With fall colors reaching their peak and hikers flocking to Summit County to take in the aspens’ bright yellows and oranges before the leaves drop and the snows arrive, trails will continue to be busy in the coming weeks.
Those users will also be crossing paths with outdoor enthusiasts of a different kind as hunting kicks into high gear with moose, deer, elk and bear rifle seasons getting underway.
Officials with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department urge hikers and hunters alike to exercise caution when enjoying the outdoors.
“There are a lot of people out this time of year,” Summit County district wildlife manager Elissa Knox said of the variety of trail users. “Particularly on the weekends, there are going to be a lot of hunters out.”
Knox suggests that hikers be sure to keep their pets on a leash not just for as a precaution with hunters, but also because moose are especially aggressive this time of year on account of rutting season. She said two instances of moose stompings were reported in Grand Lake earlier this year.
Dogs can agitate the animals, who will respond as if being attacked by wolves, their natural predator.
Beyond controlling their pets, she also encourages hikers to wear orange colored clothing, especially when in heavily hunted areas.
But longtime Summit County hunter and Silverthorne resident Mike Magliocchetti told the Daily that hunter-hiker interaction isn’t much of a concern, unless traveling deeper into the high country.
“I’ve found that hunters and hikers generally find themselves in different areas,” he said.
Both he and Knox agreed that big game will generally stay away from heavily used trails.
“The animals avoid those areas and the hunters do, too,” Magliocchetti said.
Still, when hiking deeper into wilderness areas, bright orange clothing is recommended by both.
Knox also encourages hikers and hunters to report potentially suspicious behavior.
She warns of typical hunting violations which include hunting directly from cars or from the road, or traveling off-trail on an ATV and with a loaded firearm. All are violations that carry substantial penalties.
“If you observe something get as much detail as possible to report,” she said. Violations should be reported to the state patrol or Parks and Wildlife.
Knox also cautioned hunters regarding one of the more common accidental violations.
“The big concern is mistaking moose for elk,” she said. “Be sure of the target.”
Killing a moose out of season carries a strong penalty, especially if the hunter does not report himself or herself in the case of an accidental shooting.
Since hunting is regulated by the state, the federal government shutdown, if it continues, should have little effect on hunting season, Colorado Parks and Wildlife public information officer Mike Porras said.
Accessing grounds is not the concern. While national parks are closed, national forests remain accessible as well as all state lands. Federal campground closures may cause some inconvenience.
Knox did voice some concern over the federal shutdown in regard to the reporting of violations.
“The Dillon Ranger (District) folks are a strong presence,” she said. While national forest officials aren’t responsible for hunting violations, they are able to report them to the appropriate state officials.
“I’m hoping they’ll be back out in the field by rifle season,” Knox said. In the meantime, “we hope that the hunters can be our eyes and ears” and help in policing other hunters, she said.