By Alan Peterson
San Juan Mountains Association
It is hard to believe that summer is almost over, school is starting and hunting seasons are beginning again.
With the start of the archery season Friday, muzzle-loading season Sept. 8 and rifle season Oct. 13, San Juan Mountains Association 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 a free Motorized Vehicle Use Map, which shows current open roads and trails designations for any type of motorized vehicle. The maps also can be viewed online: Visit www.fs.usda.gov/main/sanjuan/maps-pubs, and click on the link for the desired map on the right side of the page.
In addition, those traveling by ATV, UTV or dirt bike are required to be registered in Colorado ($25.25). Even if your off-highway vehicle is registered in another state, you still are required to purchase a Colorado OHV permit sticker. Registrations are available at San Juan Public Land offices, Colorado Parks and Wildlife offices as well as local OHV dealers.
When setting up a hunting camp, proper planning will lessen your impacts on 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, 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 U.S. Forest Service roads. Check posted signage for more information.
When it comes to trash, if you pack it in, make sure you pack it out. You only should burn trash that will be completely consumed. Foil, cans and glass do not burn and must be packed out. Do not bury them.
If you use horses, help protect the land by using a highline, hobble or picket to restrain your stock, and always use tree-saver straps. Its 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 onlyuse certified weed-free hay, straw, mulch, cube or pelletized feed or steam-rolled grain for feed while on public lands.
Have proper gear, clothing and knowledge about potential weather conditions. You never know if you might have to spend a 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, cellphone, extra food, clothing and first aid.
Check the weather before you go. Current information is provided weekly on the San Juan Region Outdoor Recreation Hotline at 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 an agreed-upon time, they can contact the La Plata County Search and Rescue through the Sheriffs Office at 247-1157.
We hope you enjoy a safe and quality hunting experience this fall. If you have questions about the land, stop by one of the San Juan Public Lands offices in Durango, Bayfield, Dolores and Pagosa Springs. You also can call us at 247-4874 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about the Hunting Proclamation, licenses or obtaining a hunter safety card, call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 247-0855.
Alan Peterson is director of bookstore operations and visitor services for San Juan Mountains Association. SJMA is a nonprofit dedicated to public land stewardship and education.