Hunters’ shooting alarms workers at county landfill
SUMMIT COUNTY – Two Denver men were cited Monday on suspicion of hunting on private property after another man reported hearing shots fired and “bullets coming over his head,” according to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The incident highlights the annual conflict between hunters and other backcountry users.
Gilbert Maynes, 34, and Gerald Gonzales Jr., 29, were cited with criminal trespassing for hunting at the Summit County Landfill without permission. But landfill manager Ric Pocius dropped the charges Tuesday, explaining he talked to the men and “felt there’s no sense making a really big deal out of this thing.”
The landfill is private property, but the men told officers they thought they were hunting on National Forest land. According to the sheriff’s report, landfill employees were working on the property when they heard shots and “felt as if the bullets were going over their heads.” A Colorado Division of Wildlife officer found the two hunters, who had valid hunting licenses. They led the DOW officer to where they had shot at a deer. Because there was a hill between the hunters and the workers, the officer decided the men hadn’t put anyone in danger while shooting.
“Technically, they were trespassing,” Pocius said. “The problem on Tenderfoot Road (also known as Oro Grande Trail) is some boulders got moved (that normally block vehicle access) because cel is putting in the power line there. So some vehicles came in, a couple guys took some shots, and the bullets actually went over some of our landfill personnel’s heads. That’s never a good thing.
“I wasn’t there, but even if they’re 30 feet over your head, it’s still a pretty scary thing.”
The area in which the incident occurred, near the Oro Grande Trail, is popular with hikers, dirt bikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and hunters. Last year, a dirt biker reported two hunters threatened him with a pistol while he was riding his bike on an established trail.
Safety concerns about hunters arise every hunting season, but Sheriff Joe Morales said they are just as entitled to use the public lands as anyone else. While it’s the hunters’ responsibility to know where private lands are and to stay off them, Morales said law enforcement’s authority over where hunters go doesn’t extend beyond private lands.
“We don’t have any control over where they hunt,” he said. “You would hope they would hunt away from populated areas, roads, campgrounds and subdivisions. Citizens have a right to be safe, but we can’t tell hunters you have to go further into the backcountry.
“It’s the responsibility of the hunter to know where his shots are going and to hunt safely. Lawfully licensed hunters have to go through hunter safety training. There’s a level of ethics that goes along with that.”
Hunting season runs from late August through late November. That time of year, Morales said, also draws hikers to the backcountry.
“It’s some of the best hiking because of the aspen changing,” he said. “The county is big enough, I think, for everyone. But a lot of the hunters use the same trailheads hikers do.
“Fortunately, we haven’t had anybody hurt or killed,” Morales said. “I don’t know how you really address it other than being cautious and aware when going into the backcountry during hunting season. Wear something so that you can be seen.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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