Posts Tagged ‘Elk Hunting’


September 12, 2011

Folks, this is nothing short of incredible! Perhaps if time allows I will run a series about hunting in this very area for more than twenty years…

MEEKER, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in cooperation with two local landowners, is  offering big-game hunters  an opportunity to apply for a limited number of high-quality elk and mule deer hunts on private ranch land in the Meeker area.

A total of 27 hunts will be available to hunters who have already drawn limited deer and elk licenses for Game Management Unit 23 for the coming big-game seasons. Hunters who are interested in applying for these hunts must do so in writing by October 3.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hunters,” said District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of this chance to enjoy this rare, high-quality private land hunting experience.”

This unusual opportunity grew out of the working relationship between local rancher Mike Grady, the Klinglesmith family and wildlife managers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Local wildlife managers are spearheading a large-scale big-game habitat improvement effort in the region. Grady and the Klinglesmith family have placed conservation easements on more than 13,000 acres of important big-game habitat in the area and are participating in the habitat improvement program.

The properties are within the White River mule deer and elk herd units, which are the two largest big-game populations in the state of Colorado. Habitat varies on the 13,000-acre properties, consisting of high elevation aspen forest, mountain shrub lands and lower elevation pinyon-juniper woodland and sagebrush.

A limited amount of public access for mule deer and elk hunting was negotiated as part of the perpetual conservation easement agreements on both the LK Ranch and the Grady properties, which are jointly managed as a big-game recreational hunting enterprise. Some limited form of public access will now occur annually on these properties.

Between now and October 3, the Meeker Service Center of Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be accepting applications from hunters with valid tags for GMU 23. These hunts are open to all eligible hunters, though special preference will be given to youth and military veterans. There is no cost associated with the application.

The following hunts will be available:

–  Second regular rifle season – 10/22 through 10/30/2011
– Applicant must have drawn a limited deer license for DM012O2R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and indicate interest in buck deer hunts
– Five day access – Days are selected by landowners and the Meeker District Wildlife Manager

– Fourth regular rifle season – 11/16 to 11/20/2011
– Applicant must have drawn a limited elk license for EE012O4R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and indicate interest in the bull elk hunt

First Cow Season – 11/25 to 11/29/2011
– Five hunters will be selected
– Applicant must have drawn a limited license, or purchase a leftover license for hunt code EF011P5R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and indicate interest in the first season cow elk hunt

Second Cow season – 12/3 to 12/7/2011
– Five hunters will be selected
– Applicant must have drawn a limited license or purchase a leftover license for hunt code EF023P5R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and indicate interest in the second season cow elk hunt

– Third Cow season – 12/11 to 12/15/2011
– Five hunters will be selected
– Applicant must have drawn a limited license or purchase a leftover license for hunt
code EF023P5R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and note interest in the third cow elk hunt

– Fourth Cow Season – 12/19 to 12/23/2011
– Four hunters will be selected
– Applicant must have drawn a limited license or purchase a leftover license for hunt code EF023P5R
– Applicant must confirm eligibility and indicate interest in the fourth cow elk hunt

To be considered for these hunting opportunities, eligible hunters must submit an application to:

Colorado Parks & Wildlife – Meeker Service Center Attn:  Bailey Franklin/Special LK Ranch Hunts PO Box 1181, Meeker CO 81641
All applications must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, October 3, 2011.

Applications can be printed from our website at the following link:

Hunters who have qualified will receive notification and specific dates and details in early October.

All selected hunters will be required to follow travel restrictions and access rules designated on a LK Ranch public hunt map.

Please call the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Meeker with any questions, at (970) 878-6090.


For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:

Range Report: Shooting minute of Elk

September 30, 2010

Today was sight in day at our local range, and, I just happened to have put together some Elk fodder for the Marlin XL7. Now, 270 Winchesters are known for fine accurate and for being pretty picky when it comes to what you feed them. The brand doesn’t seem to matter, you just have to hunt for the right load combination and or factory ammunition. Which can get pretty expensive.

To add to the confusion, brands that you think would match up sometimes don’t really function all that well. I’ve owned several Remington rifles, and, for an example; none of them shot Remington ammunition worth a hoot! They all shot extremely well using Federal products though.

