Since more than 75 percent of the land in Chaffee County is public open space of one form or another, you’ll find lots of options for places to hunt, but the most important step should be your first: completing a hunter education course.

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949, is required to have a hunter education card, sometimes called a hunter safety card, before purchasing a hunting license in Colorado. This card must also be carried while hunting.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife also offers a variety of programs for hunters through its Hunter Outreach Program, including; Rookie Sportsman Program, Youth Outreach Program, Woman Afield and Novice Hunter Program, said Jim Aragon, CPW area wildlife manager.

Hunters can choose from a variety of seasons and types of hunting, from archery season, which begins toward the end of August, when the days and nights are still warm, to rifle season for deer or elk, which extends into November, when snow will start driving game down from their high summer habitats.

Chaffee and Lake counties are home to mule deer, elk, pronghorn, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

CPW relies on hunters to help maintain deer and elk populations throughout the state, as Colorado has the highest free-range elk population in the country, Aragon said.

CPW estimates that the management units throughout the Upper Arkansas are home to significant populations of deer and elk, the most popular game to hunt in this area.

Copies of the latest Big Game booklet, which covers almost everything hunters need to know about this region and Colorado, can be found at most CPW offices, along with many other helpful brochures.

CPW’s Salida office, headquarters for the area, is at 7405 W. U.S. 50, and can be reached at 719-530-5520.

Information can also be found online at cpw.state.co.us.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will offer a hunter education class Sept. 19, 20, 21, 28 and 29 in Salida.

The first four sessions will be from 5-8 p.m. at the CPW area office, 7405 U.S. 50. The final session will take place from 9 a.m.-noon at the Chaffee County Shooting Range.

The basic purpose of the class is to teach hunters to be safe, legal and responsible, according to a press release.

Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949, is required to take a hunter education class and obtain a hunter education card before purchasing a hunting license in Colorado.

Topics covered include wildlife management, wildlife identification, ethics, laws and regulations and firearms safety and handling.

While hunter education classes enable safer hunting, they also help hunters to be more successful in their hunts and to emphasize ethical hunting behavior, CPW officials said.

The course costs $7. Participants should register at register-ed.com/programs/colorado/98-colorado-hunter-education-course.

For questions, contact the Salida CPW office at 530-5520.