Watch out for guns

  It was killing season again, and in Colorado it might have been safer to romp through the woods in blaze orange than to stay near a hunting camp. A 16-year-old girl in the Uncompahgre National Forest hopped off her four-wheeler while unloading her rifle Oct. 21, only to shoot her father in the leg. He bled to death before help arrived. A week earlier, John Dotson was resting in his hunting camp in western Colorado when a bullet whizzed through a wooden fence post and lodged in his chest. He fired three shots in the air as a plea for help; no one answered in time to save him.

The most dangerous place to be during hunting season is in or near a vehicle where people illegally carry loaded guns, says Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Todd Malmsbury. Some fatalities don't require guns, however. A hunter near Gunnison, Colo., on Oct. 13, backed his Ford pickup over his tent, killing a companion sleeping inside. The death continues to be investigated.

Despite the grim stories, the Colorado woods are getting safer. The average annual number of hunting fatalities in Colorado has dropped from as many as 13 in the 1960s to an average of 1.4 during the 1990s, says Malmsbury. He attributes the drop to Colorado legislation that requires hunters born after 1949 to take a hunter safety course before receiving a license.

Utah has seen only one fatality this year and one horse killing. In Garfield County, Utah, a hunter sneaked into the camp of two men who were stalking "his' elk, and slashed the tires of their pickups. In retaliation, they shot his horse.

* Heather Abel

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