Steamboat Springs Ahhh!
That's usually the feeling I get when this time of the year comes around.
As a green elk hunter, I haven't marked the date that applications are due for draw licenses in the mental calender which may explain why I get all of my wild game meat from a friend, not from an animal I harvested.
As far as I know, the elk cow tag is the hot commodity;
however; pulling a deer tag would be nice, too.
And if I get the application in the mail on time, April 3 that's Tuesday and if it was anything like last year, there will be a good chance to score a cow tag because there are a "kagillion" elk out there.
That's right. A "kagillion," according to my calculations and the Colorado Division of Wildlife will do what it can to take numbers down.
That also means, of course, managing numbers of hunters so stress on the animals is low. But it means more opportunity for people who really want animals.
As a firm believer in the responsibility we have to be the predators to control numbers, I will feel guilt if I don't at least get out there this year.
However, for the true believers of the need for hunting, who couple that belief with an overall respect for the animal, there has to be one fact of nature that gnaws in the back in their heads, because it gnaws at me.
If humans take the responsibility of replacing one of the elk's prominent predators, the wolf, then shouldn't we mimic the killing nature of the wolf to simulate an appropriate balance of nature?
No wolf could ever bring down a healthy elk. Instead, the animals prey on the sick, old and weak. And as many know, that keeps the elk herd strong by eliminating the chance for weaker or sick animals to repeatedly mate.
I think the human predator chooses the animal it harvests by one of two methods. The human either shoots the first one it sees, or it waits to shoot the largest animal, usually with the biggest rack, if it's a male.
But I fear this doesn't mimic the original predator's actions and doesn't supply the natural balance needed for a healthy herd.
What really gnaws at me is that populations are far over objectives in most units. With hunting being the primary method wildlife officials use to control the population, what will be the health of herd when the populations go down?
I think it would be an interesting study for DOW biologists.
But what if conclusions showed that we have such an impact on the health of the herd that we can only hunt the sick. Could it be done?