My Marlin has been not to kind to Nosler bullets, which I happen to really like. But Sierra? They all seem to shoot like a dream. Since I don’t have a lot of time to work up an Elk load, I popped open the Sierra loading manual, and had a go at it. Please note that what follows is safe in my rifle, but may not be in yours. Work up loads cautiously, and never exceed maximum loads. Also, this was not really a reloading situation, as this was new unfired Remington brass.

Components are as follows. Brass, as noted above, was new unfired Remington, fully prepped including deburring the flash holes, and sizing the primer pockets. Cases were full length sized using an RCBS X-Die.

Primers were Federal Large Rifle, and the chosen bullet was the Sierra GameKing 150 grain. Cartridge overall length was set at 3.316 inches, and the powder used was Reloader 22.

My particular rifle has a history of shooting better with the hotter loads, but I also had not tried any 150 grain bullets in it yet, so I stuck with the book recommendations. The best accuracy load was listed at 53.7 grains of powder, with the hunting load at 55.2 grains. I used Remington Core-Lokt 150 grain ammunition as a control.

The range was pretty crowded with people waiting for a shooting station, so this had to be brief. Allowing the barrel to completely cool just was not possible.

Range, 100 yards for all loads, with the temperature in the upper 70’s and the humidity was right around 50 percent according to The Weather Channel. Winds were variable, but nothing really serious, maybe an occasional gust at 10 mph. All shots were from a bench using rests, and I had the luxury of a spotter this day. 🙂

Control group: 5 rounds of Remington Core-Lokt 150 grain. After a fouling round had been shot. 1.5 inches.

The lighter Accuracy recommended load of 53.7 grains of R 22 powder came in at just under 1 inch. 🙂

The heavier charge , same bullet and powder. Came in at 1/2 inch! I am sighted three inches high at one hundred yards, and should be able to shoot using no adjustment out to 250 yards.

That friends, is minute of Elk, and then some!


March 18, 2010


Hey DOW Insider!

Have you ever wanted to try elk hunting and wondered; where do I start? Where do I go?  Who do I need to know?

Join Hunter Outreach Coordinator Jim Bulger, and his cadre of experienced Huntmasters, for a series of articles that will get you into the field with the confidence and skills to help you harvest an elk.  Elk Hunting University (EHU) is written by real hunters and conservationists with years of field experience, who will show you the ropes to make your hunt more successful.  Go to:

where you will learn about licenses, where to hunt and tips for hunting in 2010.  Then, follow the article series for the next six months as we move through the intricacies of buying your license, scouting, marksmanship, and other key elements of planning the best Colorado elk hunt.

With over 280,000 elk, Colorado is proud to be the elk capital of the world! And the Colorado Division of Wildlife is pleased to offer the first online, species-specific hunting training Elk Hunting University.  Start building the skills today that will help you fill your tag this year.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:

New Videos from Colorado DOW

February 25, 2010

These are just great! Even if you don’t hunt or fish watch them just for the scenery!


DENVER, Colo.–Big game hunters can now experience the excitement and adventure of Colorado elk hunting by immersing themselves in “Elk Camp Colorado,”the latest online video from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Filmed in high-definition video and recorded in digital audio, “Elk Camp Colorado” takes viewers on an intimate journey deep into Colorado’s backcountry, capturing one of the most time-honored and cherished big game hunting traditions–the elk camp.

The 12-minute video also provides a wealth of information to assist hunters, including overviews of Colorado’s big game hunting regulations and license application process.

“This video is a wonderful tool for helping people get started and teaching them to be more successful on their hunt,” said Tyler Baskfield, DOW communications manager.  “It’s also highly entertaining and does a great job at getting people excited about hunting in Colorado.”

From the haunting bugle of a wild bull elk to the unique camaraderie shared by friends exchanging hunting stories around a crackling campfire, “Elk Camp Colorado” encompasses the true essence of the hunt, laced with spectacular fall scenery and crystal-clear wildlife imagery.

