Big Mack Attack

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Theo focused on landing his first Mackinaw. All photos by © Doug Skinner/CPW 

white-fish

Flathead Lake Whitefish

For several weeks, my wife and son have been asking to plan a fishing trip. And Theo was not just asking for any fishing trip, but a trip where he would have a chance to add new species and preferably a new size record to his fishing list. Last summer, he caught his personal record in Montana – a good-sized whitefish out of Flathead Lake. The whitefish was not huge, but it whet his appetite for bigger fights. And while he enjoyed catching the whitefish, it was bothering him that his biggest catch was an out of state fish. He was looking for a Colorado fish to be his “personal record.” Read more

10 Tips for Hunting Doves in Colorado

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A harvested mourning dove. Photo by Jerry Neal (CPW)

When it comes to small-game hunting, doves are arguably the greatest challenge for wingshooters. Although these fast flyers are Colorado’s most plentiful game bird, you’ll need to bring your “A” game to fill the 15-bird daily limit.  The following tips and information will help you have more fun and put more doves in your game-bag.  Additionally, the 2017 season has been extended to November 29, which will give huners an increased opportunity to get out into the field.
Read more

Video: Colorado Big-Game Hunting Forecast

As summer fades and temperatures cool, Colorado’s big-game seasons are about to heat up. And, if you plan to hunt this fall you have plenty of reasons to look forward to opening day. Wildlife biologists, in general, predict good hunting across most of the state.

This video provides statewide and regional forecasts for the 2017 big-game seasons:
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Blog post and video by Jerry Neal. Neal is a videographer and information specialist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 

Raptor monitoring program leverages power of citizen scientists

In order to understand the health of an ecosystem on the ground, wildlife biologists often look to the skies. Top predators like raptors are sensitive to changes in the environment and can serve as an indicator of environmental health. That’s why Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Raptor Monitoring Volunteer Program is so important.

On Thursday, April 5, I had the privilege of joining CPW volunteers from the Colorado Springs area to learn more about the Raptor Monitoring Volunteer Program and discover some of the rewards and challenges volunteers face.

Our first stop seemed unlikely: a maintenance shed parking lot near the iconic Garden of the Gods park. On the backside of one of the area’s sandstone rock formations, a raptor nest has changed talons a few times over the past few years.

Volunteer Raptor Monitoring near Garden of the Gods

Left to right: CPW Wildlife Biologist April Estep monitors a red-tailed hawk nest near Garden of the Gods with volunteers Bill Bane, Tammy Stahly and Rose DiCenso. All photos by © Travis Duncan/CPW

Volunteer Tammy Stahly is responsible for monitoring this nest. She said it used to house golden eagles, but now, a pair of red-tailed hawks have taken up residence and are taking turns sitting on their eggs. Stahly visits the nest every four to five days. As our group grabbed spotting scopes and binoculars, Stahly said the last time she was here, “I got to see the male on the nest, and he was really impatient. He’d get up every few minutes and fly around looking for the female.”  

Stahly and the other volunteers for CPW’s southeast region report to CPW wildlife biologist April Estep. Estep runs raptor monitoring for the entire southeast part of the state. “We go as far north as Douglas County and east to the Kansas border,” Estep said.

Volunteer Rose DiCenso

Volunteer Rose DiCenso works with CPW’s Raptor Monitoring Volunteer Program

It takes time to recruit, screen and train volunteers to collect data for CPW, but Estep said the payoff is that volunteers can leverage a biologist’s workload and collect more critical data than one biologist could gather alone. The use of important raptor data helps CPW coordinate habitat planning and management with federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Air Force Academy, as well as many cities, counties and open space organizations.

The amount of work required for raptor monitoring is more than many people realize. Many of the nests require long hikes to reach and they must be monitored on a regular basis. Estep said around half of the volunteers she trains each year drop out. Still, it is rewarding work and many stick with it. In CPW’s Southeast Region, more than 60 volunteers gave their time to help CPW with raptor monitoring last year. In Colorado Springs, volunteers have contributed over 4,500 hours since 2013, equaling $108,000 in labor.

At the nest sites, CPW volunteers fill out data sheets indicating species observed, time of day, locations, number of nestlings and if the adults are bringing the nestlings food. Volunteers also take note of disturbances.

