LOMA, Colo. – Colorado’s largest wildfire in history is no longer breaking records. The Pine Gulch Fire remains at 139,000 acres, and the containment has increased to 83%. Fire crews continue to monitor the area and assess the damage from the flames. The blaze destroyed vegetation and displaced wildlife, but a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official says no one should worry, especially since Wednesday marked the first day of the archery hunting season for deer and elk.
In previous years, the area near Douglas Pass was a popular place to elk hunt. Although from a far, the mountains look ready to hunt, because of the Pine Gulch Fire, fire crews say the mountains aren’t yet ready. Crews are still repairing the area and getting fire equipment out.
Therefore, the effects of the Pine Gulch Fire may make it harder to track down wildlife. Randy Hampton from Colorado Parks and Wildlife says, “a lot of deer and elk moved out of the area. Firefighters are telling us that they are seeing animals on the fringes of the fire.”
Wildlife experts say animal movement is natural when there is a wildfire, and therefore, the animals may be in places where people are not used to seeing them, and hunters may have to look in different places.
However, as autumn approaches, officials are confident the hunting conditions will improve. Hampton says, “we are really hopeful that things will be much better by mid-October, and by next year, we will really see a positive impact.”
Rifle season beings in October, and if conditions aren’t right, many hunters do not want to wait until next year. They are eager to hunt now.
Jerry Stehman, owner of Jerry’s Outdoor Sports and avid hunter, says he do not usually hunt in the area where the Pine Gulch Fire burnt since the terrain is too rugged. He, as well as other hunters, prefer hunting elsewhere, and therefore, he says, “I do not believe [the wildfire] is going to affect hunting much at all.”
Even with the wildfire and COVID-19 pandemic, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official says the sale of hunting licenses has increased.