In addition, the video introduces viewers to the Natural Diversity Information Source mapping system.  Available on the Colorado Division of Wildlife Web site, the NDIS incorporates statewide hunting statistics, up-to-date Game Management Unit boundaries, USGS maps and other “must-have” information for big game hunters.

With more than 23 million acres of public hunting access, over-the-counter licenses and the largest elk population in North America, there has never been a better time to experience the thrill of a Colorado elk hunt. Get started today by viewing “Elk Camp Colorado.”

To play “Elk Camp Colorado” and other Division of Wildlife online videos, viewers need  high-speed Internet connections and the latest version of Adobe Flash installed on their computers.

Hunters may view “Elk Camp Colorado” on Page 14 of the DOW’s new “2010 Big Game Regulations” e-brochure.  The innovative and interactive brochure allows readers to access Colorado’s big game regulations and supplemental, embedded video content.  Hunters may access the DOW’s online brochure at the following link:

Or, videos may be accessed directly at:

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:

Deer tales: Continued

January 5, 2010

Continuing from HERE:

Charlie took the boys to the road nearby and showed them how to pluck the birds without getting down all over the campsite while Jason saw to the trout as I fired up the Coleman stoves, and got the fire going in the ring. The fire ring is a bit of a story in and of itself.

When we discovered this tiny piece of land that pierced the private property into national Forrest the fire ring was there, but nearly buried. As Charlie and I dug it out we noticed that several of the large stones that made it up were carved into. Most simply had name cut into the stone, along with dates. A couple of them were really surprising though; One said Jim Thom (son, I think, it was pretty unreadable), it was dated 1836 and said “I killt a Silver bar here” sic. Meaning, a Silver-tip, or grizzly I surmise. Another said a name that I do not remember, but said “Good beaver area, but the Indians are pretty bad.” Dated 1842, others had names and dates all the way up to 1942. So much for “discovering!”

The stoves heated up, and I was stoking the fire to roast the grouse on when all of a sudden the boys let out a shriek, Charlie screamed for me to get the rifle and I instinctively looked in that direction. At the same time I heard a loud snort, and a large black bear  came tearing through camp and cleared the stream in a single leap… To this day I’m not sure who was more afraid, the boys, or that 300 pound bear!

We got the crew fed and watered, did a last check on the gear,and turned in… I know the boys didn’t sleep a wink, not after the bear and the excitement of their first high country hunt. Four A.M. came early, and both boys were blurry eyed, but fired up and ready to head out. Breakfast was out of a can, corned beef hash, and Texas Toast Colorado camp style. meaning hobo bread cut thick, and more or less burnt on the stove!

Then we headed out. Jerry decided to head up the near side mountain alone. It is almost straight up, but, if you can make it to timberline the chances of getting a shot at a Colorado Classic Timber Buck are pretty good, and if things didn’t work out that way on the hike back down you would be on top of where a herd of does tended to congregate. (He had tags for both sexes.)

Charlie took Michael down the road to the trail that led toward the Great Muddy Slide (Do a web search) intending to get Michael onto a Bull Elk as the big fellas tend to use a saddle near there to cross between the parks in the area.

I tossed our tree branch bridge across the stream, and took Jason with me. I looked at him and told him to unload the rifle. he asked why,and I told him that after crossing our “bridge” that he would understand, I also told him that, with this being his first hunt that he would shoot the first legal animal that he had tags for… That there were plenty of future hunts when he could look for horns that he couldn’t eat. With an OTC Buck tag, and an Elk tag to match he had also drew a doe deer tag. I felt confident that he would at least have a decent chance at bringing home some freezer food.

I wiped down my rifle, and told Jason to go and get a change of clothes on, and we would try again. Yes, he fell into the stream… I told him that he scored a solid five for form and demeanor. That’s right, at one time or another each of us has taken that ride! ( My best score, as assigned by Charlie, was an eight. he refused to allow me any extra for cursing etc. After all, he has the Championship at nine…)

Jason’s second attempted crossing went much better, and we headed across the scrub meadow to the gate that gave access to the forest, the fog was settling now, and I knew that would be good for hunting. It seemed to confuse Deer, Elk,and Bears, and that gave us two legged predators an edge. Jason asked, is this why you call it the enchanted forest? Sure is I responded. ” Jason, this fog gets pretty thick at times. If we get separated for some reason, stay put, don’t go wandering around. It will burn off in an hour or two, and we will hook back up. He acknowledged what I had said, added that he had been told of sudden drop offs, and that we had better start whispering because the fog would carry our voices. I nodded to his wisdom, chambered a round quietly, and motioned for him to do the same, and follow me.

