Top 10 Things to Know When Hunting on BLM lands in Colorado

Many people hunting in Colorado this season will take advantage of some of the 8.3 million acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered land in Colorado. The Northwest Colorado BLM District manages 5 million acres that include some of the best hunting opportunities in the state.  The BLM manages the land – including wildlife habitat. Colorado Parks and Wildlife manage the wildlife and regulate hunting on BLM lands.

Based on the questions we get at our field offices and what our rangers see in the field, here are the top 10 things you should know when you are hunting on your public lands:

Check with your local BLM office before hitting the hunting camp.
Things like fire restrictions, road closures and rule changes can vary each year. The best way to make sure you know the latest to avoid disappointment or a citation is to check in with the local BLM office. Each office manages hundreds of thousands of acres, so be specific about where you are planning to go. You can find the local office you need by logging onto www.blm.gov/co

BLM land is open to hunting, but you have to have legal access to hunt it.
Legal access to most BLM land isn’t a problem. However, some public lands are completely surrounded by private land. If there is not legal access through that private land, you need permission to cross the private land. You are not guaranteed access, even though you are trying to reach public lands. It is your responsibility to know where you are, so use maps and GPS units. It is illegal to post BLM land as private land, but every year a few people give it a try. If you suspect someone has posted public land as private, contact the local BLM office to clarify.

It is illegal to cross public land at corners.
Some areas in the West are “checker-boarded” with public and private lands, or otherwise have sections of public land that are difficult to reach. When the only place tracts of public land touch is at a corner, it may seem like a logical thing to step over the corner from one piece of public land to another. Every year hunters with armed with GPS units and maps give it a try. Unfortunately, it is illegal to cross at boundary corners.

Where are all the elk?
Truly one of the main questions asked of rangers and at our field offices during hunting season. Most elk migrate seasonally based on factors like weather and hunting pressure. Scouting different elevations just before the season begins can make a huge difference. If elk are around, you will typically see more when you are out of your truck or off your ATV. The farther you are from main roads, the better.

Keep motorized vehicles on existing or designated roads.
This includes retrieving downed game. Rules for motorized travel vary by office, and many offices are either updating or have recently updated their travel management plans. It’s best to contact the local office where you are planning to hunt to find out what is permitted.

Be familiar with Colorado wildlife laws and off-highway vehicle laws – they apply on BLM land.
For instance, all off-highway vehicles operated in Colorado – including BLM roads – need to be registered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Non-residents bringing in OHVs must purchase a Colorado Non-resident OHV permit. The hunting regulation booklets published by Colorado Parks and Wildlife every year, along with their website, are great resources.

Know the camping rules for BLM.
Camping on most BLM Colorado lands is limited to no longer than 14 days in any 30-day period unless otherwise authorized. After the 14 days have been reached, you must move at least 30 air miles from your last campsite. This rule is in place to ensure fair use of campsites as well as to discourage people from residing full-time on public land. There are some exceptions, so again, check with that local office.

BLM land is multiple-use.
BLM lands by law are managed for many different uses. This includes not only a wide variety of recreational uses like hunting, but also many other important economic uses such as energy development and livestock grazing. The BLM strives to find a balance among all these uses. Please respect other users.

Leave your camp cleaner than you found it.
The end-of-season camp exodus is often hurried and hectic. But please take time to remove all trash and debris – including those carpet scraps. It is illegal to leave behind personal property or trash. A northern Colorado OHV group recently donated a Saturday for a public lands clean-up and removed nearly 760 pounds of trash left behind from several hunting camps along a mile-stretch of road. You can imagine the terrible impression of hunters this must leave to the general public who also visit these areas.

Report illegal activity.
Rangers often hear about an illegal activity someone saw well after the fact. The illegal poaching of wildlife is a top priority with both Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the BLM.  To report poachers, call Colorado Parks and Wildlife toll-free within Colorado at 1-877-COLO-OGT. Depending on the activity you witness, call the local sheriff’s office or the local BLM office.