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, multipart series of CPW field Journal, Chris Johnson, GIS analyst for CPW, shares his experiences and thoughts as a first-time hunter. Johnson is part of a growing trend of adults, known as “Adult-Onset Hunters,” who are taking up hunting as a midlife pursuit.
Part Two: “Gearin’ Up For the Hunt”
Go to Part One of This Series
Taking my modified version of the Boy Scout motto to heart – be prepared given the reality of your economic constraints so you don’t die and leave a widow and fatherless children – I started planning for my first hunt immediately by checking out the “Elk Hunting University” page on the CPW website. I decided to send a list of preliminary questions to Karl, our temp, who got me excited about hunting in the first place. Here’s a portion of what I sent:
From: Johnson, Chris
Subject: Big man, hunt meat.
As the warm winds of August blow and children everywhere head back to school, I look across the ever moving hands of time to the day of my first hunt . . . and FREAK OUT! I am writing today because it was your moving tale of the big hunt that got me into this glorious balancing act between the thrilling thought of stalking a wild beast in the woods and the utter terror of potentially freezing to death all alone on a high mountain top. As the catalyst, I am hoping you might answer a few questions for me.
Please keep in mind as you read my list of questions that: (a) this may be the first of many; (b) some of them may be obvious to you and maybe even to me, but humor me; and (c) in all seriousness, I’m not committing to a lifetime of hunting just yet and, as such, I would rather not have to take out a second mortgage in order to outfit myself. So, without further ado . . .
Karl was kind enough to spend an hour or so discussing my various concerns. For me, the most useful part of that discussion was having Karl describe what the typical day of hunting in my location would look like. It’s one thing to see a list of clothes and gear; it’s another to understand how it all fits together.
I tweaked my list and decided a trip down to Cabela’s was in order. I should probably mention at this point that I’m a bad shopper in general. I am easily overwhelmed by rows and rows of stuff that I’m not convinced I need. Throw in a huge crowd of consumers, who seem gleeful in that situation, and the odds of me bolting for the car go up exponentially. Nevertheless, I gritted my teeth and joined the herd. I perused state-of-the-art long johns and admired the “silent,” high-tech outerwear. I could even have justified the price tag if only I had found a color that would allow double duty. But the idea of wearing camo on the ski slopes was too much. I tried on a couple pairs of reasonably priced boots and would have purchased one. Unfortunately, they were out of my size. At that point, I cracked. I returned home empty handed and discouraged.
The next day, after some personal reflection, I reminded myself that hunters throughout time have had success without the latest developments in camouflage and microfiber. I got serious about my packing list and, being the “techie” guy that I am, I created an Excel spreadsheet.
My columns were as follows: Item; Quantity; Number Owned; Number Needed; and Where to Buy. Getting organized at this level had a very calming effect. I poured myself a cup of coffee and hit the Internet. I started with the easy items and was able to check several things off my list in one fell swoop at Sierra Trading Post — discount prices and no crowds. Perfecto! I found a pair of used, Hungarian-military, wool pants from an Army Surplus Store that should keep me nice and toasty, even if I have to rubber band the top button. For $17.99, I will make it work.
At this point, my take-home advice for outfitting yourself for your first hunt can be boiled down to the following three points:
1. find people who can describe the specific situations for which you need to be prepared in order to hunt the way you want to hunt
2. make a detailed list from a variety of sources of everything you need to acquire to be safe and comfortable
3. don’t get hung up on having to have the latest and greatest everything, but allow yourself time to really think things through, ask questions and shop around
Hopefully, I’ll have my gear wrapped up soon. I’ll keep you posted!
Great post, Chris. I suspect a lot of men, myself included, are affected (not afflicted) by Adult-Onset Hunting. Reading your experience is informative and inspiring. Thanks for sharing. Consider submitting to Art of Manliness.