I call it the enchanted forest because in the dense fog anything, and everything can, will, and just might blow your mind as it happens. After about going a hundred feet, I shifted off the trail went to a blow down, and sat, getting acclimated to the surreal environment. Jason whispered to me about the scope covers,and I told him to keep them on for now, that the fog would probably mess with things. Just then the boys eyes got really wide as he looked past my shoulder. Thinking that the bear had decided to exact a little revenge for the earlier fright that had been put into him (or the peanut and honey sandwiches that were in our backpacks!) I slipped the Ruger 41 Mag from the holster at my hip,and slowly turned… Jason, sat there as quiet as a church mouse, and popped the covers from the scope.

I got turned, my eyes focused on the front sight and did a hasty search of the area that had been behind me… No, no bear was in sight. I glanced at my watch; legal hunting time was ten minutes past. I whispered; Jason, he’s really close, and hes facing us almost straight on, I want you to aim at his nose, right between his nostrils… I think I heard an “Uh huh” and the Remington shattered the strange quiet of the Enchanted forest… “Jason follow me!” I yelled we ran a scant ten feet and I told him to “rack a round, get up next to him, and put it right where his front leg joins his chest, point at the same spot on his other side, and pull the trigger!” ‘Okay, he said, then what? Do it again, then get back behind me and reload!” The boy did as I had said… for the first shot. He turned and asked, the fear in him very apparent; “Is he dead?”

I yelled ” I don’t know, now shoot him again like I told you to do!” He did, and got right behind me and loaded three more rounds into the rifle that has earned the nickname “Mister Death.”

The smell of Elk urine was more than apparent, as in death the huge Bull Elk died. I looked at Jason, and told him. “You just did something that few life long Elk hunters accomplish Jason, say a prayer.” Jason’s first big game animal was a Branch Antlered Rocky Mountain Elk Bull. A Basic six point, with a seventh nub point. After the required drying period, it scored 370 even. I told him that Charlie would be one of two things. Pissed, or really proud. Why is that Jason asked as he stared at the noble beast that would be used for food and many other things. ” Because, I think this is the Bull that Charlie fell out of a tree a few years ago trying to arrow it!”

As we went about the real work involved in a successful Elk hunt I noted that my time in Africa had payed off in spades. The very first bullet had hit dead center under the Bulls chin, and broken it’s spine at the second cervical vertebra. Still, I was glad that I had had the young one shoot twice more. “It’s the dead ones that kill you.” I don’t know how many times I have heard that. I don’t know how many times it should be repeated. But? It is a truth of truths, and must be passed on.

By about  ten in the morning we were ready for the first phase of the haul back to camp. The Bull was quartered and tagged as the law required. I had showed Jason how to make a pack frame of his basic backpack. We heard two shots in rapid succession from the west. That would be Charlie and Michael.

“Why are the horns, hide, and other quarters strung up in the trees? And why double looped? He asked” Because you made a “friend” last night son,and, because it’s just good sense to keep your meat cool. We headed back to camp,and no, he didn’t get any style points for crossing…

We hung the meat after putting the pieces into bug bags, and prepared to head back up when we heard a shot. It was close, within two hundred yards. Then we heard Jerry’s voice; “Hail the Camp! Anyone there? I could use some help, I got a Doe!”

On our way Bro! I yelled. I looked at Jason and said. “He don’t know it, but he just became a Mule!”

We hiked the distance…. About fifty feet… Yelled to Jason to get his butt over here, dragged the doe away from the road. Gutted her, and as Jason arrived I told him? “Nice shooting! Now, let’s get her back to camp, and then the real work will start!” We did a quick and dirty field dress of the Doe. Got her back in Camp, and hung her on the Camp Tree. I told him then; “You ready to work now?” he looked at me like I was dumb stupid… Your Son did better than you, me,Charlie,or any of the guys at work have ever friend. Three more loads Bro. You up for it?”

