CPW Field Journal
When it comes to outdoors expertise, no one understands Colorado’s fishery and wildlife resources better than Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s diverse staff of wildlife managers, park rangers and biologists. For these dedicated individuals, working for CPW is not just an occupation but a way of life. When they’re not enforcing fish and game laws, patrolling state lands or conducting fish and wildlife research, most CPW employees are avid sportsmen and women who spend their leisure time hunting and angling throughout the state. Here, CPW staff share their personal stories and experiences, provide on-the-ground field updates and offer a unique, “inside” perspective on all things hunting and fishing in Colorado.
In this special, multi-part series of CPW Field Journal, CPW employee Michael Scott shares his personal experiences applying/drawing for sheep and moose licenses, and provides real-time updates during his preseason scouting and fall hunting trips.
Part One: “Drawing Licenses and Virtual Scouting”
Part Two: “Scouting for Sheep”
Let’s face it. There is a time every year when winter turns to spring and anyone who hunts for big game begins to daydream about what tags they may draw for the upcoming fall. For me, this includes everything I can possibly apply for including the biggies—moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep. I have been applying for these species for at least 20 years and was lucky enough to draw a goat tag about 12 years ago. Since these species don’t have a guarantee of drawing, regardless of the number of preference points, the daydreaming turns to studying. I study the draw results and statistics from the previous year to see what the odds are of drawing a tag in a given unit and season. I also study the measurements of the animals that were killed in previous years. Which unit has rams with the heaviest bases? Where can I find a 50-inch moose? Or a 9 ½-inch billy?
I tend to change units from year to year. So in 2013, I leaned toward units with better odds of drawing, instead of where the biggest trophies could be found. Even with that, I have learned over the past 20 years not to get too optimistic about my odds of drawing a license. It’s kind of like buying a Powerball ticket and actually thinking that you will win. You might have that small thought in the back of your head, but reality sets in when you read the numbers and find no matches. So, when I looked at the CPW website the day after the sheep drawing last week and saw that I had drawn a bighorn sheep tag, I thought I had hit the jackpot! I’ve heard dozens of other hunters say this and always thought it sounded a little hokie, but it is true. I finally drew a tag after 20 years of applying.
Now the hard part: preparing for a hunt that could last 1 day or 27. With the snowy spring that we’ve had in northern Colorado, there is a good chance that I may not be able to actually get out on the ground in parts of my sheep unit for another month and a half. The season starts Aug. 3, so that doesn’t leave me a lot of time for scouting. So, I immediately jumped into the process of “online scouting.” For those who are not very computer savvy, you HAVE to take a look at CPW’s Hunting Atlas and a little program called Google Earth. These are, in my opinion, the best free tools available on the internet. I already have all of the reported kill locations, along with the size of the rams, pinned to the satellite images on Google Earth. With this program, I can research access points, see elevations and approaches, view photographs posted by other users and then drop down to ground-level to see what the “country” really looks like. It is the next best thing to actually being there, and it’s the only way to scout while there is 4 feet of snow on the ground!
So now the big surprise: I just looked at the draw results for moose and found out that I drew that tag as well. Wow! Again, after a 20-year wait, I don’t know what I could say that is better than “I feel like I hit the jackpot!” For one brief moment, I actually considered turning in one of these licenses . . . but only briefly. I will definitely keep both tags. I will spend evenings for the next month or so cyber scouting. Then I will spend free days and evenings scouting for sheep whenever I have a chance in July, hunt for sheep in August and then concentrate on a moose hunt that doesn’t start until Oct. 1. This is going to be a long, busy, fun summer and fall. Maybe I should go buy a Powerball ticket. There’s no way I could actually win, but then again . . .
Update: After writing this entry, I couldn’t help myself but to try and get out for some actual, on-the-ground scouting. Some of the trails are “open,” and I spent a half day looking for moose in the high country. I didn’t see any moose, but I did start to get a feel for where they should be in a month or two. Ironically, I heard there was a moose seen crossing the highway just a few miles from where I was hiking. Go figure.