A prairie rattlesnake in Morgan County. Prairie rattlesnakes are the most common and the largest rattlesnake in Colorado, reaching sizes of 3.5 feet in length. CPW file photo.
Springtime in Colorado is a great season. The warm days provide a glimpse as to what lies ahead, while the cool nights remind us that winter hasn’t retired quite yet. It’s also a time when nature begins waking up; leaves bud out, migratory birds return and (my favorite) the reptiles reappear.
In fact, I had my first report of a snake just a couple weeks ago. Amazingly enough, the e-mail arrived during a spring snowstorm, though, the picture was obviously taken days earlier in the warm sunshine. Read more
Cathy Brons and Aaliyah. Photo by © Jerry Neal/CPW.
A southerner by birth, I moved to Colorado last year with the mindset that I would be open to new opportunities. The moment arose last fall when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in joining her on a duck hunt. I had met Randi through work, and was thrilled to make a connection with another female who shared similar passions for the outdoors and wildlife. I hastily agreed, eager to understand her enthusiasm for hunting and to find out if I might enjoy the experience myself.
I hadn’t given much consideration to hunting until I took wildlife management classes in college, which fostered both my appreciation for the hunter’s role in conservation and hunting as a valuable wildlife-management tool. Yet the physical, emotional and spiritual wholeness I experienced as a novice in the field was unforeseen; something that could not have been revealed to me from the pages in a book or a lecture in a classroom.
My initiation into hunting was unique in that it was not a traditional, family-centered process. My Granddaddy passed away when I was very young, but I have always been told that he was a passionate dove and duck hunter. It saddens me that I did not have the opportunity to learn from him—to go out in the field with him or to be able to listen to the stories of his endeavors. However, I believe that I am sharing a connection with my past generations through my present hunting experiences. I know Granddaddy would be proud of my newfound eagerness and commitment to preserve the hunting heritage in our family. Read more
Hunter education instructor Ginger Bailey and a youth share time afield in eastern Colorado. Video capture by © Jerry Neal/CPW.
For most of us, the New Year is a time of reflection. Specifically, it’s a chance to look back at the previous 12 months and identify the things we would like to change in our lives. But more importantly, changing calendars also provides a convenient benchmark that allows us to start anew and to begin looking forward. The proverbial blank canvas that emerges as one year ends and a new one begins is a prime opportunity to recreate ourselves and focus on what we deem most important.
Often, in our quest for self improvement, we tend to come up with the same, almost cliché, New Year’s resolutions year after year. We strive to lose weight (again), quit smoking (again), exercise more and eat less. And don’t get me wrong, these are all worthwhile and admirable goals (I certainly could afford to shed a few pounds myself after the holiday season).
However, as hunters and sportsmen, I think one of the most important resolutions that we can make is to share our passion for the outdoors with others. One of the best opportunities to contribute to this effort, aside from inviting friends and family to join us on our hunting trips, is by volunteering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Education program. Read more
Tom Remington and his English Setter, Tess, after a successful hunt.
— Article and photos by Tom Remington
Pheasant hunting is almost never easy, but hunting late-season pheasants can be particularly challenging. In December and January, you may be chasing less than half the roosters available in November. The survivors are battle hardened and educated to the ways of hunters and bird dogs. Pheasants learn to avoid draw bottoms, fence lines and other linear covers preferred by hunters and, instead, move to the middle of large fields.
My friends and I, through years of hard experience, have developed some unconventional strategies that work well late in the season. Roosters respond to hunters in predictable ways, and these tactics can help you take advantage of pheasant behavior. Read more
Pheasant hunters on a 2014 NHP hunt. Photo by Tony Dymek/CPW.
Experienced hunters enter the field confident of finding game. For new hunters, gaining that confidence — knowing the where, when, how and why of hunting — is often the biggest barrier to success.
That’s the idea behind the Novice Hunter Program, a new Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) effort to help recent hunter-education graduates master the basics of pheasant hunting. The brainchild of Northeast Regional Manager Steve Yamashita and his staff, the program enjoyed a successful launch in 2013 and is currently underway for the 2014 seasons. Read more
When I was a kid growing up in northern Minnesota during the 1970s, most of my friends hunted and fished, and many trapped, but my outdoors social circles during those elementary and early middle school years were boys’ clubs. It was rare to encounter a girl who hunted, although, there were surely many about. In recent years, though, women are a bright spot in the general downward hunting-numbers trend.
Women are spending more time in tree stands and duck blinds — and putting fresh meat on the table. Although men still account for the vast majority of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters, the number of women actively hunting is on the rise. The total number of women hunters surged by 25 percent between 2006 and 2011, after holding steady for a decade, according to Census Bureau statistics. At last count, 11 percent of all U.S. hunters were women, compared to 9 percent in 2006.
“During the 1980s, we saw a pretty good increase in women hunting, which flattened out in the 1990s,” said Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a research firm specializing in outdoor recreation trends. “And now there seems to be an increase in the past three or four years.” Read more
A chukar partridge at CPW’s research facility in Fort Collins. Photo by Manda Walters/CPW.
Upland game hunters may have additional opportunities to pursue chukar partridge thanks to an effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to introduce the birds in Larimer County.
In August, CPW biologists released 168 chukar on public land in the Lower Poudre Canyon. The release site, located 30 minutes west of Fort Collins, supports ideal habitat for the birds and has the potential to provide a close-to-home hunting location for northern Colorado residents.
“Our primary goal with this transplant project is to establish a self-sustaining, huntable population of chukar along the Northern Front Range for upland bird hunters,” said Mark Vieira, CPW wildlife biologist. “We are always striving to improve hunting opportunities and are excited about the prospect of offering chukar hunts in the near future.” Read more
Virtual scouting is important if you want to increase your chances of harvesting a big-game animal. The Colorado Hunting Atlas is a great tool, developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s GIS team, to help you achieve greater success in the field. In this Colorado Outdoors Online “Quick Tips” video, you will learn how to use the Colorado Hunting Atlas and see an overview of the main functions and features.
1. Humility and Judgment
A young hunter seeks direction on a pheasant hunt. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
“A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
— Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan, “Magnum Force”
Callahan’s wise advice is particularly appropriate for small-game hunters, for the many species of animals and birds they may hunt present a broad array of hunting challenges. Todd Schmidt, Colorado hunter education coordinator, emphasized during an interview that small-game hunting is a foundation for developing skills and traits important to all types of hunting. “The lengthy, five-month hunting season, not only enriches the hunter through a broad variety of experiences, but it can also nurture good character,” said Schmidt. “Terrains differ, as do shotgun gauges, rifle calibers, arrow selection and physical fitness requirements – each offering unique lessons.”
Acting honorably in diverse environments with different firearms demands humility and judgment. Some years ago I was on a varmint hunt sponsored by a major firearms company. I had a .22 Magnum that had not been sighted in to my standards. A colleague challenged me to shoot prairie dogs at about 200 yards. I declined. Although otherwise quite sufficient, my skill level would be compromised using this rifle and the likelihood of unethical shots would increase. Read more