This time of year, most outdoors-obsessed Coloradans grab their cell phones, Nikons, Canons — anything with a lens — and head to the mountains in search of Instagram-worthy photos of changing aspens. Local TV forecasters show detailed maps of peak times in peak areas, guiding caravans of leaf lovers into the hills. For them, the official signs of the change of season are mountains painted yellow and gold.
I, however, wanted to chronicle a different sign of the season — one more interesting to orange-clad hunters: that of mule deer bucks shedding their antler velvet. During the first few weeks of September, a few times a week, I would leave work and head to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in northeast Denver hoping to find bucks lit by the golden-hour light. At the Arsenal, they have decent populations of both mule and white-tailed deer, but by the time I started this project, the whitetail bucks had all shed their velvet.
Andy Holland, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife big game manager, thinks that the peak date for mule deer shedding is Sept. 15. “But it varies,” he says. Read more
Images from the Colorado Outdoors annual photography issue. All images are copyrighted. Colorado Outdoors is published six times a year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. To order Colorado Outdoors call 1-800-417-8986.
The Chaffee County Shooting Range
A shooter takes aim at the Chaffee County Shooting Range. All photos by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW
“Don’t tell anyone about this place,” said the target shooter as the smell from the rifle rounds he just shot hung in the air. “This place is great and I don’t want it to get too crowded.”
“Sorry, but telling people about this place is why I’m here,” I replied, smiling.
“This place” is the Chaffee County Shooting Range, or “the best, nonfee, public range in the state,” as Jim Aragon, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) area wildlife manager for Area 13, proudly stated. And from my tour of the range, I would enthusiastically agree. While I understand the shooter’s worry, with the range covering more than 55 acres, I think there is room for more visitors. Read more
Urad Lake. Photo by © Wayne D. Lewis/CPW.
If you are looking to either fish, hike, see the aspens change, wildlife watch or all of the above, you can do far worse than a trip to Urad Lake.
Urad Lake is in the Urad Lake State Wildlife Area, the newest SWA in Colorado. Located off of Jones Pass and Berthoud Pass in Clear Creek County, it is the result of a cooperative effort between the Climax Molybdenum Company (Henderson Mine), the City of Golden and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The property was historically open to the public for several decades, even though privately owned by the mine. In 2011, the property closed to the public as Henderson Mine did a massive, multimillion dollar mitigation project in the Woods Creek Valley.
During the closure, the mine, City of Golden (which owns the water and reservoir) and CPW were able to work out a long-term lease to turn over the management of the property to Colorado Parks and Wildlife which reopened the area in 2014. During that time, CPW stocked the lake with 6,000 10- to 12-inch cutbow trout. The lake is full of small brook trout, recently stocked rainbow trout and plenty of the cutbows. Read more
Wasps, spiders, sunburn, allergies, rattlesnakes, mosquitoes and chiggers are just a few of the challenges you must brave. But if you enjoy a good wing-shoot and the fast-paced action of fishing for crappies, these unpleasantries may be worth tolerating to take advantage of some early season outdoor opportunities on the Eastern Plains. Read more
When I was younger and had more free time, I would take a drive, turn at the first unfamiliar intersection and see where the road took me. I have discovered some of my favorite haunts that way. On an October visit to Grand County, I applied the same method. It would have been hard to plan out a better route or final destination point — Meadow Creek Reservoir.
Driving from Fraser toward Tabernash, I impulsively turned on County Road 83, which lead to County Road 84 and finally Forest Road 129. Along the way I saw signs, some big and some so small I almost missed them, indicating the way to Meadow Creek Reservoir. Even the name of the place was news to me, but at least I had a goal. Read more
Those looking to fish for brook and rainbow trout within easy access of I-70 should check out the picturesque little lake at Officer’s Gulch. The lake’s crystal-clear waters are bordered by an easily hiked trail that winds along the banks and through the trees. Ample parking and its location right off Colorado’s main east-west thoroughfare make this a popular spot.
According to the Summit Historical Society, Officer’s Gulch is not designated in honor of law enforcement or the military, but in fact, is named after James Officer, an early day Ten Mile Canyon resident who mined the gulch.
Officer’s Gulch is located about midway between the towns of Frisco and Copper Mountain at Exit 198. Standard fishing regulations apply.
Nearly five years ago, two Colorado Parks and Wildlife volunteers stocked a pair of lakes deep within the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The lakes were stocked with the aid of a mule carrying two ice chests. Each chest contained a bag of water holding 500 greenback cutthroat fingerlings. The fingerlings were kept alive by two air tanks pumping oxygen into the water. The volunteers explained that the mule, fitted with the ice chests and air tanks, looked like a “rocket mule” that was being blasted up the mountain. Each year those same volunteers return to check the progress of the stocked fingerlings.
Each September, wildlife manager Rod Ruybalid packs hundreds of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout fingerlings into high-mountain lakes and streams. Although cutthroat trout spawn naturally in the wild, their populations are augmented with native cutthroat trout that are spawned by hand and raised in hatcheries.
The last leg of the fingerlings’ long journey is a horseback ride into their ancestral waters.
Their new home is a tumbling creek in the headwaters of the Conejos River.
In a few years, anglers that venture into this wind-swept valley will discover the thrill of catching a native cutthroat in its natural habitat.