Hunting a ‘religious experience’ | AspenTimes.com

Hunting a ‘religious experience’

Nicole Frey
Vail correspondent

District Wildlife Manager Kelly Wood inspects a deer killed by a hunter in the Sweetwater area at the Colorado Division of Wildlife's hunting checkpoint in Dotsero on Monday afternoon. (Kira Horvath/Vail Daily)

DOTSERO ” A massive pickup truck rolled into the Colorado Division of Wildlife hunting checkpoint in Dot­sero on Monday.

Its bed was piled high with sleeping bags, garbage cans, coolers, huge Tup­perware bins, tents and more ” all held down with bungee cords. The truck towed a trailer carrying two all terrain vehicles, and on the front fender of the bright blue ATV there was a splattering of blood.

“You look at that, and you can tell that they’ve been hunting, they made a kill and carried it on there,” said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “So if they say they don’t have anything, you know they’re up to something.”

But hunter Theodore Montoya com­plied with the Division of Wildlife offi­cials who asked him, and hundreds of other hunters who came out of the Sweetwater Valley on Monday, if he had made any kills and for the requisite hunting licenses.

“It’s my religious experience of the year,” said Montoya, who spent a few days in the woods with a couple cousins and firearms. “I’ve been hunting since I was 14. I took a few years off when my kid was born, but now I’m back.”

But Montoya’s years of experience did­n’t help him Monday when Aspen District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright opened Montoya’s blue cooler full of meat.

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“It’s awful clean,” Wright said, frown­ing.

But “clean” isn’t a good thing. The chunks of meat should be attached to a head or sex organs ” something that gives away the sex of the animal. Know­ing the animal’s gender is important because a hunting license for a buck elk is more than a cow elk.

“Also, biologically, we want to know what’s being harvested is what we licensed to be harvested,” to maintain a healthy ratio of male and female ani­mals, he said.

Montoya received a $137 ticket to finish off his hunting trip and was sent home to Littleton.

Being up front likely will help your cause, but it won’t save you. The same day, a man thought he took down a cow elk but upon closer inspection realized it was a young buck with small antlers. The man immediately fessed up, called the Division of Wildlife and turned over the animal.

“He did absolutely the right thing,” Hampton said.

For being so upfront, a potentially large fine was reduced to a $68 ticket.

Laurie Smith, with Snowmass Village Animal Services, sliced a sliver of flesh from the small buck elk and squeezed it into a small vial. Tissue samples were taken from every animal that came through the checkpoint Monday and will be tested at a laboratory.

“It helps us to know where the animal came from and if it’s healthy,” Hampton explained.

And knowing an animal’s origin can help biologists figure out if disease is present in a population and spreading to another.

Jason Duetsch, a district wildlife manager in the Eagle North District, helped skin the animal to keep the meat cool and fresh.

“If someone comes through who had a buck license but didn’t get anything, then we’ll offer this to him,” Duetsch said.

If there aren’t any takers, the meat could go to a food bank or whoever wants it.

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