As a Colorado native, also, your post saddens me. What's the cause for the decline in deer herds down there, in your opinion? I know bears and lions are usually blamed for the problems with the elk in the SW corner, but no one can conclusively defend that opinion with actual bear and lion sightings. Have you seen more predators, lately?
You're the first hunter who has actually witnessed an increase in bears and lions in the SW, that I've seen. Where I hunt in CO, bears and lions are a very rare sighting. I see sign of them all the time, but don't actually put my eyes on them. Interestingly, the most lion and bear sign I've ever seen was up in one of the trophy elk units in the NW last year. Yet, the elk seem to be doing very well up there, if not better than ever before.
I guess that proves wildlife management is not as cut and dried as some claim.
Worked down in Durango in 2017 and was shocked at how many bears were in that area. Saw several lions driving back and forth to work from Vallicito as well.
CPw really seems to have strange ideas about how to manage and increase the deer herds.
We have had several big winters that have really hit the deer in several areas and yet CPw does not significantly cut deer tag numbers nor seasons to help the deer recover. Buyer beware!
CPw has stopped feeding deer in rough winters and has also stopped private citizens from being able to feed the deer and elk to help them through these rough winters. Guess we should all pray for global warming...
Predator numbers have significantly increased statewide over the last 30 years with stricter seasons, lower quotas and elimination of government trappers. Bears, in particular, focus on deer and elk fawning grounds when they come out of hibernation. With no spring bear season or baiting to draw those bears and kill them, they go to the best food crop available in the spring. Hunting bears in the spring, with dogs, or baiting was made illegal about 25 years ago in Colorado by a voted on constitutional amendment. Lots of “Colorado hunters” voted for that amendment... Probably have “Colorado hunters” Voting to bring in wolves in the next election...
The state’s population has boomed as well. Lots of development and additional traffic state wide. McMansions popping up on winter range and additional fences and traffic in migration corridors. Although this probably has a lower impact to the deer than the previous factors.
All these factors combined make it very difficult for deer herds to recover from bad winters.
CPw has also recently instituted a deer management concept focusing on killing more mature bucks over a large portion of the state - increasing rifle buck tags by up to 50% and decreasing archery tags by up to 50% in those same units even though rifle tag numbers were already 90% of the tags before the increases. Supposedly, to limit the spread of CWD, although that logic doesn’t work. Will likely increase the spread of CWD and also hurt fawn recruitment due to late breeding and birth dates.
Hard to believe it was not that long ago that mule deer were the cash cow for CDOW. Also hard to believe that the state’s hunters pushed for statewide limited tags when our deer herds were in better shape with higher populations than they are now.
Although Colorado has historically had the best mule deer hunting in North America (numbers and quality), CPw seems intent on destruction of the resource.
I was right with you until this statement. IMO, the state-wide limited deer draw was the best thing they could have done for the dwindling Mule deer herds. I've noticed an increase in deer numbers around my place since they implemented it.
You also neglected to state one of the obvious reasons for the decline in deer populations. In many areas the elk have simply displaced them. I hunted around Meeker for 30 years as a kid and young adult. The area was renowned for having some of the best deer hunting in the state. When I first started hunting there at the age of 10, it was rare to even see an elk. Now, there are elk everywhere and the deer population has plummeted.
Look at the mule deer population trends over the years. We just thought we were in trouble when we went to all draw for mule deer.
I agree that going to all draw for deer was a good concept. What is concerning is that the deer populations have not recovered and CPw does not seem to be doing anything to improve the situation.
I did not agree with archery deer being limited, however. Arizona archery deer is primarily not limited and has much more opportunity with September, December and January archery seasons. Archery hunting does not impact deer populations as much as rifle hunting and that is better understood in Arizona.
The first couple of years of the "all draw" showed great potential. Increases to tags in a number of areas and additional early and late rifle seasons knocked the top off rapidly in the years that followed.
With elk as the current "cash cow" for CPw, where do you think they will focus for herd numbers?
Also interesting with the new archery dates forced down deer hunters throats by the "elk only CBA" the early season is not worth spending that many points on as in some units archers will have 4 days to hunt before 300 win mags start blasting 1000 yard shots at the same deer we are hunting effectively ending the archery deer season..
Also I can see with how the deer debacle went this year or it is clear at this point the "elk only CBA" cares about otc elk and flat out threw deer hunters under the buss to get the starting dates their "membership" wanted for otc elk - as otc elk is all that matters right?? This process forced archery deer to get pushed a entire week or more so deer hunters up high lost a ENTIRE WEEK OF HUNTING!! Thanks again CBA some of us do appreciate and see your efforts!
