Author Archives: coloradooutdoorscontributor

BACKCOUNTRY BASICS

IMG_0675-web.jpgFOR THE HIKING BOOT-CLAD FLY FISHERMAN

Every outdoorsman has their specialty. Whatever the pursuit, there is somebody passionate enough to fill that niche. For me, that niche is backcountry fly fishing. I’m fortunate that I live in Colorado, where miles and miles of backcountry wilderness sit at my backdoor. For years I’ve explored rivers and lakes without names and no permanent address on topographic maps. Some are seasonal ponds or creeks only to be found during runoff, and I suppose others are ones the cartographer just never got around to naming, so they sit patiently waiting for the weary fly fisherman to come along and unlock their secrets. These waters can be either quite rewarding, painfully stubborn or barren of any life form. However, most tend to be quite willing to relinquish a few fish. At altitude, these fish have a short growing season, which means they are quite occupied with filling their gut with as many invertebrate vittles as possible. This is excellent news for the angler, but certain strategies can enhance success and even the quality of fish one might land. Although most backcountry fish have rarely — if ever — seen a fly, they can still be extremely spooky at the slightest disturbance. The following are guidelines I follow trip after trip that have treated me well over the years. Read more

Hunting Colorado’s Mountain Merriam’s (& The Tenth Legion)

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The author displays a Merriam’s turkey.

The best-known book of turkey hunting’s poet laureate, Colonel (retired) Tom Kelly, is Tenth Legion. The title comes from the Tenth Legion of the Roman Army, a matchless military force that stood fast against barbarian hordes for centuries. Over generations, the soldiers forming the Tenth Legion’s ranks became a cult, a breed apart, and their feats have become a touchstone for unstinting commitment, writes Jim Casada in his American Hunter article, “Reflections of a Marvelous Madness.” Such is the commitment and dedication I see demonstrated by those like my friend, Rick Hooley, and conservation officer, Rob Brazie. Read more

Walden Ice University

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The lakes surrounding Walden provide a multi-tiered challenge for ice anglers. Photo by Tyler Stephen Werner.

By David Harrison

The 2014 census listed 1,394 people in Jackson County, and the 2016 and 2017 stocking report for the 656-acre Lake John numbered 1 million fish.  This means that if you want to catch a trout through the ice, North Park is where you want to be. Read more

Turkey Biology and Hunting Tactics

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Many people mock the tale of Benjamin Franklin suggesting the wild turkey as a symbol for our young nation. Those people have obviously never hunted for turkey. If they had, ol’ Ben wouldn’t seem so far off base. Photo by © Vic Schendel/CPW

During the last 30-plus years, I have hunted in four states and have harvested one or two turkeys each year (I struck out one year). Having spent my professional career as a biologist, I’ve always combined my hunting experience with biology. Most of my hunts have been for the Rio Grande subspecies in river bottom habitat, but I also have hunted the Merriam’s subspecies in three states.

There are key turkey biological periods during a typical spring hunting season, and hunting tactics need to match these specific periods. Learning to recognize these distinct periods can be the secret to harvesting the long beards in any area.
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Trapshooting Gaining Popularity

 

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Melinda sharpens her shooting skills at the  Pikes Peak Gun Club (PPGC). Photo by David Lien.

By mid-summer, the exhilarating memories of hunting cagey mountain Merriam’s turkeys during April have started to fade and thoughts of fall hunts begin creeping into the psyche of hunters everywhere. One of the best ways to scratch that itch is to visit the local gun club or public range and start blowing the dust off of latent shooting skills.

Shooting trap is perhaps one of the easiest ways for both experienced and novice upland game hunters (and others) to get back in the swing of swinging a shotgun. Clay targets are launched from a single machine. The targets usually move up and away from the shooter before gliding down to the ground. This is the simplest form of clay shooting and probably the best for working on basic shooting mechanics. Read more

Summertime Bass Fishing With Frogs

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The author with a Master Angler largemouth caught with a frog lure.

