Preparing ahead for hunting on public lands

SJMA Volunteer, Vern Jahnke (right), provides information to one of the hundreds of hunters who stop by a hunting booth outside of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) office. The booth is a partnership between the San Juan National Forest, BLM, CPW and San Juan Mountains Association. It will be staffed again for rifle season on October 12, 17, 18 and 19, and November 1 and 2. The booth provides a one-stop for information as well as maps, guide books and OHV Registrations. Enlargephoto

Photo Courtesy of SJMA

SJMA Volunteer, Vern Jahnke (right), provides information to one of the hundreds of hunters who stop by a hunting booth outside of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) office. The booth is a partnership between the San Juan National Forest, BLM, CPW and San Juan Mountains Association. It will be staffed again for rifle season on October 12, 17, 18 and 19, and November 1 and 2. The booth provides a one-stop for information as well as maps, guide books and OHV Registrations.

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over, school is starting, and hunting seasons are beginning again! With archery beginning on Aug. 25, muzzle-loading on Sept. 8, and rifle season on Oct. 13, San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) reminds hunters to plan ahead and prepare before venturing out this fall.

The big three to remember in your preparations:

San Juan National Forest motorized travel rules continue to change. Pick up free MVUM (Motorized Vehicle Use Maps) which shows current open roads and trail designations for any type of motorized vehicle (viewable also online at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan).

In addition, those traveling by ATV, UTV or dirt bike are required to get registered in Colorado for $25.25. Even if your off highway vehicle (OHV) is registered in another state, you are still required to purchase a Colorado OHV permit sticker. Registrations are available at your local San Juan Public Land offices, Colorado Parks & Wildlife offices, as well as local OHV dealers.

When setting up a hunter camp, proper planning will lessen your impacts to the natural world. The San Juan National Forest has many developed campgrounds that are available for free or at a reduced fee during hunting seasons. If you feel you must camp outside of a developed campground, please use a previously impacted area that is at least 100 feet from lakes, ponds, streams and trails. Never leave a campfire unattended and do not cut green trees or dig trenches around your tent. Keep vehicles within 300 feet of Forest System Roads. Check posted signage for additional information.

When it comes to trash, “If you pack it in,” make sure you “pack it out.” You should only burn trash that will be completely consumed. Foil, cans and glass do not burn and must be packed out. Please do not bury them.

If you use horses for hunting, help protect the land by using a highline, hobble or picket to restrain your stock, and always use tree saver straps. It’s also important to tie stock at least 200 feet from any source of water. To help prevent the spread of noxious weeds, federal regulations require that you use only Certified Weed-Free hay, straw, mulch, cube or pelletized feed, or steamed-rolled grain for feed while on public lands.

Have proper gear, clothing and knowledge about potential weather conditions. You never know if you may have to spend the night in the woods, away from camp. Always keep your hands and feet dry and warm. Wear 500 square inches of blaze orange. Carry a good map, GPS, cell phone, extra food, clothing, and first aid. Check the weather before you go. Current information is also provided weekly on the San Juan Region Outdoor Recreation Hotline at 970-247-8187, sponsored by Pine Needle Mountaineering.

Always make sure a friend or family member knows your itinerary for the backcountry. If you do not contact them at the agreed upon time, they can contact the La Plata County Search and Rescue through the County Sheriff’s Office at 970-247-1157.

We hope you enjoy a safe and quality hunting experience this fall! If you have questions about the land, please stop by one of our San Juan Public Lands offices in Durango, Pagosa Springs, Dolores and Bayfield. You may also contact us at 970-247-4874 and at info@sjma.org. If you have questions about the Hunting Proclamation, licenses, or obtaining your Hunter Safety Card, contact Colorado Parks & Wildlife at 970-247-0855.

Alan Peterson is the Director of Bookstore Operations and SJMA Visitor Services. SJMA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) dedicated to public land stewardship and education. SJMA partners with the San Juan National Forest, BLM Tres Rios Field Office and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, BLM, in addition to other organizations in SW Colorado.