With how the debacle went this will be looked back on as the worst change for archery deer EVER in Colorado basically eroding the experience to the point of is it even worth hunting deer archery? So deer hunters are forced to sacrifice basically everything - just for the otc elk hunters to get a extra week to hunt. Again thanks "elk only CBA"
Lets look at facts or Colorado now have the WORST start dates for deer archery of any WESTERN STATE. Again mule deer hunters lost a entire WEEK of hunting and once the deer shed their velvet and the 300 mags start banign away at 1000 yards it is pretty much over any way.. But hey worth it for the otc elk "membership" due to a sacked study we sent out right "elk only CBA"!!..???
Sad but I can see why bow hunters are getting forced into hunting rifle season as it is honestly the best choice. But hey the "elk only CBA" got a extra week for OTC elk yea!!! Clear to see that the CBA only cares about elk and that position is forcing deer hunters to the later season and I think you have figured out that hunting later is be the best choice available to you.. As it is plain to see that the later starting date of archery to appease the otc elk hunters did more than any change in the past 40 years - to flat out ruin archery deer experience and the reality is that the "elk only CBA" just does not care...
I did a 4th season deer hunt this year with my 76 year old father - not in the gunny basin but he burnt 18 points and it was worth every point as much fun as we had in the end we ate the tag but still a great hunt so to the op the units are out there ya just got to find em and they at this point are not in the gunny basin.
During the big winter of ‘08, CPw refused to start feeding and even threatened to occur citations for private feeding of the deer and elk. There were several nonresident groups (from Texas) that sent truckloads of hay and feed that were not allowed to help. Winter feeding will continue to be illegal in Colorado due to concerns about potentially spreading CWD.
CPw reduced tags in those units, but still continues to have early velvet (on top of bow hunters) and late rut rifle hunts that take a heavy toll on the mature bucks.
The predator populations remain high in the Gunnison basin as well. Predator numbers increased with increased prey populations and the predator population curve lag has been maintained by limited seasons and quotas on the apex predators. Impacts from predation on the deer herd are more pronounced when the population has been stressed. Recovery will take significantly more time with 24/7/365 predation.
On top of the above, current CPw deer management is focused on reducing mature buck numbers to potentially reduce the spread of CWD. The logic truly escapes me with this concept. Tag allocations were adjusted in NW CO in ‘19 to kill more bucks - particularly mature bucks. This concept is currently impacting parts of Eagle County that is historically the highest B&C mule deer producing county in North America.
Without significant changes in deer management policy and strategy ( predator control, further tag reductions, and reinstatement of winter feeding), the Gunnison basin will likely never recover to the “good old days”.
Umm....I hunt deer with my bow from Oct thru December in Colorado. The western slope isn't the only ball game in town for deer hunting.
Eastern CO still has some decent hunting. Totally different than the high country. Mostly private land, flat, later dates. Still some great bucks out there, but getting tougher to find a place to hunt and a lot of outfitters have locked up access. Your best bet from out of state would be to talk to an outfitter out there. Not cheap for the good ones.
There are still good bucks in many mountain units as well. Just getting fewer due to several hard winters and the current CPw management plus, the high country archery season dates have been wreaked. You can still have a good DIY hunt West of I25 though. Many of the units that take a ton of points are absolutely not worth it though.
While most of it is private, and leased up by outfitters, there is 88,000 acres of public walk-in access that sees very little deer hunting pressure. Just 2 weeks ago, I saw a legitimate 200" buck on one of those properties, while pheasant hunting. You have to do your homework, and I suggest a fair amount of scouting, but there are opportunities to kill a trophy buck on the eastern plains without paying an outfitter. The 3 month season, that includes the rut, is a huge bonus, too.
I have a few problems with blaming bears and lions for the dwindling elk herds in SW Colorado. First, the CPW biologists, who actually study this stuff for a living, have ruled out predation as the cause.
Second, if bears and lions are the reason, then why haven't we seen the same problem elsewhere in the state where herds are stronger than ever?
Third, it wasn't that long ago when ranchers and farmers in the SW pressured the CPW into a cow elk slaughtering program to reduce the numbers of elk. Where were all of these bears and lions then?
Fourth, why are all these bears and lions just targeting elk and deer offspring? Have they decided livestock is no longer palatable? I haven't read anything about a huge increase in livestock predation due to bears and lions down there, or anywhere for that matter.
Sorry, the dots just don't seem to connect with that argument, for me.
To think that bears and lions have suddenly lost their appetite for livestock in the SW, and for elk, deer, and livestock, in general, elsewhere in the state seems ignorant to me. But I'm no expert.
The bears they kill have typically been trapped and relocated once then cause trouble again.
I looked but could not find a graph that I have seen starting before the bear fiasco in the 90’s.
