News for Sunday, August 28, 2011

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Welcome to Colorado Hunter

Welcome to the 2011 issue of Colorado Hunter, the premier guide to big-game hunting in this beautiful place we call Northwest Colorado. There’s a reason the hunters among us call the region home. Come fall, it offers some of the best deer and elk hunting in the world, whether you’re pulling back a bow or sighting in a scope.

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Northwest Colorado: The state's premier hunting destination

If Colorado has a hunting hotspot, it’s likely Northwest Colorado. Open up any map and set your sights over the upper left corner. Your scope lines cross on one of the truly great regions in the country for outdoorsmen, and the ideal destination for your next hunting adventure.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Common hunting violations can be costly

Every hunting season, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers issue thousands of tickets for violations that can result in steep fines for the offenders. “While some of those tickets are for flagrant violations of wildlife regulations and hunting laws, many more are for minor violations that could have been avoided,” Parks and Wildlife reports in a recent news release.

Safety, safety, safety

While hunting accidents have declined since the passage of two laws in 1970 — one requiring hunter education training and another requiring wearing at least 500 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing — accidents still happen. “Hunting is safe and getting safer all the time,” says Colorado Parks and Wildlife hunter education coordinator Mark Cousins, adding that the state sells more than 560,000 hunting licenses every year, resulting in several million hunter recreation days.

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Weather watch

High temperatures can delay herd migrations

As everyone gears up for this year’s hunting season, most preparation involves deciding where to hunt, which season and how to approach it. But there’s another consideration to take into account. A few environmental factors have changed in the past few years that have affected big-game movement patterns. Until about six years ago, many elk hunters could count on elk migrating to lower elevations into their winter range during rifle season. This allowed for seeing herds moving across the landscape, providing the possibility for a harvest.

2011 Colorado fees & seasons

DEER: • Resident — $34 • Youth resident — $13.75 • Nonresident — $334 • Youth nonresident — $103.75

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Northwest Colorado offers a slew of game species, from pronghorn to grouse

Elk and deer aren’t the only things on hunters menus in Northwest Colorado. The region is also known for a variety of other species luring outdoorsmen to Moffat and Routt counties every year. Aside from antlered game — elk, deer and moose — the next most popular species on hunters’ lists is likely the pronghorn antelope. Rifle bearers far and wide descend upon the region’s sage-covered plains and rolling hills for long-range, open-country hunts far different than the tactics used for other game. And this year should prove especially fruitful pronghorn.

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Declining White River deer herd a concern for wildlife officials, hunters, business community

The decline in the White River mule deer herd has been a focal point of concern in Rio Blanco County as hunting season approaches and the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife has taken notice. Biologist Darby Finley, mammals researcher Chuck Anderson and Division of Parks and Wildlife managers Bill de Vergie and Bailey Franklin have ideas about how to improve the herd numbers and want the community’s thoughts.

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A banner bowhunting year

Local Rick Sanny bags cat, bear and elk, putting two in the record books

Local hunter Rick Sanny, who in 2006 moved to Steamboat Springs from Fremont, Neb.,“in pursuit of big game,” had a heck of a hunting year. The property manager for Old West Management bagged a bear, mountain lion and elk last season, two of which garnered state honors. “Last year was amazing,” says Sanny, also a ranch manager at Coal View Ghost Ranch. “Two of my three animals made it into the record book. Hard work, scouting and persistence paid off.”

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Towns in the great outdoors

Northwest Colorado towns offer nationally ranked options for outdoor activities

While hunters travel all across Colorado each year to bag big game, Craig offers one thing other towns don’t. “We have big-game hunting and a large population of other wildlife,” says Rob Schmitzer, the sportsman information specialist for the Craig Chamber of Commerce. “But we also have hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that aren’t over utilized. Craig offers solitude.” In Outdoor Life magazine’s fourth annual rankings of the top 200 towns for sportsmen, Craig ranked 77th, dropping nine spots from last year. But that’s fine with locals, who like to keep the outdoor gem to themselves.

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Forest for the trees

Father-daughter hunting team gear-up for a special season

Eight-year-old Tiana Nichols had an early introduction to hunting. Very early. “Four days after she was born, I took her up to where my tree stand was,” father Gary Nichols says. “That kind of gives you an idea.” Gary, 56, is a deputy sheriff with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. He hunts exclusively with a recurve bow and has been hunting in the area since 1989. He’s involved his daughter in hunts as much as possible since her birth in September 2002.

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Game management units

In this area, 9,700-foot Diamond Mountain is the highest point, dropping to 5,100 feet in elevation at the White River. Sage and sage-grassland dominate, with the typical vegetation groups as the elevation increases. Weather is generally mild through the later seasons, though the higher elevations can have significant snow accumulation. Public land accounts for more than 85 percent of GMU 201.

