very wealthy and common folk won't be able to participate. Maybe not in my lifetime but it's headed that way in my opinion. Isn't it like that to a large degree in the South and East? Ninety percent of the hunting shows are about private high dollar ranches.

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SoCoKHntr wrote:
Also, I don't agree with Hiker that the majority of land owners are anti-hunters, but rather business minded and have seen in the last twenty years that biggame is a lucrative cash crop in addition to their regular sources of revenue.

What I said is "Many ranches are owned by anti-hunting out of staters or anti-hunting in staters". I was wrong when I stated "Many", what I should have said is Some ranches, but unfortunately many times they are large ranches. The elk learn quickly where the safe havens are and do get to them quickly, once the pressure hits. Once the elk make it to these safe havens, they are home free and very few get killed. Once the snow gets deep they head lower, but by then the season is over. DOW doesn't reach their harvest numbers and most hunters have went home empty.

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Hiker wrote:
SoCoKHntr wrote:
Also, I don't agree with Hiker that the majority of land owners are anti-hunters, but rather business minded and have seen in the last twenty years that biggame is a lucrative cash crop in addition to their regular sources of revenue.

What I said is "Many ranches are owned by anti-hunting out of staters or anti-hunting in staters". I was wrong when I stated "Many", what I should have said is Some ranches, but unfortunately many times they are large ranches. The elk learn quickly where the safe havens are and do get to them quickly, once the pressure hits. Once the elk make it to these safe havens, they are home free and very few get killed. Once the snow gets deep they head lower, but by then the season is over. DOW doesn't reach their harvest numbers and most hunters have went home empty.

Didn't meant to be nit picking and we agree pretty much. I do agree some are anti's but I think many either keep it for themselves or friends are if a big operation it's about revenue.

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I agree, we are pretty much saying the same thing. If someone owns the land, they can do whatever they want to with it. I personally don't think it's to neighborly for the high altitude ranches to protect all of these elk throughout the rifle seasons, then as soon as the snow starts piling up, the elk move lower and the low country ranchers have to put up with them all winter, breaking into the haystacks, etc. I would like to see DOW work a lot harder at opening up some of these high country ranches for hunting. Hunting brings in a lot of money into Colorado's economy every year. Last stats I saw was close to 850,000,000.

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Hiker wrote:
I agree, we are pretty much saying the same thing. If someone owns the land, they can do whatever they want to with it. I personally don't think it's to neighborly for the high altitude ranches to protect all of these elk throughout the rifle seasons, then as soon as the snow starts piling up, the elk move lower and the low country ranchers have to put up with them all winter, breaking into the haystacks, etc. I would like to see DOW work a lot harder at opening up some of these high country ranches for hunting. Hunting brings in a lot of money into Colorado's economy every year. Last stats I saw was close to 850,000,000.

I agree with that assertion whole heartedly! Thumbs up

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