Know laws and avoid fines

Breaking the law to bag deer, elk or other game just doesn't pay, state wildlife officials warn.

If someone is caught killing game without a license or using someone else's license, the fines can add up to thousands of dollars. Hunters also run the risk of having their hunting privileges suspended in Colorado and 18 other states.

"It starts to add up," Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.

Not having a proper license will cost hunters twice the amount of the most expensive license for that species. For a deer, that is $580.

Depending on the circumstances, the hunter also could be charged with illegal possession of an animal, which is $1,000. Each offense is 15 points and, as is the case with a driver's license, severe penalities can be incurred if too many points accumulate. Hunters who accumulate too many points risk losing their licenses for a year up to a lifetime.

Offenses also can pile up when people "party hunt," meaning one person kills an animal to fill a tag belonging to someone else in the group. Both parties are ticketed, one for illegal transfer of a license the other for illegal killing of an animal. Both would face charges of illegally possessing an animal.

If someone makes an honest mistake, Hampton recommends contacting the DOW. Covering the mistake up only makes the situation worse.

"Someone will come out and work it out," Hampton said. "It may not mean you won't get a ticket, but you aren't going to get the kind of ticket you get when we find out (your attempt to cover up) the one violation you committed ... has become 15 violations."

The biggest fines come for those who kill trophy animals without the proper license. Those fines can be as high as $25,000 and come when hunters illegally bag big horn sheep, bull moose, or four-point bull elk.

Hampton said the DOW is cracking down on out-of-state hunters who try to purchase resident licenses. In the past, Hampton said, out-of-state hunters have claimed Colorado residency and had the DOW send their licenses to a friend's house in Colorado.

In-state licenses are easier to obtain and are cheaper. For elk, a resident license is $30, and a nonresident license is $485.

With better technology, an improved license system and data connectivity, the DOW can track hunters more easily.

Those who illegally claim to be residents get a $1,000 fine and 15 points on their licenses. Hunters also could be fined for the illegal killing and possession of an animal, which quickly accumulates to more than $2,000 in fines.

Hampton also reminds hunters to be cognizant of trespass issues. Colorado law does not require private landowners to post their property with no trespassing signs or fences. It is the hunters' responsibility to know what is public and private land.

Much of the DOW's time in hunting season is spent monitoring trespassing.

"We enforce trespassing laws very aggressively," Hampton said.

If someone is given permission to hunt on private land, Hampton recommends they get that permission writing, just in case there is a dispute.

Most Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Division of Wildlife lands are open to hunting. If not, the closed areas usually are well-identified on maps.

Even so, Hampton said, people who will be hunting on public lands should purchase a map of the areas and talk to the agencies before going out in the field.

Hunters also should remember that it is illegal to have loaded firearms in a vehicle, and firearms must be in cases when they are carried on all-terrain vehicles.

Hunters cannot shoot from vehicles and must be 50 feet from the road to shoot. It is also illegal to use night vision goggles. n

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