|Harvest figures for deer and elk hunters in Colorado fell during 1999 in a hunting season dominated by warm weather that kept many animals out of range.
In 1999, the overall deer harvest for all manners of take was 29,600, down from 40,500 deer in 1998, while 39,700 elk were taken, down from 51,500 killed in 1998. Hunters harvested 22,470 bucks, way down from 31,600 taken in 1998, which at the time was the fewest in more than 50 years. But the 80,650 deer hunters enjoyed a higher success rate in 1999, with 37 percent killing an animal, compared to 27 percent in 1998, when 150,000 deer licenses were issued.
The lower deer harvest numbers and fewer hunters were due to the Colorado Wildlife Commission's January 1999 decision to limit all deer licenses in the state. The intention of limiting deer licenses, which was recommended by Division of Wildlife staff, was to give the state's wildlife managers more flexibility in making management decisions. Historically in Colorado an unlimited number of deer licenses could be purchased over the counter.
Specifically, the decision to limit deer licenses was intended to help achieve the goals of improving harvest success rates for those who draw licenses, and also to reduce hunter crowding, and in some areas, to increase the number of bucks that survive the hunting season, according to John Ellenberger, the Division's big game coordinator.
"We were probably more successful in limiting hunter numbers than we had intended," Ellenberger said. "Limiting the licenses did increase buck-to-doe ratios in some units, and we saw a substantial decrease in hunter pressure."
All deer licenses for the 2000 hunting season were again limited to a draw.
The number of elk harvested in 1999 was much lower than expected and failed to meet the herd size objectives set by the state's wildlife managers. The overall elk harvest for all manners of about 39,700 fell well short of the 51,500 harvested in 1998. The record harvest is 54,000 in 1996.
Seventeen percent of the 239,109 hunters were successful in 1999, also down from 1998 when 20 percent succeeded.
The number of elk in Colorado has grown over time, and the state's herd is the largest in North America. The large population, however, is a threat to habitat in some areas in the state and increases the number of conflicts with private landowners and livestock.
"We didn't reach our harvest objective for antlerless elk this year," Ellenberger said. "The warm, dry weather we experienced during the hunting season last year allowed the animals to stay at higher elevations."
"We also had a drop off in non-resident hunters, which was probably due to deer licenses being limited," he said.
"Hopefully the weather will be better (next season), so we can get back to our objective," he said.
The pronghorn antelope harvest of 8,260 for all manners of take in 1999 was down slightly from the 8,500 animals taken in 1998. The 12,800 antelope hunters in Colorado enjoyed a 65 percent success rate, up slightly from the 63 percent rate of hunters in 1998.
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