Steamboat Springs Warm weather and license limits are believed to be the reasons for low harvest numbers during the 1999 big game hunting seasons, according to information recently released by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The DOW reported that 39,682 Colorado elk were taken by 239,109 hunters in 1999. Of those killed, 21,453 were bulls and 18,229 were antlerless elk. Hunters had a 17 percent success rate.
The 1999 elk harvest was down from the 51,500 elk that were taken in 1998 by 254,915 hunters who had a 20 percent success rate. However, 41 hunting units on the Western Slope allowed either sex, over-the-counter licenses in 1998, which inflated that year's numbers.
"We harvested more antlerless in 1998 than ever before," DOW big game coordinator John Ellenberger said.
Hunters could get antlerless tags by draw only in 1999.
Warm weather kept the elk hunting in 1999 from being as successful as years past, DOW district manager Susan Werner said.
"We didn't have snow through the whole time," she said.
The warm weather kept elk herds in cool, upper-elevation, wooded areas and the lack of snow made tracking the animals difficult.
"There's no shortage of elk," she promised.
Colorado has the most elk in the United States and Canada, with at least 220,000 animals, said DOW spokesman Todd Malmsbury.
The low harvest of elk in 1999, especially antlerless, has the DOW worried that the animals could be a threat to habitat in some areas of the state, Ellenberger said.
Low deer harvest numbers also were recorded in the 1999.
Approximately 29,600 deer were taken in 1999 during which 80,650 hunters, all carrying drawn licenses, took to the woods. That was down from the 51,500 deer that were killed in 1998 when deer tags could be bought over the counter.
However, the success rate of 37 percent for deer hunters in 1999 was better than the 1998 rate of 27 percent, when 150,000 licenses were issued.
Locally, businesses that depend on animal harvests saw a drop in customers last fall, but nothing too drastic.
"We were off, but we weren't as bad as other businesses in northern Colorado," said Rick Spencer of the Steamboat Seafood and Meat Co.
He estimated that business was 30 percent down, but said that could have been from the company, formally OK's Meat Market, changing its name.
"We're really optimistic for next year," Spencer said.
Gary Troester, owner of All Seasons Taxidermy, said business wasn't bad last year.
"I considered it an average year," he said. "I always have tons to do."
Private ranches usually do well with getting their customers animals, so Troester's business is always busy.
"The private guys, they hunt hard, but not hard enough to run (the elk) off," he said.
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