So, you’re new to Colorado, or perhaps you’ve lived here for a long time and have always been curious about the traditional outdoor pursuits but have never participated yourself. If you fit into the statistical curve, the biggest reason you’ve cited for not taking the first step to becoming an angler or hunter is lack of somebody to teach you. That’s right, if you were not taught outdoor skills at a young age, getting that knowledge later in life has proven to be the major barrier to entry for those wanting to hunt, fish and generally enjoy the benefits of a life in the great outdoors. But, it doesn’t have to be that way!
First off, why would you want to take up hunting or fishing? An increasingly common reason for adults getting out there is the desire to eat better quality food of known origin. Want to know where your protein came from? Harvest it yourself. Wild game and fish are nutrient dense, chemical free and very, very free-range. Physical exercise, a reason to explore your outdoor resources and inner self and the general feeling of accomplishment are also all great reasons to take that first step. But how?
Join the club. Yep, even old dudes, urban professionals and Colorado newbs alike have a slew of great outdoor resources just waiting for you to show up. They’ll teach the ways of the woods and waters while instilling in you the understanding of a hunter or angler’s place in conservation. And make no mistake, conservation is the heart of hunting and fishing. The very clubs I’m referencing are conservation-based organizations populated by outdoorsmen and women who, like me, believe that once you experience the outdoor pursuits for yourself, you’ll see their true value and will, in turn, be more conservation-oriented yourself. It is not debatable that the first conservationists were hunters and fishermen, and that is true even today.
Nonprofit organizations like Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Turkey Federation or the Mule Deer Foundation are all named for their favorite species, but they also realize that conservation, especially habitat conservation, benefits all species, that ecosystems are intertwined and that more folks enjoying the outdoor pursuits equals more conservationists in society. The same concept goes for Trout Unlimited, Colorado Bass Federation, Colorado Walleye Association and others…and they all want you.
They will teach you their ways. Each of these organizations have an education component or, at very least, members that will provide you with invaluable knowledge as to the ways and means to be successful outdoors. Want a freezer full of delicious venison but don’t know where to start? They’ll teach you. They’ll teach you about acquiring your Hunter’s Safety card and a big-game tag. They’ll teach you about habitat and terrain, and how it applies to deer focused on three things: food, shelter and water. That may not seem like much until you’re trying to harvest said deer, in which case knowing how to predict its daily movement patterns is paramount. They’ll teach you about your firearm; what to buy, how to set it up and practice, and also where exactly to aim it to ensure an ethical harvest. They’ll also teach you to field dress and process your prize in the field, which is the most important step to quality venison. They’ll do all this for free because they believe in the cause and lifestyle, and new players are important to the future.
Want to learn to fly fish? No problem, there are several clubs in Colorado that can help. How about spin casting? Bass are the most popular sportfish nationwide by a large margin and Colorado, while being famous for its trout, is home to a slew of quality bass clubs. Same goes for walleyes. And sure it costs a small amount yearly to join any of the clubs or organizations, but the rewards far exceed the price of admission. Geez, in my experience many folks become lifelong friends after originally meeting in a conservation organization, and lots of folks like yourself join, learn and, ultimately, go on to teach others. It’s a beautiful thing.
Most of the organizations work directly with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on habitat projects and hunter/angler education and outreach programs in a truly symbiotic relationship. Lake clean-up days, planting cover, fish sampling and recruiting private land to enroll in the Walk-In Access Program (Never heard of that? It opens hundred of thousands of acres of private ground to licensed small-game and bird hunters, while also providing a benefit to landowners that help conserve quality habitat. A lot of the leg work is handled by conservation groups on a volunteer basis, to the benefit of all hunters.) Lastly, these groups don’t just want you, they want kids too, and go to major efforts to get youngsters away from video screens and in the outdoors.
You live in a state containing 70 percent public land and ripe with fish and game, so enjoy it. It’s time to take that first step and join the club.
Written by Chad LaChance. LaChance owns and operates Fishful Thinker, a TV show, blog and guide service in Colorado.