“The volunteers record if they’re seeing differences in behavior because of cars or planes,” Estep said. “Sometimes it can be hard to say if they’re being disturbed. Even if we don’t observe any changes with our eyes, we know there are studies that show their heart rates will go up if a plane passes overhead or a car goes by.”

Each kind of raptor has a recommended buffer distance that volunteers adhere to in order to protect the birds. Volunteer Coordinator Jena Sanchez said, “We remind folks to use optics and not to get too close. If they look agitated, you’re too close.”

After a few minutes observing the red-tailed hawks, our group heads out to monitor more nest sites. After observing a prairie falcon nest in Queen’s Canyon on the western edge of Colorado Springs, we head east to the Bluestem Prairie Open Space to check on a bald eagle nest.

Bluestem Prairie Open Space

CPW volunteer Tammy Stahly monitors a bald eagle nest with others at Bluestem Prairie Open Space near Fountain Valley School.

Estep said that a few years ago a bald eagle was killed on one of the power lines here near the Fountain Valley School. “We report where that’s happening so they can retrofit with eagle-safe poles,” Estep said.

Once we had focused our spotting scope, we noted the bald eagle here had acquired a small rabbit and was feeding its young. This eagle had created its nest near a busy maintenance building for the school. We followed the recommended buffer distance even though this particular eagle was actually nesting quite close to human activity.

After monitoring the eagle through the spotting scope, our eyes gradually drifted to our more immediate surroundings. With his binoculars, longtime volunteer Bill Bane spotted a herd of pronghorn that had taken up residence in the drained Big Johnson Reservoir. In the sky above them, a red-tailed hawk and a northern harrier had become engaged in territorial aerial combat. They circled and dived at each other, the harrier not backing down.

When they finally separated, we pulled our eyes away from our binoculars, grateful for the spectacle we had just witnessed.

“I guess the harrier made his point,” Bane said.

Tips on viewing raptors and other birds from CPW Wildlife Biologist April Estep

  • It’s important for people to realize their impact on the local environment when they are out recreating. For example, it is important to keep a respectful distance from nests and fledglings, such as great horned owlets. The owlets branch (walking and hopping along branches in the nest tree and surrounding trees before they can fly). It is best to leave the birds alone and continue to let their parents take care of them. Do not pick up birds or wildlife on the ground as young birds spend days on the ground learning to fly. If you think you observe a raptor in distress, contact your local CPW office or the Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo.
  • Colorado is lucky to have amazing raptor species to view and enjoy. A good pair of binoculars or spotting scope will allow you to enjoy the species year-round without harassing the birds. When viewing wildlife, if the bird seems agitated, you are probably too close and should back away, giving birds plenty of space to raise their young without disturbance from humans or pets.
  • CPW uses the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) as a strategy for conserving wildlife in Colorado. Colorado’s SWAP is a plan for all of Colorado. The task of conserving and managing Colorado’s wildlife is too big for any one group or agency to achieve alone. It takes cooperation and participation from multiple groups to conserve our wildlife.
  • People can get involved in this great citizen science project by watching the volunteer website and future training opportunities at www.cpw.state.co.us/volunteer. Most trainings for 2018 are complete but there may be openings in your area, so check back in early 2019.
  • For more information on volunteer orientations in the Southeast Region, contact jena.sanchez@state.co.us.

2018 is the Year of the Bird
2018 marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most powerful and important bird-protection law ever passed. In honor of this milestone, nature lovers around the world are joining forces to celebrate 2018 as the “Year of the Bird.” Learning more about birds in your area is a great way to participate in the Year of the Bird. Find out how you can participate and take the Bird Your World Pledge.

Last Minute Spring Turkey Tips

Tip 1: It’s not too late to get a spring turkey license.

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View the Spring Over-The-Counter (Unlimited) Licenses & Huntable GMUs Map on page 5 of the 2018 Colorado Turkey brochure.

