Big-game season arrives | AspenTimes.com

Big-game season arrives

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

If you haven’t noticed, hunting season has sneaked up on the Western Slope like a grown man in camouflage hiding in the undergrowth.

Saturday marks the beginning of big-game rifle season. That means there are going to be a lot more people with firearms hiking through the wooded areas surrounding the Roaring Fork and Grand valleys.

Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said that even though hunting-related injury rates have been relatively low over the years, the DOW still is cautioning hunters to be aware and practice safety at all times.

“Typically what we see, in terms of serious injury, doesn’t even involve shooting in the field,” Hampton said. “The most dangerous times [are] getting in and out of the vehicle, or loading and unloading the weapon.”

Of the more than 300,000 big-game licenses that are issued annually, Hampton said the DOW usually only has one or two “serious” injuries that are potentially fatal.

One major contributing factor is the introduction of the hunting safety course that was established to cut down on accidents. State laws require any person born after Jan. 1, 1949, pass the course before being issued a hunting license.

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“Since then, we’ve seen a huge increase in hunter safety,” Hampton said. “To say that we had two injuries that were significant in a year ” with as many licenses that are issued ” is an incredible safety rating.”

Hampton said that hunters are more likely to be hurt driving to the hunt than while hunting. Other common incidents witnessed by the DOW involve out-of-state hunters who are unfamiliar with the terrain and are not accustomed to the elevation. Hampton said they have witnessed people suffer from altitude sickness or even heart attacks after arriving from sea level. The best advice Hampton gave was for hunters to be prepared for anything.

“Colorado’s high country is rugged terrain,” Hampton said. “The weather can change at any time, and we encourage hunters to be prepared at all times.”

Technology has somewhat increased safety, he said, but it also has allowed hunters to become more careless, relying too heavily on gadgets like global positioning systems.

“GPS has helped and are very reliable in helping track where you’ve been,” Hampton said. “But we still encourage people to remain cognizant of what they are doing and where they are while hunting.”

Last year, Garfield County witnessed a couple of incidents involving hunters who became lost while they were away from camp. But Hampton said that even these incidents are isolated.

However, hunters aren’t the only ones hiking around the backcountry. The growing population up and down the valley means more and more outdoors enthusiasts recreating during hunting season as well. Hampton advised people to be extra cautious this time of year while playing outside.

“For the most part, people hunt in a safe manner,” Hampton said. “We recommend that people recreating during hunting season be aware of the hunting seasons and make themselves aware and visible to hunters.”

Hampton asked members of the public to contact the DOW at (877) 265-6648, or call 911, if they witness unsafe hunting practices or something that seems out of ordinary.

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