“Lead the way Ranger.” Now,that, is the sort of response that I expect from a Marine. After all, I am a Marine Corps Brat!

I am ending this thing now, but, it didn’t really end there. There was a First Fish caught on a fly. A lesson in making wet wood burn. A bear cub that decided that our camp was home, and many other things.

Oh? Those shots that we heard off to the west? Charlie finaly got his elk, and Michael got his first Deer.

Cross posted to Hunters Central in Yahoo groups

America’s Top 20 Trophy Elk Counties

October 9, 2009

I’ve been blessed living in Colorado and Wyoming in many ways. Not the least of which would be the excellent hunting offered in both states. What of the history involving what is my favorite big game species? As in big racks, not the spiritual connection with nature when one is out in the wilds.

Read on

MISSOULA, Mont.—America’s top 20 trophy elk counties have produced a combined 602 record-book bulls, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has invested millions to keep habitat in those counties in top condition.

Elk Foundation projects in trophy counties have included prescribed burns, treating noxious weeds and thinning overgrown forests to enhance forage for elk and other wildlife, restoring riparian zones, constructing wildlife drinkers, brokering land deals that improve public access, many kinds of research, public and youth education, and more “all funded primarily through our network of volunteers and system of fundraising events,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

Of course, RMEF funds identical projects all across elk country, not just top trophy counties. Nationwide, at a cost of over $448 million, RMEF has completed 6,371 projects that have protected or enhanced more than 5.6 million acres. The effort has helped U.S. elk populations grow by over 40 percent since 1984.

Trophy statistics below were compiled from Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) records. The club recognizes four categories of elk records. Those categories, along with their respective minimum scores for inclusion in B&C all-time records, are: American typical elk—375, American non-typical elk—385, Roosevelt’s elk—290, and tule elk—285.

Here are America’s top 20 trophy elk counties with RMEF conservation activities*:

Full story here

Related story here



Shoot Straight & Be Safe!

It is about that time again!

August 18, 2008

I took some time this past weekend to get up into the high country, even though I will not be able to enjoy it this year. My friends were scouting Elk at an elevation ranging between nine and eleven thousand feet. The area is commonly known as “The Muddy Slide.”

This is in Routt County, near Lynx Pass, it is one heck of a hike from the areas where you can set a camp up to get to the parks, and black timber where the Wapiti like to hang out.It is however, well worth the effort to do so. Just a short distance away is the Gore Pass area, that is most often inundated with road hunters.That is fine with me. It is also probably the single largest factor in why so often the Elk harvest is around twenty percent success. Over the years, my friends and I have averaged closer to forty percent success harvesting Elk by all legal methods. It would be even higher if we didn’t regularly pass on shots.

Bottom line? The Elk are moving, and the rut is in it’s early stages. The guys were all still out when I made it into camp. I used a diaphragm to blow out a few cow mews, and was rewarded by the sound of not one, but three young bulls that were off in the black timber.Prime time is still about a month away, so this was a very good sign.

I will be up in Wyoming when the big bulls begin to roar across my beloved Colorado Rockies. Indeed, with Wyoming taking a year to establish residency it could be two years before I can hunt again. Such are the vagaries of life. It is all well and good though, areas fifteen and sixteen have been very good to me over the years.


July 1, 2008

Let’s start a bit of controversy, among my friends, as well as others that wish to weigh in. Just what, is the best rifle type, and caliber for the most common type of hunting that you do, where you live.

Here is my honest answer: There just isn’t one. Small game I like the Ruger Ten Twenty Two, 10/22. Varmints that are a bit to large for the 22 long rifle? I have long been a fan of the Remington model 700 medium weight barrel rifle chambered in 22/250. For Deer sized game, and Pronghorns? Several combination will do the job, and again, territory has a lot to do with this… Model 700 in 280 Remington; But if I could have two? A model 70 in 257 Roberts, and a Marlin 336 in the venerable 30/30. Then we get to big deer, and Elk, and Bears that top 400 pounds. The 300 Winchester Magnum wins hand down for caliber and I could care less if the rifle is Ruger, Winchester, or Remington. I have a caveat here though. In thick stuff, like dense Elder, or Black Timber? The Marlin guide gun in 450 Marlin…

This was for North America, let the fireworks begin! 🙂

Fly Fishing, again :)

June 11, 2008

“Yes young man, it is an addiction.”

