Big Mack Attack

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

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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.
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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. 

High-altitude Survival

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Every year, more than a few hunters must be rescued from the wilds and high country of Colorado. Hunters get trapped by snowstorms, injured in various types of accidents or simply get lost in the woods.

Hunters must remember that altitude can affect their health and their ability to move easily. And in the Rockies, weather can change quickly with fast-moving storms dumping a couple of feet of snow in just a few hours. Read more

Colorado’s Passport to Adventure

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Some people swear by calendars, others are list makers. But to consistently get outdoors, you need to be looking forward, planning and prioritizing time in your busy schedule. We all know that spending time in nature is good for our mind and bodies. We feel the benefits of exercise. We even feel the stress slip away as we challenge ourselves on bike rides, hikes, kayak adventures…you name the activity. Even researchers are starting to compile mountains of evidence supporting what we all believe to be true – the simple fact that getting outdoors is good for us and provides long and short-term mental and physical health benefits. Yet, many of us fail to commit to this beneficial time. Me included. Read more

FLY FISHING BASICS – PART III: CASTING

Our fly-fishing series has walked you through the basics of picking fly-fishing gear and making the correct fly selection. So now it’s time to put it all together and learn some basic casting techniques. In this segment, Howard Horton, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Angler Outreach Coordinator, demonstrates basic casting techniques that you can practice and perfect in the backyard and then use on the majority of Colorado’s waters.

Part One

Part Two

Other Fly Fishing Basics Videos

 

Big Game Hunting – Leftover License Update

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Colorado big-game hunter. Photo by © Vic Schendel/CPW.

The official leftover big game limited licenses list for deer, elk, bear and pronghorn is now available on the CPW website. These remaining limited licenses provide hunting access on specific Game Management Units (GMUs) and offer Colorado big-game hunters some great opportunities this big game hunting season. The leftover licenses go on sale Tuesday, August 7 at 9:00 a.m (MDT). NOTE: at 9:00 a.m. licenses will be available for purchase online (CPWshop.com), by phone at 1-800-244-5613 , in person at CPW offices and at license retailers (sporting goods stores, hunting and fishing supply stores, etc.).

There are more than 50,000 big game hunting licenses available on the leftover list this year.

  • Bear – more than 4,900 limited licenses available
  • Deer – more than 8,400 limited licenses available
  • Elk – more than 29,100  limited licenses available
  • Pronghorn – more than 7,400 limited licenses available

Read more

Fly Fishing Basics – Part II: Fly Selection for Colorado

Picking the right flies for your first fishing trip can be an intimidating experience. And while most local fly fishing shops will be happy to guide you through your first purchase, there’s something to be said about being an informed buyer. Howard Horton, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Angler Outreach Coordinator, takes the mystery out of filling your fly box by revealing a combination of flies that will work in a range of waters, from Colorado’s mountain streams to the reservoirs. Howard discusses basic fly selections, including dry flies, nymphs and streamers – walking you through setups like the dry-dropper that are sure to increase your confidence and success on your next outdoor fishing adventure.

Fly Fishing resources mentioned in the video:

For more fly fishing information, watch Fly Fishing Basics – Part I: Gearing Up and learn exactly what you’ll need to get out on the water without breaking the bank.

What to See Now: Shrikes

YOTB_stacked_KIn celebration of the Year of the Bird, we will highlight some of the birds and their behaviors that you can observe at certain times throughout the year.

 

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A pair of loggerhead shrikes from the Pawnee National Grasslands. All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.

Driving down County Road 57 on the edge of the Pawnee National Grasslands, I saw a flurry of avian activity on a barbed-wire fence just ahead. I pulled over to see three of the four birds had moved off a bit, leaving one little bird sitting alone. Well, “sitting” isn’t quite right, because its legs were sticking out at odd angles. “Resting” isn’t correct either, because there wasn’t much peaceful about the scene. The small brownish bird was “stuck.” I edged my truck a few feet ahead to try and get a better idea what species I was looking at, but that didn’t help. It’s hard to identify a bird when it is missing its head.

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This small bird had fallen prey to a group of loggerhead shrikes.

It wasn’t really a mystery at all as to who was responsible: Three black-masked culprits impatiently waited nearby — two just one fence section down and another above on a powerline. They had clearly ignored the posted “no hunting” sign. I waited a few minutes, hoping they would return to the scene of the crime so my camera could catch them doing other naughty stuff, but they all flew off, apparently not wanting to be seen with the victim. I put my truck in drive and headed about 1,000 yards ahead before making a U-turn to sneak back and snap some damning photographic evidence, but I was too late. In that short time, the butchers had spirited the victim away.

While the identity of the victim will never be known, the perpetrators were instantly identified as shrikes. Shrikes are gray, black and white, robin-sized songbirds. I picture songbirds as cheerful, friendly, Disney-like birds — and maybe shrikes are, too, when they aren’t impaling grasshoppers, lizards, mice and small birds (sometimes when the prey is still alive) on thorns, spines and the barbs of barbed wire. Birds as big as meadowlarks and robins fall prey to shrikes, and even the occasional bat is eaten. Since shrikes lack talons like those of raptors, they stun or kill their prey with rapid blows from their poweful, hawk-like beaks and they will kill vertebrates by biting through their necks. Their impaled victims may be consumed right away or cached for later consumption. The cache also marks their territories and helps in attracting mates. Thus, butcher birds, one of the shrike’s nicknames, is a very accurate and appropriate description. They are also called thornbirds (they use thorns in hunting and also nest in thorny shrubs and trees) and blockheads (because many think their heads are too big for their bodies).

