For Colorado outdoor memories, local family learning to hunt

Ben Collins, 9, practices shooting at a milk-jug target as Phil Gurule, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, instructs him Wednesday, May 3, 2017, at the Ramah State Wildlife Area.

The fatal shooting of 26-year-old Simon Jacob Howell this week in a hunting accident near Kremmling shocked the state, largely because of the rarity of the tragedy.

Colorado averages less than one hunter fatality per year despite approximately 500,000 people participating in hunting season annually, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Before the death of Howell on Monday, the last hunter fatality in Colorado was back in 2018.

But this wasn’t always the case.

For decades, Colorado averaged around 10 hunter fatalities per year before the state began requiring a hunter education course in 1970 for those applying for a hunting license, according to CPW.

Randy Hampton with CPW attributes the state’s progress in hunter fatalities to the education course.

Colorado’s hunter education covers firearm safety, wildlife management, laws and regulations, hunter responsibility, survival, game care and ethics of hunting. Students must also safely shoot a .22 rifle to pass the course.

Students fail the course if they receive a score of less than 75% on the final exam, lack firearm handling skills or present an unacceptable attitude during the course.

The course is taught throughout the state by certified volunteers and CPW officers via in-person instruction or online classes. All courses for students 11 years old or older are currently being held online as a result of COVID-19.

More than 18,000 Coloradans are certified through the hunter education course each year.

When the courses became mandatory in 1970, hunters 21 years old or older were exempt. So today, the courses are only required for people born on or after Jan. 1, 1949.

Adults 50 years old or older and U.S. military veterans of any age can test-out of the course if they pass the test with a score of 90% or higher. The opt-out test can only be taken once.

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