Picture this: You cast out into the small opening in the weeds. The plastic frog barely hits the water when a 5-pound bass crushes it, throwing water everywhere.  You pause a second then set the hook with all your might, sending the hooks solidly into the fish’s mouth.  You crank as fast as you can, skipping the bass across the mat of thick weeds.  As the bass comes closer it fights harder trying to get away.  The bass comes up to the side of the boat and slides right up on your thumb.  You take a couple of quick photos of the Master Angler lunker and then you release the bass safely to the water where he returns to his weedy haunts. If this sounds fun to you it’s time to give summertime frog fishing a try.
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The Argument for Conventional Tackle

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Photo by Chad LaChance.

I love to fly fish. Been doing it since I was 12 years old, am decent at it  and I have about 15 fly rods in my collection. I’ve tied flies (for money even), own all the assorted fly gadgets and have caught everything from snook and redfish, to bass and walleyes, to trout and grayling, all on feathers and fur. Geez, I even live in Colorado…how much more fly is there than that?

But this is my argument for conventional tackle…yep, even the fly fishing community needs spin-polers. Read more

Tom Foolery: Hunting Mountain Merriam’s

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The author displays a San Juan turkey.

I’ve hunted Merriam’s turkeys on public lands in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains for seven years running now with Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Habitat Watch Volunteer (HWV) Rick Hooley. Rick is a HWV for the San Juan National Forest, and there’s likely few outdoorsmen with his breadth and depth of hunting-angling experience in this part of the state.

We hunt an over-the-counter (OTC) unit, and the most recent Colorado Parks & Wildlife turkey harvest data (for 2015) shows a 30 perecent success rates for OTC licenses holders versus 50 percent for limited license holders. Realtree contributor, Steve Hickoff, says: “The [Colorado] Merriam’s population lives in some rugged country; their nomadic traits can really spread them out and test your patience. You can go for hours, even days, and not hear a gobble.”

But as American Hunter contributor, Sgt. Michael Marek (82nd Airborne Division), wrote: “If it was easy, everyone would do it … hunting is difficult, and that’s what makes being a hunter so great. You truly become a cut above the rest.” Mountain Merriam’s turkey hunting is both physically and mentally challenging, and—in my admittedly biased opinion—truly a cut above the rest. Read more

Becoming a Real Straight Shooter (Shooting Tips)

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Video capture by Jerry Neal/CPW. 

“Do you know how to shoot straight?”

While some people might take offense at such a question, it is one that big game hunters need to ask themselves every year. Shooting an animal with a high-powered rifle, no matter the distance, is not a natural skill. Hunters must know the capabilities of their rifles, the intricacies of their scopes, the characteristics of their ammunition, the distance of their targets and their own competence for setting up for a fast shot at an animal.

“Shooting is a perishable skill. If you haven’t done it in awhile, you’re going to get rusty,” says Rick Basagoitia, area wildlife manager in the San Luis Valley. “There are people who believe they can go out, buy an expensive rifle and without any practice start shooting like the guys on the hunting shows on TV. Well, they can’t.

The importance of good shooting also goes beyond just being able to harvest an animal. Developing shooting skills must be viewed as an ethical consideration by hunters. Read more

Walleye stocking starts with spawning at Colorado state parks

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A netted walleye at CPW’s spawning operation.

Next time you catch a walleye at a Colorado state park, thank an aquatic biologist for putting that fish there in the first place. Walleye production is a major process involving enforcement, biologists, state parks and hatcheries working together to produce great angling opportunities.

It starts with the walleye spawn, which is taking place now at Chatfield, Cherry Creek and Lake Pueblo state parks. On a recent Friday during the spawn at Chatfield, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Aquatic Biologist Paul Winkle led a team of biologists and volunteers through a half-day process that included collecting male and female walleye, fertilizing the eggs and microchipping the females before releasing them back into the lake. This process will eventually contribute 3 million walleye fry at ¼- inch in length to Chatfield Reservoir, a popular spot for local angling. Read more

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