Forest Service column: Hunting safety for non-hunters |

Forest Service column: Hunting safety for non-hunters

From October 10 to November 15, there are four seasons when hunters can use high-powered rifles to shoot game. Elk and deer are by far the most popular.
USDA Forest Service |

What statewide activity accounted for some $1 billion in economic revenue in 2014? Would you say marijuana or skiing? Wrong. If you said hunting, you are correct. (By the way, 2014 recreational marijuana sales are estimated at $34 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.)

Clearly, hunting in Colorado is a big deal. Not a hunter? If you spend anytime outside on public land from August to December, you should know a little about hunting in order to be safe and better enjoy yourself.

In historic times, hunting was highly regulated by the rulers of the country, lords, and their wardens. Hunting was done by the high-class through special permission only. Legend has it that the warden would point out specific deer an invited hunter was allowed to shoot. As our nation was born and grew from its infancy, our elected rulers wanted to allow all citizens to hunt. So state and federal regulations were constructed differently.

Today, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has jurisdiction over hunting and fishing regulations in the state. CPW sets the seasons, allowable game harvest and rules for hunting. Most hunting in Colorado occurs on public land; the Roaring Fork, Crystal River, and Fryingpan River areas are no exception.

Hunters and everyone else must also abide by travel, camping and land-use regulations set forth by the agencies who administer these lands — the United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Hunting seasons coming up

The most popular hunting seasons are soon to be upon us. From October 10 to November 15, there are four seasons when hunters can use high-powered rifles to shoot game. Elk and deer are by far the most popular. Seasons also exist for black bear, mountain lion, upland game birds such as turkey and other game. Around here, there currently is no moose season. See for a complete list of seasons and hunting regulations.

Basic safety practices

With lots of hunters out there, if you are hiking, dog-walking, biking, camping or doing some other activity on public land, you should be prepared to encounter hunters. You should also consider adopting safety practices embraced by hunters and many public land professionals.

First, be visible. Wear bright blaze orange or yellow above the waist — these garments are designed to be visible in low light and far away. Consider a bright hat as well.

For dogs, tie bright and reflective ribbon tape around their collar. Do the same on bridles of horses and livestock, or your mountain bike, helmet and backpack. This can be done cheaply and there are lots of stores around here that sell hunter orange garments and ribbon tape. Bright orange is the new black.

Second, assume all guns are loaded. Gun accidents happen. Stand clear of the end of rifles if they’re on the ground, on a person, in a vehicle or mounted on an ATV.

Third, know that early mornings and late evenings are the most popular time of day to hunt. The most popular days to hunt are weekends and opening days of each four hunting season.

Where people hunt

Popular hunting areas in Pitkin and Garfield County include the Thompson Divide area, the Flattops, the Fryingpan area near Thomasville, Hunter Valley, Avalanche Creek, Huntsmans Ridge, the Crown, Divide Creek, Coulter Mesa, and Clinetop Mesa. But there are lots of secret hunting spots that might also be places you like to ride, run, hike or walk.

Hunters may not be thinking about you when on the hunt, so be aware for your own safety.

Phil Nyland is the District Wildlife Biologist for the Aspen and Sopris Ranger Districts. Contact him at 970-963-2266.

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