Steamboat Springs Archery season started this weekend without a bang, but not without a few problems.
Archery season, which brought 31,295 people to Colorado forests last year, began on Aug. 26 and will be going on until Sept. 24.
On Sunday, local Colorado Division of Wildlife officials ticketed two people for shooting elk with an arrow without a license to do so, area manager Susan Werner said, which isn't a common occurrence.
"It's not normal for people to hunt without of license," she said.
However, some unethical hunters take advantage of the month-long flexibility of the season.
"We know that there are people who go out and hunt and don't buy a license until after they've harvested an animal," Werner said.
Both men ticketed were nonresidents, and one spent the night in jail because he wasn't able to pay the $1,300 find for poaching an elk.
Resident hunters have the option of paying the fine through mail, but out-of-state visitors have to pay on the spot or to come up with bond money to stay out of jail.
The tickets were written in the California Park area, north of Hayden, as part of a large-scale project by the DOW to inform hunters about rule changes in the three hunting district there, wildlife manager Jim Haskins said.
Six DOW officials trekked into California Park to inform hunters that it is a newly restricted area for draw hunters only.
Unlike hunters who buy general licenses over the counter, draw hunters go through an application process and receive in advance permits to hunt a specific species and sex in a specific area.
The California Park draw-hunter restriction is intended to lessen stress on a large elk herd there.
"We contacted a lot of people to make sure they knew about the change," Haskins said.
Many people didn't know about the new restriction and had to find someplace else to hunt, he said.
Officials hope that curbing the number of hunters in California Park will result in a higher success rate for the ones who are there, Haskins said, which is the ultimate goal.
Fewer hunters should prevent the her from being pushed to private land or higher ground, where most of the large numbers of rifle hunters won't go.
"The rifle season is where most of our harvests come from," wildlife manager Jim Hicks said.
The DOW wants good harvest numbers on elk this year because populations of the animal are larger than normal, he said.
The estimated 265,000 elk that live in Colorado constitute the largest herd in the United States and Canada.
The Bears Ears Elk Herd, which lives north of the Yampa River and east of the Little Snake River, is estimated to have 17,236 animals in it. In April, DOW big game coordinator John Ellenberger said the herd needs to be reduced to 12,200 animals.
So far so good, Haskins said. He explained that many people he contacted over the weekend harvested an elk.
"We are having pretty good success rates," he said.
Muzzleloaders will get into the field for the week beginning Sept. 9 and the same restriction will apply in California Park for them.
The elk and deer won't be stressed for about month after muzzleloading and archery seasons wind down. But on Oct. 14, hunters with high-powered guns will take their turn in a draw elk rifle season that lasts until Oct. 18. That's followed by two combined deer and elk open seasons from Oct. 21 to 27 and Nov. 4 to 12.
The regular rifle season ends with a draw deer hunt from Nov. 11 to Nov. 15.
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