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Colorado's 2008 Elk Season
January 29, 2009.
Colorado's 2008 elk season was, by and large, disappointing.
Personally, my 4th season elk hunt (mid-November) was very frustrating. Mild temps and a lack of snow allowed elk to spread out across a remarkably wide portion of their range, making it very hit-and-miss to find them. Little bits of sign were all over the place, but there were no concentrations and I simply didn't get in to elk.
Scattered tree rubs loaded with the neck hair of bulls were as close as I came to the real thing.
The feedback I heard from other rifle hunters was similar — mild weather seemed to make it hard to find the widely scattered elk for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th rifle seasons.
Weather problems persisted even much later in to the season. Some friends did a late-season winter-range cow hunt in northwestern Colorado in early January.
The outfitter who ran the ranch on which they hunted said this was the latest elk migration in the history of the ranch. The winter range, usually crawling with hundreds of elk, was largely empty — the elk were still up in the high country.
Some guys certainly killed elk, but I have not heard anyone who would say that 2008 was a good year for elk hunters.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Division of Wildlife posted some comments on the disappointing season. They noted that, due to weather, "some reliable hunting areas turned out to be vacant of big game."
Another issue they mentioned was the notable lack of concentration of game: "This past summer and fall there was water and food available across the forested lands and high country, consequently animals were widely distributed and more difficult to locate."
Preadation and the impacts of rampant road building related to oil exploration have also been cited as negative factors on hunting success ... but weather factors seem to have been the main influence.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is still crunching the elk numbers.
Aerial surveys are underway to get a population estimate, and official harvest statistics are typically available in late March.
All indications are that 2008 was a tough year for hunters. Unless other factors are keeping populations down, hopefully there will be a lot of elk in the woods for 2009.