Contact Name: Joe Lewandowski, SW region Durango
Contact Phone: 970-375-6708

By Jordan Ratterree, Age 11


A man hunting turkeys in Western Colorado on the Uncompahgre Plateau was accidentally shot by another hunter on April 22. The accident, however, could have been prevented, said officials for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The man suffered only a minor injury; but potential for serious or fatal injuries was substantial.

“It’s plain and simple: Know what you’re shooting at,” said Perry Will, area wildlife manager in Montrose for the DOW. “The man who shot did not clearly identify his target.”

Turkey hunting can be riskier than other hunting activities for a few reasons, explained Mark Cousins, hunter education coordinator for the DOW. Hunters dress in camouflage and use calls and decoys to attempt to bring in birds for a shot. The calls and decoys not only attract turkeys, they also attract other hunters. Sometimes hunters mistake the decoys for real birds or shoot towards sounds.

“If you’re hunting with a decoy or using a call you are trying to get birds to come in close, so you need to be very careful if other hunters are in the area,” Cousins said.

According to the accident report, the man who was shot was trying to call birds in. The man who fired the shot was about 50 yards away. He told wildlife officers that he saw something move in the bushes and believed it was a turkey.

The movement he discerned, however, was that of the other hunter who was struck in the back of the head with one shotgun-shell pellet. The man who was shot told wildlife officers that it felt like someone hit him in the back of the head with a baseball bat. He was aided by the man who shot him.

The man who fired the shot could be cited for careless hunting, charged with a misdemeanor, be fined up to $1,000 dollars and be assessed up to 20 points on his hunting license. A hunter who accumulates 20 points or more can lose hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado.

Cousins stressed these safety tips:
* Never point your gun at something unless you are certain of what it is.
* Always positively identify your target.
* Be sure to know what is behind and near what you are shooting at – there could be other hunters behind the target. Also, only Tom turkeys can be harvested during the spring. But because the birds often bunch up, a hunter might not notice a hen or a juvenile bird standing nearby. Another bird could be shot inadvertently.
* Hunters who are stalking turkeys should be aware that calls they are following might be coming from another hunter. Don’t assume all calls are from turkeys.
* Keep track of your hunting partners.
* Carefully read the turkey hunting regulations brochure.

“Hunters must remember that one moment of carelessness can have a lifetime of consequences,” Cousins said.

About 550,000 hunting licenses are sold in Colorado each year, but only about a dozen hunting accidents are reported.

Turkey hunting season continues in many areas of Colorado through May 24.