By Alan Peterson
San Juan Mountains Association
As the golden colors of autumn leaves approach, so does the blaze-orange of hunting season. The San Juan Mountains Association encourages hunters and other public-land users to be prepared for their backcountry adventures with 10 tips to make their experience compliant, safe and enjoyable:
1. Know where both public and private lands are in the vicinity of your hunt, being sure to stay where you’re supposed to be. Use a map and compass to navigate. A great array of maps is available at your local National Forest and Bureau of Land Management offices or at www.sjma.org.
2. Use previously used camping areas when dispersed camping. Camp at least 100 feet from drainages, and keep vehicles within 300 feet of roads.
3. In the National Forest, you may only camp for 28 days within a continuous 60-day period. After 14 days, you must move your camp or equipment beyond a 3-mile radius from the previous site. On BLM lands, camping in any one location is limited to 14 days, and if you want to stay longer, you must move your camp greater than 30 air miles from your original campsite.
4. A firewood permit is not necessary to gather dead wood for your campfire. Collect only firewood that is dead, down and no larger than your wrist so it burns that evening. Leave dead standing trees and limbs on dead standing trees for wildlife. Do not leave campfires unattended. Make sure your campfire is completely out and cool to the touch before your go to bed or leave your campsite.
5. If you pack it in, pack it out. Burn only trash that will be completely consumed. Foil, cans and glass must be packed out. Do not bury food and trash because bears and other critters may quickly dig it up.
6. Dig a 6-inch- to 8-inch-deep cathole for human waste at least 200 feet from any water source. Also, pack out your toilet paper.
7. Prepare with the proper clothing, gear and knowledge for your hunt. You never know if you may have to spend the night in the woods, away from camp. Also, always keep your hands and feet dry and warm. Wear 500 square inches of blaze orange. Carry a good map, GPS (and a cellphone), extra food, clothing, signal mirror and first aid.
8. Those traveling by ATV, UTV or dirt bike should “Stay the Trail” to protect public lands by driving only on open roads and trails. Be aware of recent changes on the National Forest in motorized travel management by picking up a Motorized Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) free at one of your local Public Lands Offices in Durango, Dolores, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs. These contain specific information and are updated regularly to reflect recent changes.
9. Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) registrations are available for $25.25. Non-residents are required to get an OHV Permit Sticker in Colorado at the same cost. Both are available at your local Public Lands Offices.
10. Firearms may not be discharged in or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area or across or on a road, trail or body of water. They also must be carried in plain sight. Firearms must be fully unloaded in both the magazine and chamber, and enclosed in a case when taken on an OHV.
For more information, call us at 247-4874 or email us at email@example.com. If you have questions about the Colorado Hunting Proclamation, licensing or obtaining a hunter safety card, call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 247-0855. Current public land information is also recorded weekly on the San Juan Region Outdoor Recreation Hotline at 247-8187, sponsored by Pine Needle Mountaineering. Enjoy your time safely out in the forest!
The San Juan Public Lands Center is a service oriented one-stop shop, consisting of the San Juan National Forest, BLM and SJMA, with volunteers and staff specializing in providing information about your public lands. The office is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Public Lands Offices are also available in Pagosa Springs, Dolores and Bayfield.
Alan Peterson is director of Visitor Information Service and Bookstore Operations for the San Juan Mountains Association. SJMA partners with the San Juan National Forest and BLM Tres Rios Field office to bring you current and updated visitor information. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.