That was my response to Robert “Bob” Graves, a co-worker at Haley Paramedic Ambulance. He, some how, I mean, I wouldn’t know… Had become bitten by the Fly Fishing bug.

“It is an insidious thing indeed.” So said Senior Paramedic Arthur ( A. Flippin) Flippin Paramedic. An emerging Master Outdoors man.

But, I knew that this young man had promise as he watched me tying an Adams. “That’s an Adams isn’t it?” Correct I responded. I also gave him a little bit of hard earned knowledge about that Adams pattern, as it is best used along the Colorado front range.

The Adams pattern is very versatile, it imitates many Mayflies in sizes from 12 to 16. It really shines though as a Midge imitation. Especially along the South Platte river below Cheeseman. That would be in sizes 18 all the way to 24, if you can tie them, and then attach them without the fly blowing off up the canyon, that is.

It is also productive along Boulder Creek, each tributary. Although not nearly as effective as Gray Caddis patterns, or a Gold Ribbed hares Ear, as far as that goes. And so the session went on. Bob was a terrific student, and, he even provided Guinness when he chose to visit.

This is beginning to look like an expensive hobby he noted on one such occasion. Nonsense I replied, after all, that Bull Elk that you are sighted upon will provide many years worth of flies, after all. “With a 264 that is more than twenty years old he asked?” I felt much like a Jedi Warrior, instructing a young protege… Have faith young man… And “pull the damned trigger!”

And so it goes, life as an outdoors-man in Colorado. Bringing new ones into the fold.

Bob moved away, to some Shangrila called South East Alaska. He bought a Marlin rifle in 450 Marlin for holding big bears at bay, and a Winston bamboo fly rod, just because he could. Something tells me that he may be in need of some small bit of guidance … Just a little … I may have to plan a trip to see him … 😀

Energy Development in the PICEANCE BASIN

April 17, 2008

The PICEANCE BASIN, my stomping grounds. That is where I learned to hunt branch antlered Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Elk, the hard way. During the seemingly never ending  drought years, and later during years when multiple Doe Deer tags were available in an attempt to keep the deer from eating themselves out of house and home.

It is the place where I learned that a flat shooting 280 rifle was plenty enough to bring home the venison, and that shoulder canons just cost more money. I’ll cover that at a later time in more depth.

It is where the last energy boom brought the boom / bust cycle back to an area that was only to familiar with those economics. Oil shale was going to save us all. Not…

Then the development had little negative impact on the land that I could detect. That was also a different type of mining though. I have been privileged to draw more than one license for the Forrest of the Bear, Bosque Del Oso State Wildlife Area near Westcliff, Colorado. The area is covered with natural gas wells, and the deer and elk don’t seem bothered by them in the least. Nor do the Wild Turkeys that abound there. The noise from them is something else though, you have to hear it to understand what I mean though, as words simply cannot convey what it is like to put a good sneak on a big tom then to have your nerves suddenly shattered by the load screech from a nearby well…

I have no idea what the impact on the Sage Grouse will be, as noted below, the species is under review for EPA protection as endangered. If those birds are endangered it is because no one actually went out and took a look for them, perhaps with the help of a good flushing dog. Find the right pockets, and you will be into thousands of those birds. Hint* Ryans Gulch, go to the top of the hill heading west from Piceance Creek road. Park, and hike due west. You will find birds…

