Avoid Costly Common Hunting Violations

Wildlife laws exist to protect a valuable resource and to promote safety. Hunters must know their responsibilities before they get in the field.
license check

Every hunting season, officers for Colorado Parks and Wildlife hand out hundreds of tickets for violations that cost hunters hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some of those tickets are for flagrant violations of wildlife regulations and hunting laws, many more are for minor violations that could have been avoided.

Hunters are reminded that not only can they be fined for violations, they can also lose their hunting privileges in Colorado and the 45 other states that cooperatively participate in a nationwide wildlife compact agreement.

Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for the San Luis Valley, explained that hunters need to set aside some time to review the Colorad Big Game Brochure. The brochure explains many of the common violations and how to avoid them.

“Hunters must know their responsibilities when they get into the field,” Basagoitia said. “Wildlife laws are written to protect a valuable resource and for safety.”

Common Violations that Occur Every Year

For added safety, cover backpacks with fluorescent orange or pink.
  • Not wearing fluorescent orange or pink: You must wear at least 500 inches of daylight fluorescent orange or pink, including a head covering of the same color that can be seen from all directions. Mesh garments are legal but not recommended. Camouflage orange/pink does not qualify. 
  • Carrying loaded firearms in or on vehicles: Rifles must not have ammunition in the chamber while in or on any motor vehicles. For those riding OHVs, weapons (rifles and bows) must also be in a closed case and fully unloaded (chamber and magazine). Most accidents involving firearms occur in or near vehicles.
  • Going on private land without permission to retrieve a harvested animal: You must have permission from the landowner to enter private land to retrieve a dead animal. First, you should try to contact the landowner on your own. If that effort fails, call the local CPW office. CPW officers know landowners in their areas and will help you make a contact.
  • Shooting from a road: Before firing a shot, you must be at least 50 feet off a designated state or county road, and just off U.S. Forest Service or BLM roads. You also cannot shoot across a road.
  • Shooting a spike-antlered elk: Hunters who hold a cow elk tag sometimes shoot spike bulls. Be sure of your target. If you are shooting at a long distance or in low light conditions, it can be difficult to see spike antlers. If you are not absolutely sure, do not shoot.
  • License not voided: After you kill an animal, you must void the license immediately. 
  • Improperly attached carcass tag: The carcass tag must be attached to the animal. The best way is to cut a hole in the hide and attach with a tie. It is OK to wait until you get the animal back to camp or to your vehicle to attach the carcass tag.
  • Illegally tagging an animal: You can only place a tag on an animal that you shot. You cannot trade tags with other license holders or use tags of other license holders. 
  • No evidence of sex: Be sure to leave evidence of sex naturally attached to the carcass. Evidence includes the head, the vulva or the scrotum.
  • Waste of game meat: Big game meat can begin to spoil at 38 degrees. To keep the carcass cool, remove the hide as soon as possible after the kill to allow for air to circulate around the meat. Reduce the mass of the carcass by quartering the meat or boning out the meat. Place the meat in a cooler as soon as possible. Even in cold weather, a carcass should not hang outside for more than 36 hours. Remember: Because game meat contains very little fat, it cannot be aged like beef. The so-called “gamey taste” is caused by spoilage, not because the animal is wild.

    Know how to properly field dress your harvest before you head out for your hunt. For more hunting basics videos, please visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife on YouTube.
Video: How to Field Dress a Big Game Animal

Please Help Stop Poaching 

Operation Game Thief
Call 1-877-COLO-OGT

​You can help stop poaching. If you see a poaching incident, report it. Look at it this way: if you saw someone breaking into your neighbor’s house, would you just stand by and watch? Of course not; you would report it. Poaching is a crime against you, your neighbor, and everyone else in the state of Colorado. Call 1-877-COLO-OGT toll-free or Verizon cell phone users can simply dial #OGT. If you’d prefer, you can e-mail us at game.thief@state.co.us​.

For more information, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

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