It’s the sportsman’s time of year |

It’s the sportsman’s time of year

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk A bull elk lifts it head and sniffs the air as a cow elk grazes nearby. His harem of cows was eleven, and he kept a close watch over them as they grazed around him. Every now and again he would bugle, evoking other males to respond from across the valley. The second of four elk rifle hunting seasons is currently underway.

The sun rises over the Rocky Mountains to a cool, crisp autumn morning. As you sip the last of your coffee, you look out into the wilderness and try to assess how your day is going to go. Welcome to the 2004 Colorado big game season.The fall hunting season is in full effect, as the second of four elk rifle seasons hits its third day today. Some of the best spots are right around the corner.”There’s a lot of good hunting in Summit County,” said Breckenridge’s Terry Ruckriegle. “The best times are early in the morning and late in the afternoon.”On Oct. 30, the opening day of the third elk rifle season of the year, Ruckriegle will take a break from his duties as the Chief District Judge of Colorado’s 5th Judicial District to head into the national forest near Kremmling to hunt deer and elk. “There certainly is a camaraderie involved,” Ruckriegle said. “Being with friends and being in the outdoors is such a release from the everyday pressures that you have.”

Frisco’s Tom Stevenson will also be heading out on the 30th, though his destination will be the Flat Tops Wilderness near Meeker.”I’m thinking it’s going to be pretty good this year,” said Stevenson, who is enjoying his first full season in Colorado after relocating from Michigan last November. “The elk herds seem pretty strong, especially in this area.”According to Felix Lesmerises, an avid hunter and owner of Eddie Bear’s gas station and gun shop in Silverthorne, recent colder temperatures bode well for local hunters.”The cold forces the elk down from mountaintops,” he said. “They then tend to herd up. Before, they are alone or in groups of two or three and can be hard to find. When they herd up, you have a better chance.” The current season ends Sunday. The third season stretches from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, and the final season runs Nov. 6-10.

While hunting sometimes sparks wild debates about the treatment of wild animals, most hunters stand behind their beliefs very proudly.”The process of getting out there and getting your own food is rewarding,” said Ruckriegle. “It’s still you against nature, no matter how you cut it.” Added Lesmerises, “You almost have to be a lawyer to hunt. You can’t shoot anything without a license – period. This is one of the most highly regulated industries.”Hunting Licenses

No animal in Colorado can be killed without a proper license, also known as tags. Most tags are issued through an application, but many tags remain unissued after the application process ends in April.According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) Web site, leftover tags are still available for big game in Colorado. Hunters are encouraged to research the available tags on the Web site, but in a new partnership with retailers across the state, sportsmen can pick up those tags at authorized retailers. A list of every available leftover tag and every authorized agent is available on the site. More than a dozen licensed agents operate in Summit County.

Chronic Wasting Disease The DOW also encourages all hunters to have their game tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which attacks the brains of deer and elk, eventually killing them. Though no evidence has ever been found to show that the disease can be transmitted to humans, the DOW recommends certain safety precautions when handling carcasses, including using rubber gloves and specific techniques for recovering raw meat. For more information on CWD, including studies on the disease and testing centers, visit the DOW Web site, Richard Chittick can be reachedat (970) 668-3998, ext. 236 or at

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