TurkeyBrochureIf you are a last minute planner or you did not draw a turkey license during the limited draw, you still have an option to hunt. Spring OTC licenses are unlimited in number so anyone with a hunter education card can purchase a license to hunt turkeys this spring. 2018 OTC licenses are valid from April 14 through May 27 and provide access to some of the best turkey hunting in the state. While preplanning and a little scouting always produce the best hunts, a little virtual scouting and a long spring season can also be a recipe for success. Use the 2018 Spring Turkey OTC maps and the Colorado Hunting Atlas to zero in on a great hunting location. Read more

Colorado’s 2018 Spring Turkey Forecast

Colorado’s 2018 turkey season kicks off Saturday, April 14. And, if you plan to hunt gobblers, there are plenty of reasons to get out there and “strut your stuff” this spring. Abundant turkey populations, easy to obtain licenses and good access to public land are all available to hunters this season.

Gorman“Turkey hunters should see a good season here in Colorado in the spring of 2018,” said CPW Small-Game Manager Ed Gorman. “Populations are healthy and robust. Production was good last summer. Good numbers of birds, good access–all the things you look for in a successful turkey season.”   

The “gobble” of a wild turkey is one of the most recognizable sounds in all of nature. Yet, the wild turkey’s boisterous call was nearly silenced in the early 1900s due to poaching and habitat loss. Thanks to decades of conservation programs and aggressive trap-and-transplant efforts, however, the turkey is now one of Colorado’s most abundant gamebirds and also one of the state’s biggest conservation success stories. Read more

Families Enjoy Snowshoeing and S’mores with SOLE

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Photos by © Shalana Gray/CPW SOLE

Under a blanket of trees, snow glistened on the hillsides of Golden Gate Canyon State Park. As chickadees fluttered through the branches, squirrels chattered above and the wind swept gracefully through the forest. Planted safely on the ground, eager families delighted at the wide variety of animal tracks meandering through the snow. With big smiles and rosy cheeks, they left their own tracks as well— ones just slightly larger than a typical human footprint. Read more

With Eyes on the Sky, Raptor Monitors Help Protect the Ecosystem

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YOTB_stacked_KWere you one of more than 14 million visitors to a Colorado State Park in 2017? People have been flocking to our parks in record numbers over the last few years. And there are good reasons. Our state parks are located in some of Colorado’s most spectacular landscapes and they host a plethora of recreational activities, ranging from fishing and hunting to hiking, biking, kayaking and climbing. The increased popularity is a reassuring sign of people’s interest in the outdoors; however, the popularity brings with it the dynamic challenge of balancing recreation and the human impact on the ecosystem. Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff is tasked with identifying methods to monitor and strike a balance between nature and human interaction so that the park system remains healthy and available for generations to come. Read more

Secrets to the Big Game Draw

2018 Big Game BrochureAre you interested in big game hunting opportunities in Colorado, but you’re struggling with the limited license application process? If so, Bryan Posthumus’ Secrets to the Big Game Draw Seminar will help you simplify the application process, create a preference point strategy, and make the most of your limited license applications. If you want to hunt big game in Colorado, this is your chance to learn the secrets to the big game draw. Read more

Species of Greatest Conservation Need: Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

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Brown-capped Rosy Finch. All photos by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW

YOTB_stacked_KThe brown-capped rosy-finch goes by a delicate name, but it is one tough little bird that lives year-round in Colorado’s high country. While biologists don’t have much information about the brown-capped rosy-finch, there is concern that the population might be declining. Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers, along with other collaborators, have started a project to learn more about the species and are inviting the state’s bird watchers to help gather information.

In CPW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, the brown-capped rosy-finch is identified as one of the 55 tier 1 “Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN)” in Colorado. Based on anecdotal evidence from the National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, numbers of brown-capped rosy-finches are down, raising concern among scientists that climate change could be affecting the finch’s high-altitude habitat. Read more

Walden Ice University

Tyler Stephen Werner Ice fishing

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

2017 Hunter Testimonials

With the 2018 big-game season in our sights, it’s a great time to take a look back to some of the hunter testimonials that were recently submitted by proud hunters. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this collection of testimonial tells an impressive story about successful wildlife conservation that is supported by your hunting and angling fees. Please enjoy the following hunter testimonials, which celebrate another great year in the Colorado outdoors!

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Chet Blue Sky and Wayne Gardner with bull elk.

Hunter: Chet Blue Sky
Chet Blue Sky with bull elk and good friend Wayne Gardner.  Both cashed in 15 preference points in the “Ranching For Wildlife” program on the Three Forks Ranch in GMU 5. Read more

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