The first known Native Americans to occupy Grand County was the Utes who were known to travel throughout the Colorado Rockies hunting deer, antelope, bison, and elk. Scientists believe elk have been in Colorado for as long as 10,000 years, and at their maximum population were thought to have numbered around 10 million. As the West became the new frontier, their numbers greatly dwindled almost to near extinction.

Today all states including Colorado have strict hunting regulations in place to protect our wildlife. In Colorado, hunting is managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) division that controls the number of hunting licenses per game-management unit (GMUs). Grand County is part of the Middle Park hunting area and includes 6 GMUs. Big game hunting in Colorado includes deer, moose, pronghorn, bear. Elk, however, is perhaps one of the most popular hunts for Coloradans and out of state hunters alike.

Essentially, there are three different elk herds in the Middle Park area. In 2018 The Gore Park herd (GMUs 15 and 27) was at an estimated population of over 5,500 bulls and cows. The elk population objective of the Gore is anywhere from 3,500 to 4,500. Troublesome Creek (GMUs 18 and 181) had an estimated population of over 4,500 with an objective of 3,600 to 4,300. Williams Fork had the largest population of elk around 5,800. The area, however, consists of three GMUs (28, 37, 371) with a population objective of 4,700 to 5,500. The hunting of any game in certain areas of Grand county has proven to be hazardous. 80 percent of Grand County lodgepoles have been lost to beetle kill. Trees can fall without warning during seasonal winds and inclement weather, but thus far doesn’t appear to be a large deterrent for hunters.

There are 7 different elk seasons in the Middle Park GMU. In 2019 the Archery season for elk started at the end of August and ends nearly a month later on September 29, 2019. Bowhunting is a challenging sport done at a close range, requiring a great deal of skill and athleticism. In Colorado, anyone born after Jan 1, 1949, must carry a bow hunter or traditional hunter education card.
The muzzleloader elk season is brief starting September 14 thru September 22. A muzzleloader is style of firearm different from a standard hunting rifle. All other elk hunting seasons in Grand County are firearm related. Firearm hunting starts October 12 and end the middle of November. A hunter safety course is a mandatory requirement for all firearm hunting including muzzleloaders.

Each year there are specific registration deadlines, costs and fees that vary from year to year. For elk, the license cost is $15.50 for a residential Colorado youth age 12 to 17. For non residential youth the price starts at $101.50. For residential adults, an elk license is under $55. The cost for a non residential adult is a great deal higher and ranges from $496.75 to $661.75 depending on the animals sex (bull, cow or either sex). Some hunters prefer bulls for their racks while other’s enjoy the sport and meat provided by their kill.

For many who live here in Colorado and Grand County hunting is more than a sport. It’s a way of life and most parts of kills are harvested and used for either food, jewelry, art, and other uses. There are many regulations to follow and hunters must be responsible for knowing all the rules and regulations associated with the privilege. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is the best source for all information regarding hunting. I’ve included links to their sites and brochures. May your next hunt be a safe, and memorable experience.

Tracy Navarrete