Energy experts say Colorado’s Piceance Basin is one of the largest natural gas reserves in North America. Biologists, conservationists and sportsmen value the Piceance Basin because for its incredible diversity and abundance of wildlife. As the energy industry makes a move to tap the gas resource, wildlife experts are examining ways to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to wildlife and habitat.
The Piceance Basin is home to one of the largest migratory mule deer herds in the nation. It winters thousands of elk. The basin is also home to a high-elevation population of greater sage-grouse, Colorado River cutthroat trout, and numerous other species, both rare and common.
Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) researchers are working with the energy industry and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to study ways to reduce and mitigate the impacts that thousands of gas wells may have in the Piceance Basin. The DOW’s Central Piceance Basin Project brings together a strong team of researchers that will implement a comprehensive, multi-species, landscape-based approach to understanding the success of existing mitigation efforts and helping to craft new mitigation strategies.
“We’re looking for solutions,” explained Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for the DOW. “We want to advise energy companies on ways to minimize their impacts. As a wildlife agency, our role is to make sure that the wildlife resource survives and thrives while this work is occurring and after the gas is gone.”
The Central Piceance Basin Project is one of the largest comprehensive energy and wildlife studies proposed to date, with an estimated cost of more than $1.3 million dollars a year over the next five to ten years. Initial support for the project is strong.
“As an agency, we stepped out on a limb and hired researchers to conduct the studies, but we aren’t going to get the work done without help,” added Velarde. “It isn’t just money. We’re asking companies, conservation groups and other agencies to work with us by providing things like volunteers, expertise, permission to access land, and agreements to allow habitat manipulations that might be outside of the norm.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency that regulates drilling activity in the state, has contributed $150,000 towards the research project. The Colorado Mule Deer Association has made a $100,000 pledge to support deer research in the Piceance Basin. The national Mule Deer Foundation has also contributed $15,000. BLM is requesting $100,000 a year for five years through their budget process to support this project.
Three natural gas industry leaders – EnCana, Shell and Williams – have committed to assist with the project. In addition to pledging significant financial support, the companies have agreed to allow researchers to access thousands of acres of land the companies own in the research area.
EnCana, one of the largest natural gas firms operating in western Colorado, has pledged $900,000 in financial support for the research effort.

