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Want A Successful Hunt? Do Your Homework

Greg Reed

the phone calls every so often, the ones that make him chuckle.

But then the public information specialist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Northwest Region simply spells things out for those callers.

The calls often start the same: “I want a deer or an elk ” what’s the best Game Management Unit in Colorado to hunt?” If only it were that easy.

As Hampton points out ” and most Colorado big-game hunters already know ” there’s much more to it

than that.

“Are you hunting for meat or hunting for horns?” Hampton asks. “If it’s a trophy hunter that wants a big bull, there’s certain units that they want to look at more than others. If they want a cow, a better success rate, a better chance of harvest, than there’s other units.”

And, possibly the most important question: When are you going to be hunting? There’s archery season in late August and muzzleloader season from Sept. 9-17 … and four rifle seasons, ranging from Oct. 14 to Nov. 19.

“I don’t think there are bad units,” Hampton said. “I can find you an elk or a deer in any unit in northwest Colorado. There’s units that are tougher to hunt, there’s times of the year where one unit may be better than others.”

Consider that the harvest numbers have been good of late and that adds to the success rate.

“The harvest in northwest Colorado was fairly good,” Hampton said. “We’ve got enough late seasons, late cow seasons, that we can get a pretty good harvest.”

With warmer weather affecting other parts of the state, the 2005 elk harvest was approximately 57,000 elk. Divide that by the 246,000 hunters statewide and that’s a 23-percent success rate.

“That’s down from the previous year, but we’ve had three out of four years that were record years,” Hampton notes. “It was a good harvest, it was successful and we did what we needed to do.”

Homework

“Hunting takes a lot of science, a lot of art, a lot of work and a lot of luck,” Hampton said. “But you make your own luck in a lot of ways.

“You’ve got to be willing to work hard and do your homework.”

It’s no big secret that the best chance for trophy elk is in the state’s extreme northwest, in GMUs 1,2,10 and 210. But licenses are limited there because the area is managed for quality and one of the main reasons Colorado uses the preference-point system.

Then again, that depends on which season you’re hunting and what the weather does.

“We can’t predict the weather,” Hampton said.

But hunters can do a little research, then decide which GMU to hunt.

Hampton points to GMU 24, east of Meeker in the White River National Forest as the perfect example.”That’s a spectacular elk unit,” he said.

Vanek, who is the monthly hunting columnist for the Greeley Tribune, has only seen two hunting accidents in his 34 years of hunting.

Both times it involved people being hit in the face.

When hunting in large groups, Vanek said it is important to keep track of each person and know which direction everybody is firing.

Along with remembering to always be careful when shooting around other people, Vanek has three

other important gun rules to follow when hunting:

The No. 1 hazard to avoid when hunting is carrying your gun while crossing a fence, Vanek said.

He said it is easy to get caught up in the barbed wire and fall on your gun or scratch the rifle’s wood.

Hand the gun to your hunting partner while you climb over, or if alone, lay the gun on the ground or against a fence post before attempting to cross.

“You just can’t be too careful,” Vanek said. “The opportunity for disaster is there.”

Next, the safety of your gun should always be on until the moment you are preparing to shoot.

Finally, the gun should be carried with both hands and with the

barrel always pointed to the sky, Vanek said.

Lammers said that once all safety precautions are taken the only thing left to remember is that hunting is about enjoying the experience.

“It’s not so much about killing as it is hunting,” Lammers said. “You don’t say ‘I’m going out killing.’ You have to enjoy the hunt. That’s where all the fun is.”

Greg Reed is can be reached at the Grand Junction Free Press.

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