Author Archives: coloradooutdoorscontributor

Entering the bear den: CPW concludes study on human-bear interaction

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CPW Researcher Heather Johnson. Photo by Nora Logue/CPW.

On a sunny March day, a group of eight crouch silently outside a bear den dug into a ridge near Durango as Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Heather Johnson literally pokes the sleeping mama bear inside.

This expedition is part of the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind study conducted over six years in southwest Colorado. It is one of the most comprehensive studies to date on human-bear interactions and the impact of urbanization on bear populations.

“This study was motivated by the increase that’s happened in human-bear conflicts in Colorado. As the state wildlife agency that manages those conflicts, we wanted to better understand what was causing those conflicts to increase, and ultimately what we should do about it,” said Johnson, a wildlife researcher. Read more

Tax Check-Off for Colorado Critters

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife has a big job:  managing and protecting 42 beautiful state parks throughout the state, perpetuating Colorado’s full range of furry and finny wildlife and providing enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities.

I’ve been a Colorado taxpayer for many years, but only recently learned about a small action I can take to support a key part of CPW’s work: Make a contribution through my state income tax return to the “Colorado Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund. ” Nongame wildlife are those species that are not hunted, trapped or fished. And there are a lot of these critters in Colorado—an estimated 750 species. Read more

Eliminating Angling Stereotypes: Colorado is More Than Just a ‘Trout’ State

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The author displays a Colorado bass.

Stereotype: “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.”

Do you think Colorado is stereotyped? I do. Firmly. And as with many stereotypes, the belief is not congruent with the reality. Is it a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not…depends on your position. As a Colorado outdoorsman, I think it’s a shame more of my peers don’t see through it.  What is this oversimplified idea our fine state is tagged with? Trout . . . specifically the idea that trout are all Colorado has to offer anglers. Trust me, the stereotype doesn’t fit.

As a professional fisherman, I travel a lot. Since I angle from a traditional bass boat, I’m often viewed as “bass fisherman” – another stereotype that doesn’t quite fit because I pursue all kinds of fish but just happen to like a bass boat’s fishability on the water. Anyway, when “Joe Angler” see’s my boat at some gas station or even many of the lakes in our region, I very often get comments about our perceived lack of bass fishing. Same thing when the conversation turns to walleye, pike, panfish and a slew of other nationally popular species. Geez, last summer I coached the high school bass fishing national championship consisting of 175 high school teams from around the country competing on a huge lake in Tennessee. The fact that we were from “Colorado of all places” as the emcee put it at one point, was amusing until we won the whole event. In an ensuing interview, I was asked how we won it all given that “all you fish for is trout back home” . . . an incorrect assumption that perfectly makes my point. Read more

February is prime time for eagles in Colorado

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A golden eagle. CPW file photo.

Did you know that Colorado has more than 170 known active bald eagle nests and over 80  known active golden eagle nests? Valentine’s Day is almost here and it marks the height of eagle breeding season.

February is a good time to get out and see some of these majestic animals begin to build nests. Two species of eagles call Colorado home: the bald eagle and the golden eagle. The state’s eagle population has increased dramatically since the 1970s, when Colorado only had two documented nests of bald eagles. Multiple Colorado state parks offer eagle viewing opportunities, but Colorado’s Lake Pueblo and Barr Lake state parks both provide excellent habitat for eagles to winter and nest.

These parks provide two eagle viewing opportunities in early February: Barr Lake’s Fifth Annual Eagle Fest is Feb. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lake Pueblo’s 21st Annual 2017 Pueblo Eagle Days are Feb. 3 to 5. Read more

Join The Club: Conservation Organizations Benefit Sportsmen and Wildlife

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The author (right) with a Pheasants Forever member.

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? Read more

Taste-tested recipes for your next trout cookout

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Professional chefs work their magic at a recent “trout taste test” in Fort Collins. CPW is experimenting with new hatchery feeds to produce better tasting fish. Photo by Alicia Cohn/CPW.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s hatchery system produces millions of rainbow trout annually. Each spring, the rainbows are stocked into lakes, reservoirs and rivers throughout Colorado to provide exceptional angling opportunities. But did you know that CPW also works hard to improve the taste of the trout you catch in Colorado’s water system?

Two professional chefs recently prepared rainbow trout raised in four different test feed groups for a special “trout taste test” evaluation organized by CPW. The event was part of a year-long research project for which the aquatics team at Bellvue Fish Research Hatchery raised four groups of Hofer rainbow trout from fry to catchable size to determine which feeds produce better quality fish, factoring in health, conformation and taste of the fish, as well as overall feed costs.

