Oct 122005
 
Authors: Ryan Fedel

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) hunters can obtain licenses for big game including deer, elk, bear and moose; small game such as pheasant, bobcat, beaver, red fox, coyotes and cottontail rabbits; and waterfowl including ducks and geese.

"Big game is the biggest draw to Colorado by far. People come from all over just to get the opportunity to hunt an elk," said Tom Frink, an employee in the hunting department at Jax Outdoor Gear.

Frink also said the Front Range is currently one of the most popular places for geese hunting.

"Last estimate I read was 15,000 birds in Fort Collins that don't ever migrate out. Just stop by City Park or some of the other (parks) around town," Frink said.

Just because the opportunity to hunt is available does not mean anyone can simply grab a rifle or bow and head out.

According to the DOW, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949, must first complete a hunter education class. The class is designed to teach safe and responsible firearm handling. Hunter education also covers wildlife identification (so that hunters can properly identify and shoot an animal that their licenses allows), game care, including how to get your animal out of the woods and transported to your home safely and outdoor survival, in case something goes wrong during a hunting expedition.

The hunter education class was set up to help deter hunting accidents. According to the DOW, in the 1960s Colorado had an average of nine fatal and 24 nonfatal hunting related accidents each year. Improvement in safety has been seen since the introduction of the program, During the 1990s there was an average of one fatal and 11 nonfatal hunting related accidents.

For Frink, the hunter safety class is making hunters aware of rules and regulations they are required to follow.

"The best comparison for most people is getting a drivers license, they just don't hand you one when you turn 16," Frink said.

He also said the class is beneficial because hunting is often taken for granted and animal habitats are destroyed.

"In Colorado there are a lot of opportunities to hunt with all the open land," Frink said. "It's just like hiking and climbing, there are all these public spaces that are filled with garbage."

Hunting attracts people to the sport for different reasons. One popular aspect is hunters can enjoy the outdoors, said Chris Scales, a senior forestry student.

The lack of a guarantee that a hunter will have an opportunity to shoot an animal is another appeal.

"It's not 100 percent. People can go three or four years without even seeing an animal and even if you do, it doesn't mean you are going to have a chance to harvest that animal," Frink said.

The adventure of the hunt is another attraction to the sport.

"We like the thrill, searching for whatever game you are hunting," Scales said. "We like the stalking, especially the big game."

Some individuals enjoy hunting simply for the opportunity to be with a group of friends.

"You know, a lot of people never make it out of camp; they just go and yack with their buddies." Frink said. "I know a ton of people that get all this stuff and they end up just sitting, enjoying being with friends."

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