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Big game hunting season gets high marks

Camouflage ensembles, paired with neon orange accessories, becomes the fashion rage of Archuleta County. This can only mean one thing in the fall: it’s hunting season, and from most sources, the 2011 season was a very good year.

Doug Purcell, district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, said that from his anecdotal perspective, “It was a pretty healthy season.

“As far as success rate, archery and muzzle loading was a little slow,” Purcell said. “First rifle season was a ho-hum as far as elk seen and taken.”

Then, there was early October snow, and while it might not have been much in town, the snow was heavy and abundant enough to allow Wolf Creek Ski Resort to open the earliest in its history.

According to Purcell, the early snow in the high country also pushed the elk into lower elevation. While he said that first rifle season still remained “ho-hum” as far as the elk seen and taken, the second season was big.

“The elk and hunter numbers were pretty healthy,” Purcell said. Then he added, “It was the nicest bull elk since I’ve been here.” Purcell said third season continued in the same thread: a high number of elk harvested and nice bulls taken.

Over at The Buck Stops Here Meat Market and Game Processing, the pattern held true. Busy through the season, the numbers have been higher this year than last. According to owner Kevin Schuchart, he’s seen fewer hunters, but most of those hunters have been pretty successful.

The taxidermy business has also been thriving.

Ron Schweickert is a taxidermist in Pagosa Springs. He and his wife operate what he calls a “ma and pop operation,” off the main highway and back on a dirt road. He’s been in the area since 1983. He went full time into taxidermy in 2005.

“This is the most bull elk I’ve seen,” Schweickert said. “Over 50 elk have come through here (the shop), and that’s being conservative.”

His shop shows it. Poles stretching across the ceiling are lined with elk and deer racks. The amount, though, overflows into other rooms. More poles put up, racks gently set on the floor.

“The problem now is having enough real estate to store the product,” Schweickert jokes. The racks even overflow into his showroom.

Normally commissioned with around 18 to 20 elk mounts; this year Schweickhert has closer to 30.

“I have a year’s worth of work now,” he said.

And while elk, especially bull, numbers were high, Purcell said the number of violations cited was probably lower than average this year.

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