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Survival skills 101

The Boy Scouts have it right: Be prepared

With most trophy animals off the beaten track, inherent risks come with chasing record-book racks. When hunting, you’ll often be far from help in unfamiliar terrain, and oftentimes you’ll be alone. Knowing basic survival techniques and packing appropriately for mishaps is essential. Just ask Steamboat Springs’ Darrel Levingston, a member of the Routt County Search and Rescue team who has spent many a cold night locating lost hunters.

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10 essentials for backcountry safety

As a checklist of what to take, Routt County search and rescue member Darrel Levingston cites the “Ten Essentials” from the Mountain Rescue Association’s General Backcountry Safety Workbook, with the ability to make fire, stay dry and orient oneself as principal packing priorities:

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Tips for hunting elk

Hunting magazines often display colorful photographs of huge bull elk standing in open meadows presenting easy targets. The reality in the mountains of Colorado, however, is far different. Stalking these animals is challenging and you likely won’t get an easy shot.

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Drop a line after dropping your game

Quality fishing can complement any elk outing

Done dressing your elk? With the Yampa River flowing through the heart of downtown Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Craig, the Elk and White rivers nearby, and countless smaller streams, lakes and reservoirs in the surrounding hillsides, Routt and Moffat counties are the perfect places to complement your hunt with trout fishing. “Fishing is the perfect companion activity to hunting,” says Brett Lee, a veteran hunter and co-owner of Straightline Sporting Goods in Steamboat Springs. “And Northwest Colorado offers some great options.”

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Practice makes perfect

NW Colo. home to numerous talented taxidermists

You’re in good hands if you’re looking to preserve your animal in Craig. The town’s taxidermists are in a league of their own, head and shoulders above those found elsewhere in the field. Want proof? In early June, two local taxidermists accomplished something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Scott Moore and Leland Reinier submitted a collaborative piece to a taxidermy competition and won.

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From the Olympic games to big game

Local Nordic Olympians Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick as solid with bow as they are on skis

While Northwest Colorado is home to trophy elk and deer, it’s also home to hunters who brought home trophies from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Nordic combined skiers with ties to Steamboat Springs brought home seven silver medals from last year’s Games — enough to hang from every point of a Routt or Moffat county bull. And come hunting and fishing season, two of them — Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane — take a break from hunting world titles to set their sights on bow-hunting big game.

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Craig Thrasher: The Hunt of My Life

Olympic downhiller relishes his favorite hunt in Routt County

A member of the U.S. Ski team from 1987 to 2006, including making the Olympic downhill team in 1994, Steamboat-raised Craig Thrasher likes sighting big game as much as he does skiing. “I started hunting the first year I was old enough to hunt grouse, with a single shot .22,” he says. “And we normally got our birds.” He started bow hunting in the late ‘80s with fellow ski team member Lonny Vanatta, and claims he was the 70th person in Colorado to kill eight big game species with a bow.

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Moose on the loose

Want to bag the largest deer in the world? In Northwest Colorado, it’s entirely possible. Since being reintroduced to the region — North Park, specifically — by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife in 1978, moose have thrived in an environment seeming tailor-made for them. Valleys thick with willows, streams, ponds and marshes provide food and shelter for moose, considered by biologists to be the world’s largest deer.

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All in the family

Hunting is a way of life in Northwest Colorado for Lawton family

Up at 3 a.m. Getting acclimated with horses. Heading out before the sun rises. After 15 years, the process is still fairly new to Carrie Lawton, who married into one of the most ardent hunting families in Northwest Colorado. But to her credit, she didn’t grow up with the same routine as the rest of her family. As part of the Lawton clan, Carrie has grown to appreciate the early morning timelessness of hunting as a result of spending time with family patriarch LeRoy Lawton.

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The Curious Case of Richard Kendall

Craig resident’s trophy bear kill erupts into statewide controversy

It was a shot that reverberated around the state and beyond. In November 2010, Craig resident Richard Kendall crawled to the mouth of a dark cave with a .45-70 caliber lever-action rifle. Inside lurked a 703-pound male black bear. Adrenaline pumping, Kendall glimpsed into the cave with a flashlight and briefly made eye contact with the animal.

Hunting business directory

Guided archery, muzzle-loading and rifle hunts for deer and elk from Horse Mountain in the Flat Tops area or for antelope from a desert ranch north of Craig.

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Nailing the Shot

Improved rangefinders, rifles, arrows all help today’s hunters

While people have been hunting big game for centuries, advances in equipment keep making it easier. Foremost on the list, says Rifle’s Kevin Rider, owner of Timberline Sporting Goods, are rangefinders, which help hunters discover exactly how far away a target is and the path their bullet or arrow will take.

Steamboat Springs Triathlon results

Steamboat Springs Triathlon results from Aug. 28, 2011, at Lake Catamount

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Longer Steamboat Triathlon attracts same enthusiasm

In its seven years, the Steamboat Springs Triathlon has acquired plenty of admirers, dedicated fans who’ve swollen the ranks of the annual Lake Catamount-centered event. Many did so again Sunday as the race entered a new era as an Olympic-distance event.

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