Elk or moose? Here are some tips on how to tell the difference

  • Common hunting violations can be costly
    Common hunting violations can be costly


Reintroduced to Colorado more than 30 years ago, moose are thriving in many parts of the state. Unfortunately, almost every year hunters inadvertently shoot moose. During the last few years, more than a dozen moose are killed every year by hunters who thought they were shooting elk.

Elk hunters need to be sure to know the difference between these two ungulates. If a hunter without the proper license shoots a moose, the fine can be more than $1,000 and hunting privileges can be lost.

Moose are the largest members of the deer family and have adapted to a variety of habitats. They favor willows along streams and ponds. But be aware, some moose also inhabit lodgepole pine, oak brush, aspen, spruce, fir and even sagebrush — in other words, the same areas where elk live. Moose can be found in almost any high-country habitat area of Colorado.

There’s no excuse for mistaking these animals. They are vastly different in size, color, antler shape and habits. A mature Shiras bull moose weighs 1,200 pounds — about twice as much as the average bull elk. Moose are dark brown and appear almost black. Elk are light brown — a bull elk can be almost golden — with a pale yellow rump.

A moose has a very large, long, bulbous nose and a fur under the throat. An elk’s snout is much narrower and it has no “bell.” A mature bull moose has broad, flat antlers, unlike the pointed antlers of an elk. But the antlers on some young bull moose have not flattened out yet, so hunters need to look over the entire animal before pulling the trigger.

Moose act very differently than elk when approached by humans. Typically, moose will not flee like elk at the sight of a hunter, which makes them easier to kill. So if it sees you and doesn’t un, it’s probably a moose

Every hunting season, officers for Colorado Parks and Wildlife hand out hundreds of tickets for violations that cost hunters hundreds of thousands of dollars. While some of those tickets are for flagrant violations of wildlife regulations and hunting laws, many more are for minor violations that could have been avoided.

Hunters are reminded that not only can they be fined for violations, they can also lose their hunting privileges in Colorado and the 45 other states that cooperatively participate in a nationwide wildlife compact agreement.

Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager for the San Luis Valley, explained that hunters need to set aside some time to review the Colorado Big Game Brochure. “Hunters must know their responsibilities when they get into the field,’ Basagoitia said. Wildlife laws are written to protect a valuable resource and for safety.”

Following are some of the more common violations that occur every year:

Not wearing fluorescent orange or pink: You must wear at least 5oo inches of daylight fluorescent orange/pink, including a head covering of the same color that can be seen from all directions. Mesh garments are legal but not recommended. Camouflage orange/pink does not qualify.

Carrying loaded firearms in or on vehicles: Rifles must not haw ammunition in the chamber while in or on any motor vehicles. For those riding OHVs, weapons (rifles and bows) must also be in a closed case and fully unloaded (chamber and magazine). Most accidents involving firearms occur in or near vehicles.

Going on private land without permission to retrieve a harvested animal: You must have permission from the landowner to enter private land to retrieve a dead animal. First, you should try to contact the landowner on your own. If that effort fails, call the local CPW office. CPW officers know landowners in their areas and will help you make a contact.

Shooting from a road: Before firing a shot, you must be at least 50 feet off a designated state or county road, and just off U.S. Forest Service or BLM roads. You also cannot shoot across a road.

License not you an you must void the license immediately.

Improperly attached carcass tag: The carcass tag must be attached to the animal. The best way is to cut a hole in the hide and attach with a tie. It is OK to wait until you get the animal back to camp or to your vehicle to attach the carcass tag.

No evidence of sex: Be sure to leave evidence of sex naturally attached to the carcass. Evidence includes the head, the vulva or the scrotum.

Waste of game meat: Big game meat can begin to spoil at 38 degrees. To keep the carcass cool, remove the hide as soon as possible after the kill to allow for air to circulate around the meat. Reduce the mass of the carcass by quartering the meat or boning out the meat. Place the meat in a cooler as soon as possible. Even in cold weather, a carcass should not hang outside for more than 36 hours. Remember: Because game meat contains very little fat, it cannot be aged like beef. The so-called “gamey taste” is caused by spoilage, not because the animal is wild.

To learn how to field dress a big game animal, see the video at: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/HuntVideos.aspx.

Shooting a spike-antlered elk: Hunters who hold a cow elk tag sometimes shoot spike bulls. Be sure of your target. If you are shooting at a long distance or in low light conditions, it can be difficult to see spike antlers. If you are not absolutely sure, do not shoot.

Illegally tagging an animal: You can only place a tag on an animal that you shot. You cannot trade tags with other license holders, or use tags of other license holders.

For more information, visit wwwcpw.state.co.us.