Hunting of wildlife undoubtedly has taken place on the lands around Fishers Peak for eons. But in the fall of 2020, a handful of very lucky hunters won the opportunity to be the first hunters on Fishers Peak State Park. Today, I am so excited to share their experiences.
But first, a quick update on our first Fishers Peak State Park Community Information Sessions, which took place Dec. 14 and 17, 2020. On those evenings, we offered a virtual presentation and held a Question and Answer session regarding the master planning process going on at the park.
I believe they went very well. The public support and sheer excitement for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 42nd state park was obvious when the first evening’s event began and there were 75 or more members of the public logged in to listen and ask questions. Our public participation went over 100 when the second night’s attendance was added.
Frankly, it’s been like that from the beginning. Our new state park’s audience has been engaged, inquisitive, invested and generally optimistic. For CPW, our partners and for myself, that makes this project all the more exciting and rewarding.
Our panel of presenters included representatives from all of the project partners – CPW, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and the City of Trinidad – as well as Las Animas County. The questions we received were delightfully diverse, most focusing on specific types of recreation that may be available on the property in the future.
If you missed it, a recording of the first public presentation, along with the slideshow we used is available on our fisherspeakstatepark.com website, under the “Events and News” tab.
But don’t worry if you weren’t able to tune in. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future for you to voice your opinion about how Fishers Peak State Park should look when the entire 19,200 acres are made available to the public in the coming years.
Inaugural Hunting Seasons
Now, back to the inaugural hunting seasons and the stories, I heard from our lucky first participants.
Similar to the modest trails and picnic areas we constructed for our Sneak Peek concept, CPW also created a limited hunting program for 2020. The names of five eligible hunters were randomly drawn and the lottery winners were invited to hunt on the park with just one non-hunting companion for the species and season indicated on their hunting license.
For this first year, only elk, deer, bear and mountain lion were hunted and only one hunter was permitted per rifle season.
By all accounts, they were not easy hunts. While they had much of the 19,200 acres available to them, our hunters were only able to walk the property or travel on horseback.
“The first thing that strikes you about Fishers Peak is the beauty of the terrain and the diversity of the trails,” said Scott McCann of Oklahoma, the park’s very first permitted hunter. “It was ultimately very relaxing, just glassing the surroundings of the park and thinking how fortunate the people of the state of Colorado are to have acquired such a beautiful property. “Unfortunately, we found no bear on this hunt. But the opportunity to become the first person to lawfully hunt the newly acquired state park was reward enough for me.”
During his trip to the area, McCann and his wife camped at Trinidad Lake State Park and became the first to purchase our new Fishers Peak State Park logo merchandise.
“I would like to thank the professionals from the various state agencies who made my trip possible,” McCann told me in an email. “More importantly, it seems fitting to thank the people of the state of Colorado who ultimately paid for this park. The Fisher’s Peak property will serve as a great place for public recreation and it appears to me that the people charged with the stewardship of this great asset have taken their job seriously.”
A local hunter, Paul Costa, won the lottery and hunted a bull elk on the park. After what he described as a “tough hunt,” Costa successfully harvested a hefty critter. He was thankful for the opportunity.
Our other successful hunter of 2020 was Josh Montoya, also a Colorado resident. He was our only deer hunter and he harvested a good-sized buck with irregular antlers, including drop tines. Montoya’s enthusiasm was evident from the day he was informed that he was one of our lottery-winning hunters. He was ecstatic when he got his buck.
Congratulations to both Costa and Montoya for their hard work and successful hunts.
Of course, many hunters will tell you that the harvest is just the icing on the cake.
Elk hunter Frank Guadagnoli was thankful that he got to share his opportunity with his 82-year old father and with his son.
“Beautiful country,” Guadagnoli told me later. “Lots of high points to spot and stalk. Didn’t get any shots, but hunting is about the experience.”
His sentiments were echoed by our last permitted hunter, DeAnna Power of Colorado. She and her husband, Jarrod, explored the park mostly on horseback, accompanied by their hard-working hounds, in pursuit of mountain lion.
“You could say this hunt was more about the ride than the destination,” DeAnna told me. “There is something special about being horseback with hounds by your side.”
Despite hours in the saddle, she said there was so much more of the park left to explore.
“My husband and I rode many miles on our horses through the park and barely saw a portion of it,” she said. “It is rugged. From just passing by on Interstate 25, you wouldn’t realize how much land and topographical features there are to explore to the east.”
Unfortunately, despite multiple days of tracking, they didn’t see a mountain lion and the quota for hunting lions in that Game Management Unit was filled before DeAnna and Jarrod harvested a lion.
But like so many other hunters, DeAnna is grateful to have had the chance to experience the massive state park.
“It was an honor to be part of the first group of hunters to have an opportunity to explore Fishers Peak State Park,” DeAnna said. “In Colorado, we are fortunate to have access to phenomenal public lands. Fishers Peak is a great addition to anyone’s list of places for outdoor adventures.”
I couldn’t agree more, DeAnna.
And with that, it’s time for me to get back to work on your park. Look for more news next month as we continue to imagine Fishers Peak State Park.
Written by Crystal Dreiling. Crystal Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Fishers Peak/Trinidad Lake Park Manager. Editor’s Note: This is a regular monthly column from Colorado Parks and Wildlife about the creation of Fishers Peak State Park near Trinidad by a career park manager.