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Central Colorado Hunting

Chaffee County is a hunter's paradise, especially for large game such as elk, mule deer, black bear, mountain lion and bighorn sheep. Moreover, there is an abundance of game in the Upper Arkansas Valley and thus ample opportunity to bag a trophy specimen. For hunting regulations and information on topics pertinent to safe and successful hunting, visit the Colorado Division of Wildlife website -

Rocky Mountain Elk: The Salida region and Arkansas Valley offer good elk hunting. Elk have increased in the past years and are well distributed throughout the forest.

Elk habitat varies from sagebrush to aspen and coniferous forest. Each type of habitat provides the basic requirements at various times during the year. Major herds are associated with public lands.

Elk are herbivores and thus graze on grasses, shrubs, plants, and bark. Their diet can vary, depending on the availability of forages. They feed heavily on green grass in the spring, but switch mostly to forbs such as dandelion geranium and aster in the summer. They also quickly acquire a taste for hay from rancher's stacks.

Elk breed in September and October. During this period, the musical bugling of the bulls provides a thrilling experience to back-country visitors; the calves are born in late May and early June.

During the hunting season, elk may be found in the aspen or heavy timber, depending on the season and amount of available forage.

Mule Deer: Mule deer have been an important big game animal in Colorado as far back as records exist. Early explorers, trappers and settlers used and depended on the mule deer as a source of food and clothing. Lewis and Clark can be credited with writing the first detailed account of mule deer habitat requirements. There is evidence that Lewis coined the name "Mule Deer" when he stated that they rarely found the mule deer in any except rough country--they prefer the rough grounds and are seldom found in woodlands or river bottoms.

Deer can be found throughout Chaffee County. They generally are found in lower elevations than elk. They can be found in a variety of vegetation types, including river bottoms, high mountain forests, lodgepole, sagebrush and oak brush.

Black Bear: The black bear is a common omnivore in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. An omnivore is an animal that eats flesh as well as vegetation. The black bear, therefore, becomes a frequent visitor around garbage deposits and campsites where food is available. The bears in areas where man is not a resident feed on berries, nuts, tubers, grubs, small mammals, eggs, honey and carrion.

In Colorado, the greatest numbers of black bears are in areas where there is Gambel's oak and aspen, near open areas of serviceberry and chokecherry bushes. These animals are usually nocturnal and solitary. The exception is mother bears with cubs.


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All content ©1998-2020 and Monty Content written by Rita Washko (RMW Enterprises), technical and science writer.