It showed the number of bears killed by hunters vs the number killed by the DOW. The DOW was killing very few bears prior to losing spring hunting, baiting and dogs.
Within 2 years, the DOW was killing more bears per year than hunters.
From what I recall, the number of bears killed by the State was more than hunters in every year since that and there were a few where the State killed over 2x the number of bears as hunters.
Pretty F-d up!
How much does it cost us (the license buying hunters) for this? When each one of those bears could be a source of revenue!
If CPw had a clue, they would have told the people complaining about bears that their hands were tied by the amendment. Put it back on the ballot and get it reversed.
I know many of you are still fuming about Amendment 10, and are looking for a reasons to say "I told you so" to the jackwads who pushed it thru. I remember all the doom and gloom predictions how elk and deer hunting was going to be ruined by it. None of that happened. In fact, elk populations have grown in many parts of the state during the nearly 30 years since spring bear hunting/baiting/dogs went away. I didn't like it, either, but it hasn't been the disaster some of you predicted.
BTW, for years I bought a bear tag to have in my pocket during elk season in case I happened to stumble upon one. I never filled one of those tags. I've never even had a close encounter. Perhaps I'm a crappy bear hunter, but surely I would have had a few opportunities, if the bear population was as out of control as some of you claim. Finally, I stopped wasting my money on bear tags.
The “argument” that bears aren’t killing livestock does not hold water.
Livestock owners protect their investment.
Us, as wildlife owners are severely restricted from protecting our big game from predators.
Particularly during the critical birthing season when the bears come out of hibernation.
CPw’s predator counts are notoriously low.
And their statements that predators are not negatively impacting ungulate populations are false and politically motivated.
Do you know for fact that some of your trail cam pics aren't of the same bears? By the same token that my hunting experiences don't reflect the bear populations of the entire state, neither do yours.
I live in cattle, deer, and elk country. In 25 years, I've seen a grand total of 3 bears, the last one was 8 years ago. I own livestock, and I help rancher neighbors who run hundreds of cattle whenever I'm needed. I hunt for 4 months for deer and elk every year out here, rarely missing more than a week or two in the woods during that time. I've never found a bear or lion killed carcass, I've never heard of any livestock being killed by bears or lions, and I've never heard of anyone killing a bear or lion, here. Meanwhile elk have thrived, deer have held steady, and there's more cattle than ever. Those are just my observations in my area.
So, let's assume for the moment that predation is truly the cause of the dwindling elk herds in the SW. Simple question...then why haven't we seen the same problem elsewhere in the state? The ban on spring bear hunting/baiting/dogs applied to the whole state almost 30 years ago. Yet, we are to believe the SW corner is the only place bears and lions have thrived to the point of decimating the elk herds? If so, what caused that unique phenomenon only in the SW?
It's an honest question. Unless you have definitive proof that the CPW is lying to us about the impact of predation on ungulates, it's just your conspiracy theory. I'll side with the experts who are tasked to manage our wildlife, and have done a decent job of it, IMO. Remember, it was only a century ago when elk populations in Colorado were estimated to be only 500-1000 head, now it's 280,000. But then, you probably don't believe those numbers, either.
Go to the auction in January and take a look at all the bear hides from the Dow. And those are the ones they killed and kept. A lot get wasted.
I don’t know how much of an impact it has on deer and elk but it has to have a little affect. It’s more sad and frustrating for me because if that spring bear ban didn’t happen we wouldn’t have so many bears being wasted. Hunters could be killing them and using the meat and supporting business to tan/ Mount the hide.
As far as deer goes. It’s kind of scary the direction they are headed. It’s an all out assault in mule deer it seems.
“That’s what we hung our hat on for almost 15 years because we didn’t have anything else,” Apker said. Matt, this was a quote in the newspaper from CPW on an article when they admitted we have double the bears they thought we had. So your going to trust their numbers? If you can't see the differences in the bear photos I don't know what to tell you. How many pics do I need to post. Also you need to get out of your bubble and go talk to CPW or go to the auctions like Ermine suggested. Go see all the pelts of problem livestock killing bears are their and it is a fraction of what they kill.
Matt, here is some more good reading by the state check out the numbers for bear killed livestock. Almost 500,000 dollars and that was only for the year 2010-2011. It has progressively gotten worse you can look at all the years reports
Hmmm according to this CPW admits the bears and lions are having adverse affects on fawns and calves
Speaking of Game Damage Claims, I found this chart from your link interesting. I'm not sure exactly what it's suppose to be showing us. It shows they paid almost a million dollars for sunflower damage around 2008. I can only assume that means crop damage from sunflowers. What do you suppose caused all those sunflowers to overtake those crop fields? Could it have been the result of deer and/or elk overgrazing those fields? And why do they just specify "Bears" around 2005, but don't mention any other predators in any other years. Was that the only year they paid damages for bear problems? It's a confusing and uninformative chart, if you ask me.
