Peach Valley is no place for hunting with a rifle
Maybe it’s time to curtail high-powered rifle hunting in Peach Valley. That, or the Division of Wildlife should issue helmets and flak jackets.
Do you know Peach Valley? Head west on the old highway out of New Castle, and as soon as the Colorado River Valley widens, and you start seeing remnants of old orchards, you’re there. Peach Valley extends almost to Silt.
Peach Valley still has some hay ranches, but a lot of the farms never were very big. We live on the old Bud and Lena Merrill place. Bud farmed about six irrigated acres of mostly apple orchard, but he divided the property before he died.
Our housing density is pretty typical. From the front yard I can see five houses. I could hit one with a baseball. There are a few very small subdivisions down the road, and a number of oh, 20-to-30-acre spreads. Fact: Every winter the elk come down here and raise hell. This is their winter range. They trample fences, tear into stored hay, and chew on fruit trees. These extremely large herd animals panic when you open the front door at night. I spent Saturday afternoon mending fence the elk wrecked.
The DOW’s remedy for this man vs. beast conflict ” at least in part ” is to issue private property hunting licenses. When the regular hunting season closes, hunters can buy permits to hunt elk on private property. They can hunt into January. This cuts the “problem” elk population and keeps the animals from getting too comfortable on Farmer Brown’s land.
Our winter herd generally numbers fewer than 100. They come down into Peach Valley at night, and before first light they flee to the safety of the mostly BLM Grand Hogback ” the ridge dividing the Colorado River Valley from Elk Creek. But occasionally the sun catches them on private land on the valley floor, where hunters can shoot them.
Peach Valley is only four miles long. There might be 75 houses. A high-powered rifle bullet can travel three miles. Plus hunters shoot elk from very close to private homes. Can you see why the neighbors get riled? Wouldn’t you?
(It’s Christmas morning in Peach Valley. You awaken to staccato rifle fire. You look out your front window, and guess what! It’s not Santa! It’s a bunch of good old boys gutting a cow elk across the street. “No, Amber, you can’t play outside today. The hunters are thinning the herd.”)
Sometimes hunters use motor vehicles to frighten and drive the elk to where they can shoot them. This is illegal and not pretty to watch.
Some have portrayed the uproar about Peach Valley hunting as a newcomers/old-timers values conflict, but it’s not quite that simple. Just check the pedigrees of the folks who signed the recent letter to the editor complaining about hunting in Peach Valley.
This problem won’t go away on its own. A local wildlife officer suggested that the Garfield County Commissioners could restrict hunting in Peach Valley to shotguns, which have a range of less than 200 yards. Would you have a problem with that? In addition, the commissioners might proscribe certain minimum distances from houses for firing guns. (My idea ” not the officer’s.)
Along with these reasonable restrictions, what if the DOW aggressively enforced its own regulations against herding and driving animals? Saturation patrolling, similar to what the State Patrol does for drunk drivers, would go a long way toward educating hunters and reassuring neighbors that animals aren’t being hunted in a cruel and unsportsmanlike way.
Enacting these modest steps now would make Peach Valley hunting a little less in-your-face, and a lot safer. Because otherwise people here are going to continue to get very upset, and sooner or later, somebody could get hurt.
Ed Colby’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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