“Our trout are a healthy food choice that Coloradans can go out and catch themselves, and this event demonstrated innovative ways to prepare fresh fish caught from Colorado waters,” said George Schisler, aquatic research chief at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “I hope this event helped get people excited about the meals they can make and the effort we put into making sure Colorado fish are the best product they can be for our angling public.” Read more

Hunter Testimonials: ‘My First Elk’

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Ava Nelson, 16, is all smiles after harvesting her first elk near Aspen. 

Hunter: Ava Nelson

My day began at 3 a.m. when I thought, “What did I get myself into?” This was my second day of hunting for a bull elk with a muzzleloader. My dad and I figured we would try another spot that he knew since we were unsuccessful the first day.  I promptly got out of bed and took a shower and got dressed in camo. My lunch was already packed so we were ready to rock and roll.

It was pitch dark outside on Sept. 11, 2016 for our 60-minute commute to the trailhead. My dad and I arrived at 4:30 a.m. and began hiking on a trail that started out easy but gradually got more difficult.  We were about half way to the spot when it got daylight. We circled around to the spot where my dad thought there would be elk. This required some cliff scaling and some balancing skills. When we finally got there, the wind was not in our favor. My dad called a few times and a bull elk bugled back. Unfortunately, the bull did not sound like he was too interested and eventually stopped answering us. Read more

A Nonhunter Takes Hunter Ed: My Story

 

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A Colorado Parks and Wildlife hunter education class. Photo by Crystal Egli/CPW.

Hunting has never been a part of my life. I have never desired to take down a bull elk with a gun or even whack a trout on the head. Yet, somehow, I found myself in a hunter education class, enjoying the lessons and learning more than I ever expected. If I’m clearly not a hunter, why on earth did I sign up for hunter-ed?

Utterly disconnected from where food comes from, I stopped to think about it for the first time when a coworker offered me slices of sausage harvested from an elk hunt. I’m a regular person who eats regular supermarket meat, with no room in the budget for local butcher shops or organic, free-range, grass-fed beef. Taking the first bite of elk, it dawned on me that I could finally ask someone exactly where the meat came from. Within 10 seconds I had my answer and more. The elk came from game management unit 32, near Meeker. It died quickly with two shots to the lungs, and the hunter shared the meat amongst family and friends. Sure, you could ask your local grocer the same question, but unless you work somewhere along the supply chain, you can never be 100 percent certain where supermarket meat comes from or how humanely it was harvested.

Being directly connected to this elk meat started a chain reaction of questions I had no answers for. I have always enjoyed blissful ignorance in regard to where my meat comes from. So why did I care about this meat, and not the burger I ate last night? Could this animal have had a better life—and death—than the animals I usually consume? Could these factors make hunting… better? To answer these questions I needed to know more about hunting. Read more

Mountain Merriam’s (Turkey) Hunt

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David Lien with a San Juan tom.

Colorado’s southwest corner is home to some of the highest, wildest public-lands wildlife habitat in Colorado and the country: the San Juan Mountains. The San Juans encompass both Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands, and contain not only the largest designated wilderness area in the southern Rockies, the 500,000-acre Weminuche Wilderness, but also the largest roadless area, the 150,000-acre Hermosa Creek watershed.

And it’s a place both Merriam’s turkeys and Rocky Mountain elk call home. My first San Juans turkey was taken only a couple miles (and a couple hundred feet in elevation change) from where I killed my first elk. Zach Roth, Littleton-based regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, says the Merriam’s turkey sub-species is often found in the hilly big-game habitat comprising much of the state’s public lands. “Anywhere that people hunt elk, there are probably turkeys there too,” says Roth.

However, taking a mountain Merriam’s can be as difficult as killing an elk. Statistics compiled by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for the 2012 turkey season (the most recent available) showed hunter success rates for over-the-counter (OTC) license holders at around 25 percent, with limited license holders achieving a much higher 55 percent harvest rate. Read more

What Bird is That?

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A darker belly band across the lighter breast is a distinctive mark of a red-tailed hawk. Photo by © Merry McGilvray

After many years of hiking in state parks and looking down at the wonderful array of wildflowers, I decided to start looking up as well. Seeing beautiful birds, I wondered, what bird is that? In an attempt to learn enough to answer that question, I attended park programs, talked to birders, invested in good binoculars and acquired a series of bird guide books.  I soon became enraptured by one group of birds—the raptors.

Seeing raptors soar in a brilliant blue Colorado sky is almost reward enough in itself. But I wanted to know more about them. Raptors are birds of prey, including hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, and owls, among others. Many are large birds, but some are no bigger than robins. Regardless of size, all raptors are well-equipped predators, with strong feet and sharp toes, or talons; powerful, hooked beaks; and keen vision.
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