For everyone that sees and thinks Colorado bears are a problem. You should invite people to come shoot them. I’m sure there are quite a few hunters that would love to come shoot a bear.
Come kill one or two.
Colorado bears are my nemesis. After probably 30 tags, still no shots taken.
Seem to just fine on them anywhere else...
If I think there is a problem and there are multiple people that are more than willing to help me fix the problem. I’m going to invite them to help me fix the problem. Not just keep talking about it.
In this case I would start a post with something like this.
“I can help point you in the right direction for bears in Colorado. Tag fee is $xxx and these are the season dates. Send me a pm if interested.”
I’m sure there would be multiple people willing to help.
That's the whole point I've been harping on. Something in the SW is causing the predator/prey imbalance, if predation is the cause, then why haven't other areas experienced the same imbalance? It doesn't add up in my simple mind. I wish some one could educate me.
Could it possibly be that SW ranchers pushed the CPW into an elk eradication program that wasn't needed? Prior to that the elk where thriving, and bears were no problem.
Or, could it be increased human populations in that area has consolidated elk breeding/calving/rearing grounds to where they are easy prey for bears?
Or is there a disease, or an environmental/climate change component involved?
I’m saying if someone perceives them to be a problem and has hundreds on cams they should ask for help in getting rid of the problem.
There are a lot of problems out there. Some are easy to solve some are hard.
Knocking down the bear population seems like an easy problem to solve if a person that sees a lot of them every year wanted the problem solved.
Address the problem, and move on. Pretty simple, really.
Also I don't agree. If there are 20+ bears coming into a camera I am sure there are a ton of better places to hunt for deer and elk. Also if I was to make that type of offer I would try to filter the hunters a little and ask them not to come hunt deer or elk there if that is where I hunt. Most bowsiters probably would honor that. Some might not.
For this specific problem whats the fix than? Colorado will never allow bait, spring bear, or hounds again. Do you try to get the game and fish to pay government hunters to come kill the bears in "your spot"? Or do you kill 1-2 bears a year out of there and keep complaining?
I bet a guy could even do a swap hunt. Help a guy get a bear in Colorado. Then head down to Texas and get an exotic in February. Or maybe info on elk in NM, or whitetails in Kansas, etc. I look at it as a win win.
Anyway that would be my solution if I had a bear problem. If someone has a bear problem they can handle it however they like. It would be nice though if when they came online to complain about it they said something like "I had a flock of bears in the main drainage I hunt elk in this year. I am going to try .... to cut the bear flock down to a herd."
Yes, low deer numbers are the CBA's fault, its science...it must be...haha
Edit: Orion, I rescind the comment above, since your last post actually did something to address the problem. I'm sure a few guys will note the spots you shared with us, and try to kill a bear down there this year. If I don't draw the trophy elk unit tag that I expect to this year, I may consider a trip to Durango this fall.
Good luck this year. I hope both your kids are successful.
Matt uses his own cherry picked information to justify his stance. Why spend so much time arguing with someone who doesn't pay attention to the research.
Predators are known to have a huge impact on survival rates of fawns and calves. In some places significantly higher than others, for no known reason. It's also different from year to year, depending on many unknown factors.
Yet, that's exactly what you did with your "385 bears in a 5 mile radius" information. Pot, meet kettle.
Predators are known to have a huge impact on survival rates of fawns and calves. In some places significantly higher than others, for no known reason.
Umm, I think that's exactly the point I've been making, repeatedly. No one knows the reason for exploding bear populations and declining elk herds in the SW, or they won't admit it, if they do know. I think multiple factors have caused it, and I hope the CPW and hunters figure out the solution, quick.
Seems to me that many threads go off the rails when people post BS with nothing to back it up and others call them out.
There's also no disputing that most western states have significantly more prey for bears than they've had in the past. Cause and effect, perhaps?
I do agree, however, if you feel your area has a predator/prey imbalance, then hunters should use every opportunity they have to address the solution. Perhaps kill a bear or two before chasing elk? Just a thought.
To the OP, I elk hunted unit 55 a few times 5-10 years ago. Feel free to PM me if you want my somewhat dated intel in some areas of Unit 55.
Bears on the other hand are a different story all together. At my place (in the early 2000’s) you were lucky if you saw 1 bear during a 2 week Summer vacation stay there and we did a lot of glassing from the deck. Now, you may see about 5-6 during a 2 week stay. This year, I should draw for mule deer and will be buying a bear tag!