As the sun sets on 2016, it’s a great time to look forward and establish some new goals and resolutions for the upcoming year. If you’re an angler and hunter, or just someone who loves Colorado’s wildlife and wild places, consider making a commitment to one or all of these New Year’s resolutions. Each benefits wildlife and/or gives you even more reasons to get out and enjoy the great outdoors in 2017.
1. Support Colorado’s Wildlife by Donating Your 2016 Tax Refund
The tax season is right around the corner. Help Colorado’s wildlife this year by donating all or a portion of your 2016 tax refund to CPW’s Income Tax Checkoff. Your contribution will help threatened and endangered wildlife and support conservation programs for “nongame” species like prairie dogs, cutthroat trout, bats, boreal toads, Gunnison sage-grouse, lynx, black-footed ferrets and dozens of other species. Contributions are tax deductible and are a great way to help conserve and protect Colorado’s wildlife.
2. Invite One New Person Hunting or Fishing This Year
Chances are you probably learned how to hunt and fish from a close friend or family member. Unfortunately, many people don’t have that same opportunity. If you were lucky enough to have someone else show you the ropes, pay it forward by introducing someone to the great outdoors this year. Become a mentor and invite this person on several outings with you. Teach them about basic skills, equipment and hunting/fishing regulations. By inviting just one new person to join you, you’ll be doing your part to keep Colorado’s hunting and fishing traditions alive and well. And, because wildlife conservation is paid for almost exclusively by hunters and anglers, you’ll also ensure that Colorado’s wildlife populations remain abundant for future generations.
3. Learn Something New
Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” It’s easy to fall into a rut by doing the same old thing. Step out of your comfort zone and learn something new this year. Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a variety of educational clinics for sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts. Learn how to fly fish, ice fish, pheasant hunt or tackle your first big-game hunt in 2017. Or, participate in a guided hike or attend a nature seminar at one of our 42 state parks. The opportunities to learn something new are almost limitless.
4. Become a Better Shot
Whether you hunt with a bow, rifle, muzzleloader or shotgun, practicing with your firearm should be a year-round endeavor. As hunters, we have a responsibility to be safe and proficient marksmen. Fortunately, Colorado offers a variety of public shooting ranges where you can perfect your aim. Up the ante by competing in a shooting club or a sporting-clays league. Shooting year-round will give you greater confidence in the field and provide you with more opportunities to harvest game once the hunting seasons begin. If you’re not already a hunter, consider taking a hunter education class simply to learn the basics of firearm safety. Learning how to shoot is a great New Year’s resolution for anyone.
5. Learn How to Survive in the Outdoors
Most Coloradans spend a lot of time in the backcountry, making survival situations a real possibility. According to studies conducted by NOAA, 64 percent of lightning deaths since 2006 occurred while people were participating in recreational activities, with fishing, camping and boating topping the list. In addition, hypothermia/hyperthermia are serious threats because of Colorado’s unpredictable and variable weather. Learn how to play it safe this year by following this ongoing “Outdoor Survival” series on Colorado Outdoors Online.
6. Volunteer with Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your time. If you’re passionate about the outdoors, consider volunteering with CPW’s Hunter Education and Hunter/Angler Outreach programs. At a time when fewer parents are passing on outdoor skills to their children, these programs are more important than ever to introduce youths to the outdoors. As Hunter Education Instructor Ginger Bailey explains in this testimonial video, the rewards of volunteering are great and teaching others how to become safe and ethical hunters “will renew your own spirit as to why you’re a hunter as well.” If you’re not a hunter or angler, Visit CPW’s website for more information on how you can get involved with a variety of other programs.
7. Find a New Fishing Hole
With more than 100,000 miles of rivers and 2,000 lakes and reservoirs, Colorado offers some of the best fishing opportunities in the West. With so many options, challenge yourself to explore a new water or to target a different fish species this year. If you’re an avid bass fisherman, try your hand at catching a lake trout at Lake Granby. If you’re a self-professed trout snob, fish for bass, walleye or catfish at one of Colorado’s warm-water reservoirs. If you’re primarily an urban angler, get off the beaten path and try catching a native cutthroat trout in a remote, alpine lake. CPW’s Fishing Atlas is a great resource to help you plan a new fishing adventure in 2017.
Colorado Outdoors Online wishes you a safe and successful 2017. Happy New Year!
Story, photos and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is a media specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and is the editor for Colorado Outdoors Online.