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Loggerhead shrikes search for their prey from vantage points such as trees and power lines.

Although I could easily ID the butchers, figuring out the type of shrike was harder. There are only two shrike species in North America and both can be found in our state. Colorado is home to northern shrikes, as well as their close relatives, loggerhead shrikes. Northern shrikes breed in Alaska and Canada, and their range dips down into northern Colorado. Loggerhead shrikes will nest in Colorado and can be found year-round in southern parts of the state. The Pawnee National Grasslands on the Eastern Plains is one of the areas where their ranges overlap. I reached out to Bruce Gill, an author and former biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and had him review my photos. “My guess is they are all loggerhead shrikes,” said Gill. “Northerns winter here, but don’t breed here. The ones in which the black does not extend across the bill are young of the year that have not yet developed adult plumage. Northerns breed far north along the Arctic Circle and Alaska.”

Gill, in his article “Butcher Bird” from the March/April 2013 issue of Colorado Outdoors magazine wrote: “Aside from contrasting distributions, several subtle physical characteristics distinguish adult loggerheads from northerns. At first glance, they look very much alike. But careful inspection reveals that northerns are slightly larger. The breast feathers of northerns are crisscrossed with very fine, wavy, contrasting dark lines. Breasts of adult loggerheads are mostly gray, lacking wavy lines.

“The black facemask of the loggerhead is broader than the northern’s and runs completely across the base of the beak whereas the narrower mask of the northern ends at the base of the beak. The hook on the upper mandible of the northern is also slightly longer than that of the loggerhead, but this characteristic is difficult to judge without side-by-side comparisons.

“Perhaps the most useful field-distinguishing characteristic from a distance is behavioral. The northern shrike has a habit of raising and lowering it’s long tail when perched, a gesture rarely used by the loggerhead.”

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Loggerhead shrike with the remains of a grasshopper. The author watched this bird remove the grasshopper’s legs and wings before swallowing it.

After some review, I determined that the culprits were loggerhead shrikes. However, the beauty of writing for blogs is that if I am proven wrong, I can quickly change the words on the screen.

“I’m not bad, I was born this way,” kept popping in my head as I thought about the scene I had witnessed. Bluebirds are often thought of as signs that happiness is on its way — unless you’re a cricket in its sights. Robins are welcome signs of spring — unless you’re a worm. Heck, even the little headless bird had been a very effective predator up until its untimely end. Don’t think of shrikes as avian Vlad the Impalers. Instead, think of them as the kindly butcher on the corner, just going about their business and providing for their families.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKES


Wayne D. Lewis is the editor and art director of Colorado Outdoors magazine.

Fly Fishing Basics – Part I: Picking the right gear

Between great local fishing supply stores and a number of low-cost fly fishing outfits available online, there’s never been a better time to take up fly fishing. Howard Horton, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Angler Outreach Coordinator, dispels the myths that prevent many from trying fly fishing. Learning to fly fish does not have to be expensive or intimidating. Howard walks through gear selection and rod setup, showing you exactly what you’ll need to get out on the water without breaking the bank.

Next Lesson – Part II: Fly Selection for Colorado

Now that you’ve got the basics on gear selection it’s time to pick some flies. Watch Part II: Fly Selection for Colorado to guarantee a great fly selection for your next fishing adventure.

What to See Now: Lark Buntings

YOTB_stacked_KIn celebration of the Year of the Bird, we will highlight some of the birds and their behaviors that you can observe at certain times throughout the year.

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Male lark bunting. All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW

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The author’s dog, Jake.

This post is brought to you by the Fuzz Brothers, my dogs Digger and Jake. Digger, a large Airedale, and Jake, a surprisingly tough mix of every little foofy dog I always said I hated, are not fans of fireworks. Not one bit. As the days neared the Fourth of July, their anxiety levels steadily rose. Despite the fireworks ban and extremely dry conditions, my neighborhood sounded like the battle scenes from an Avengers’ movie played in Dolby Surround Sound. So, to alieveate the poor dogs’ stress on the loudest day of the year, I decided to take them on an Independence Day drive to one of the quietest places in Colorado — the Pawnee National Grasslands. My other Airedale, Mary, would historically go on trips like these, but she is now old and mostly deaf, and so the fireworks don’t even register. Anyway, she would rather nap. Read more

2018 Colorado Outdoors Fishing Guide

2018 Fishing Guide - Magazine CoverThe 2018 Colorado Outdoors Fishing Guide is now available! With more than 9,000 miles of rivers and some 2,000 lakes and reservoirs, Colorado is an angler’s paradise.

This year’s guide features interesting and informative articles geared toward helping you make the most of your time on the water. The 2018 issue includes tips to help you catch more fish during the summer months. Learn about a fly that will catch fish anywhere in Colorado. From rivers to reservoirs and brown trout to walleyes, you’ll find tips and tricks to make the most of your fishing season. Read more

New camping options for last minute planners

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Tent camping at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Photo by © Thomas Kimmel/CPW.

The ability to make last-minute camping reservations is coming to some of Colorado’s state park campgrounds.

My dad sends me a text on Friday: Hey, let’s go camping this weekend! Want to head up to Eleven Mile State Park, go fishing, and camp on Saturday?

Yes, yes, I do. I’ll see if I can book us a campsite.
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