Tuesday, October 10, 2000
The hills of Colorado soon will be alive with the sound of magnum.
Big game rifle seasons kick off Saturday and that means now is the perfect time to talk about safety and courtesy in the backcountry.
Each fall, this newspaper reports that another hunter in Routt County has been injured or killed. Almost always, the tragedy can be blamed on either ignorance or stupidity. Too often, it seems, when hunters gather for their fall rituals, they leave common sense back home with their work clothes.
Without that common sense, some hunters fail to
follow even the four most basic rules of firearms safety. They forget to treat all firearms as loaded. They forget that they should never point a weapon at anything they
are not willing to kill or destroy. They forget to keep their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot. And they forget to be certain of what they are shooting at and what might be behind it.
But it's not only firearm accidents that hurt and kill hunters in Routt County. The other deadly mistakes are failing to prepare for the climate and weather, getting lost, and mishandling a vehicle, usually an all-terrain vehicle.
The way to avoid all of those mistakes is by using common sense. Unfortunately, it is the strong mix of machismo and malt liquor that often washes away
common sense from otherwise intelligent American men. During big game season in Routt County, you'll find
plenty of both ingredients.
Just as there are rules for handling a weapon, there are rules to follow before you head out into the backcountry. And there are rules to follow once you get there.
Before your truck leaves the last paved lot it will be parked in for a few days, make sure it contains what you need to survive a Colorado fall night. Remember this: no matter what the TV forecasters say, fall nights in Colorado always come with the possibility of freezing temperatures and falling snow. Pack accordingly.
At the top of the list next to warm clothes should be a map and compass. Getting lost is a stupid thing to do. It also is simply unnecessary, at least if you know where you're going or can find out where you are by using a map and compass.
Among the other stupid things hunters have been known to do, besides shoot each other, is jump on an
all-terrain vehicle, or ATV, and roar off into the forest without thinking about how that machine might impact other hunters. We know that plenty of ATV users are polite, thoughtful hunters who would never dream of using a four-wheeled beast to track down game. Unfortunately for the rest of us, that kind of courteous four-wheeler is not the only kind there is around here.
It comes down to this: the most important thing hunters can pack into the backcountry is common sense. It's the thing that will keep them safe, and give them
a better chance of packing something out of the