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 3: “Scouting For Sheep and Moose — A Family Affair”
Go to Part 2
The great thing about scouting for sheep, moose, or any wildlife for that matter, is that you see all sorts of other critters while you are out there. I’ve spent the last month and a half getting into the high country to look for bighorn sheep and moose, and I’ve seen just about everything else: marmot, mule deer, ducks, pika, Abert’s squirrel, elk and even snakes. Unfortunately, I haven’t had great luck finding bighorn sheep when my son Christian and daughter Sarah have been along. But we have seen lots of other wildlife.
On one of the first trips out above timberline, we watched 20 head of elk with newborn calves following their mothers up steep hillsides without hesitation. It never ceases to amaze me how tough wild animals are.
On a later trip, we again watched babies. This time, ducklings were scattered in the grasses along the edge of a pond while momma tried to round them all up.
We also experienced a few things that others rarely see—like snow in July. On one trip, the kids got a little bored driving 4-wheel-drive roads and looking at alpine ridges through binoculars and spotting scopes. So, when we found a sizeable snowdrift and stopped to take a look, the kids took the opportunity to experience a little “wild life” of their own. Christian attempted a little summer skiing in tennis shoes while Sarah videoed the whole thing. Luckily, the only damages were a couple of scrapes on his knee and backside.
And most recently, and this may make many of you squeamish, we found a den of garter snakes while looking for moose. First a little background: My son Christian has always had a thing for snakes. When he was younger, my biggest fear was that he would find a poisonous rattlesnake and try to pick it up, assuming that it was a non-venomous garter snake, racer or bull snake.
Fortunately, Christian now knows the difference between the different types of snakes, but sometimes his instinct to just grab a snake kicks in as happened a few days ago. After glassing a willow drainage for moose, I almost stepped on a garter snake that was sunning itself on the rocks, and I pointed it out to him. Of course, he immediately grabbed it just as I saw several other snakes slithering through the rocks. In a flash, Christian darted around, grabbing snakes left and right and chasing others toward what ended up being a den in the rocks. The next thing I saw, he had a handful of snakes. He looked like Perseus holding up the head of Medusa. I’m pretty sure that if I ever feel the need to scare away one of Christian’s future girlfriends all I will have to do is show them this picture.
I’ll finish this post with a cuter story: On that same trip, Christian was adamant that he wanted to be the first one to spot a moose. Well, he was. While we were driving 55 miles per hour down the highway, he spotted a cow moose and her calf in the willows. We turned around and were lucky enough to be able to watch the cow moose for a few seconds before she disappeared into the willows. And then we watched the calf for several minutes while he walked through the grass stripping willow leaves from the branches. For a tough kid who wants to grow up to be a snake wrangler, he sure gushed about how cute that baby moose was.
All I can say after these scouting trips is that I wish I’d spent more time in the wild with my kids every year. I really believe that many of us (especially kids these days) spend too much time with technology—computers, smart phones, video games—and not enough time doing the things that connect us to nature. I’m getting ready to go on a 4-day camping/hunting trip with the kids for the beginning of my sheep hunt. There is no cell service where we are camping, which means no texting or Facebook either. I wonder how my daughter will do?