Elk not the only game in town

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Most hunters come to Colorado with visions of trophy elk in their eyes. But elk isn't the only game in town.

In 2003, more than 18,000 hunters came to Northwest Colorado looking for deer. Those hunters harvested 7,811 animals for a 43-percent success rate. The numbers come from the four data analysis units in the region.

"It's very good," said Mary Lloyd, big-game data analyst for the Division of Wildlife. "An average success rate in the state would be around 20 percent."

Deer hunters, however, are still the minority during hunting season.

The same area hosted more than 41,000 elk hunters who harvested 10,484 animals in 2003.

John Ellenberger, big-game manager for the state of Colorado, said the high mountain terrain and climate of the Steamboat Springs area tends to favor elk hunting.

Elk can stay higher later into the fall and don't mind the early-season storms that can dump 12 to 18 inches of snow in the high country.

Deer prefer the mountain valleys and typically move lower earlier in the season to avoid the early-season snow.

Still, Ellenberger said there are several areas from Steamboat east to Craig, near Walden and in South Routt County that traditionally have been good for deer.

One of the reasons there are fewer deer hunters in Colorado has to do with the DOW's limited license policy.

Hunters should be aware that deer licenses, unlike elk, are limited. Hunters must apply for a deer license and must hunt in specific units.

Lloyd said the policy was adopted in 1998 to combat declining deer populations in the state. The deer population has increased since the program began, but Lloyd isn't expecting to see over-the-counter licenses for deer any time soon. n

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