“Supporting a program that will ultimately inform our industry about additional ways to minimize the impacts to wildlife and their habitat while still providing a much needed clean-burning resource is an important part of doing business in Colorado,” said Byron Gale, North Piceance Team Lead, EnCana Oil & Gas (USA). “As a community, we all enjoy what this great State has to offer – we want to preserve its great landscape and heritage for the generations that will follow.”
Williams, another large producer in the region, has committed $550,000 to the project.
“Williams is committed to working in partnership with DOW, BLM and other agencies to conduct ground-breaking research that will provide critical data concerning Colorado’s wildlife,” added Rob Bleil, Williams’ principal environmental specialist.
While not producing large quantities of natural gas in the Piceance, Shell is actively researching oil shale possibilities in the basin and has pledged $325,000 to the Piceance wildlife research thus far.
“We especially appreciate the cooperative and collaborative approach taken by DOW to develop real partnerships that will benefit wildlife and habitat but also accommodate the development and production of the energy Colorado needs,” commented Terry O’Connor, Manager of Government Affairs for Shell Exploration and Production Company. “We plan to continue to partner with the DOW and others to develop the knowledge, understanding and expertise to not only minimize impacts to wildlife but make real improvements in management and recreation related to wildlife in Colorado.”
It isn’t just large companies that are supporting the effort. Delta Petroleum has pledged $25,000 over the next five years to help fund the research.
Another critical show of support for the DOW research project has come from the BLM, the federal agency that manages the majority of land and wildlife habitat in the Piceance Basin and oversees federal oil and gas leasing.
“BLM looks forward to working very closely with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and industry partners in developing these research proposals for the Piceance Basin,” said Kent Walter, Field Manager for the BLM’s White River Field Office. “Close coordination from the beginning and continued flexibility from all partners will ensure this research provides the most useful information to best minimize future impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat.”
Assistance for the project has also been provided by environmental consulting firm Buys and Associates. Dave Diss with Buys and Associates has donated considerable time and effort to coordinate communication efforts with the dozens of energy companies operating in the region.
“The energy industry understands that better science helps everyone,” explained Kim Kaal, DOW energy liaison for northwest Colorado. “This research is designed to educate all of us on how development can occur while impacts are minimized or eliminated, and that’s something everyone seems willing to support.”
Mule deer and elk
Big game hunting is a critical part of the tradition and the economy of many western Colorado counties. A 2002 economic study commissioned by the DOW found that big game hunting contributes more than one million dollars annually in direct expenditures to the economies of Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat County. Hunters are generally from outside of the area and, unlike other revenue streams, hunters’ activities generate revenue year-after-year without burdening government services or infrastructure.
Thousands of deer utilize the Piceance Basin during the year. In the winter, this critical area becomes home to even more deer as herds from the surrounding mountain areas move into the lower parts of the basin in search of food and relief from the snow.  
“Our study is designed to examine mule deer response to positive changes in development practices and habitat enhancement projects,” explained Chuck Anderson, DOW mule deer researcher.
To assess deer benefits, researchers will monitor factors including over-winter fawn survival, over-winter body condition of does and fawns, movement patterns and deer densities over time. The study will utilize GPS and radio telemetry collars to monitor and track the deer.
In addition to the deer population, biologists estimate that about 9,000 elk call the Piceance Basin home year around. Thousands more elk winter in the basin’s lower elevation lands before returning to higher ground for the summer.
Greater sage-grouse
The greater sage-grouse has become a key focus for state and federal wildlife agencies, ranchers, energy companies and environmentalists as the bird undergoes a new review for potential inclusion under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act.
“Ultimately, it is in everyone’s best interest to do everything possible to keep populations healthy and avoid a listing,” said Velarde. “Scientific data is needed and that’s what the research aims to provide.”
Avian researchers involved in the Piceance Project are starting with a project to generate detailed seasonal habitat-use maps for greater sage-grouse to help industry avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts. Researchers hope to assess sage-grouse response to removal of pinyon-juniper that has encroached into former sage-grouse habitat.
“We’re also hoping to continue and expand existing greater sage-grouse monitoring efforts,” explained researcher Brett Walker. “We’ll be monitoring changes in survival, reproduction, habitat use and movement.”
Much of the monitoring work is being done with permission on private land owned by energy companies. The companies own hundreds of thousands of acres of land and without access to these large sections, the research effort is much more difficult.
Ask any real estate professional the three keys to real estate investing success and they’ll tell you “location, location, location”. It a similar story when you ask about wildlife. The three key things for wildlife to thrive are “habitat, habitat, habitat”.
DOW Researcher Danielle Johnston is taking a comprehensive look at habitat factors in the Piceance Basin.
“We want to examine ways to promote restoration practices that most benefit wildlife,” Johnston said. “Beyond the area around well pads, we’re also interested in assessing weed control, soil manipulation and herbicide use as they apply to pipeline reclamation success.”
Major pipelines crisscross the Piceance Basin with several future pipelines in the planning stages. While these pipelines raise concerns, they also provide an opportunity to determine what reclamation efforts are best in the dry, high, sage lands of the West.
While researchers have already begun radio-tracking sage-grouse and mule deer in the Piceance Basin, the DOW continues to meet with potential donors to raise the remaining funds necessary for the project. Groups or companies interested in partnering on the research should contact Kim Kaal, DOW energy liaison for northwest Colorado at
Ask any of the ranchers who call the Piceance Basin home and they can tell you that the area has changed dramatically in the last five years. Not many of them would hazard a guess as to what the basin will look like in another thirty years. But if a team of wildlife researchers are successful, the area’s abundant wildlife resource will stand witness to a unique collaborative research effort.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and its habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation. The Division is funded through hunting and fishing license fees, federal grants and Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado.
Editor’s note: Photos to accompany this story are available using the following links. Photo credit: Colorado Division of Wildlife
Photo 1: A drainage in the Piceance Basin shows the intermix of sage and agricultural lands
Photo 2: A deer fawn wears a radio collar as part of Division of Wildlife efforts to track the animals in the Piceance Basin
Photo 3: Pipelines, roads and well pad in the Central Piceance Basin Study area
Photo 4: A gas well in the Central Piceance Basin Study area
Photo 5: Deer from the Piceance Basin gather on sagebrush winter range

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:

Be sure to click on the photo links! Great work! 🙂

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