A deer walks along the banks of the Yampa River on Friday.

Photo by John F. Russell

A deer walks along the banks of the Yampa River on Friday.

Muzzleloaders get ready for hunting season in Routt County

Bow season under way as big-game season progresses

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When to hunt

■ The muzzleloading season for deer and elk and archery season continue to Sept. 26

■ The first rifle season for elk runs Oct. 16 to 20, followed by combined rifle seasons for deer and elk Oct. 23 to 31, Nov. 6 to 14 and Nov. 17 to 21

— Muzzleloading rifle hunters join bow hunters in the field today in pursuit of deer, elk, pronghorn, bear and a limited number of moose.

The second milestone in the 2010 Colorado big-game hunting season is crossed as mule deer shed their antler velvet and elk begin the rut in earnest.

“We’ve just had the first two deer that are out of velvet, and hunters coming in are saying the elk are just beginning to bugle,” said Bob Reinier, of B&L Taxidermy in Steamboat Springs.

Reinier said he’s received reports that Emerald Mountain, just south of the city, already was crowded with bow hunters last week.

“We had some out-of-town guys who have been hunting up there for years say they counted 35 (archery) hunters on Emerald last week, and a lot of them were from out of state,” Reinier said.

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said it’s no surprise that easily accessible public land close to Steamboat is in high demand, but the most convenient hunting grounds don’t always equate to hunter success.

“Access is a funny thing,” Hamp­­ton said. “You build a new road and it creates access, but the elk are leaving the area because of the road.”

Does the increasing number of hunters in the mountains around Steamboat make them unsafe for people pursuing other forms of recreation? Hampton said history suggests hikers, cyclists and people walking their pets don’t need to do much more than exercise some common sense.

“I can’t remember, in seven years, a single account with somebody out recreating being involved (in a hunting accident), even in rifle season,” Hampton said. “And I can’t think of hearing of any incidents before that. We don’t see a significant overlap (of hunters and hikers, for example). The elk will stay away from those areas. Common sense is that it’s not a bad idea to wear some orange clothing yourself.”

A roll of bright surveyor tape in a day pack makes it easy to flag a dog’s collar to alert hunters.

Reinier said there are signs that the bull elk are in good condition this fall — good antler growth among the animals that have come into his shop suggests they fed on nutritious grass all summer.

Hampton is optimistic that a return to cool weather this month, compared with the past two seasons, will increase hunter success ratios and help wildlife biologists reach their population targets for elk herds. Cool weather makes it more likely the animals will rise from their day beds, and a little snow puts them in motion and makes them easier to track.

“We’ve had some cooler nights,” Hampton said. “It’s crisp earlier than the last two years, when we had hot temperatures well into September and even October in lower elevations.”

The muzzleloading season for deer and elk continues to Sept. 26, as does the archery season, which began Aug. 28.

The first rifle season for elk runs Oct. 16 to 20, followed by combined rifle seasons for deer and elk Oct. 23 to 31, Nov. 6 to 14 and Nov. 17 to 21.

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