A Lab retrieves a mallard duck. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
If you are a duck hunter, you know the mingled joy (watching the sunrise over a river, calling in mallards to your decoys) and challenge (sitting quietly in a frosty duck blind) that comes with hunting waterfowl. In Colorado, the waterfowl hunting season is long and plentiful—which should give you plenty of time to experience both. The primary waterfowl season begins in October (check here for dates pertaining to specific areas).
“With waterfowl hunting opportunities extending from mid-September teal seasons to light goose conservation seasons ending in April, there are many opportunities for hunters to enjoy opportunities to harvest ducks and geese in Colorado,” said Jim Gammonley, avian program leader at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). See our resource guide here.
Colorado’s waterfowl environments are diverse, ranging from shallow wetlands to large reservoirs. Most of the ducks present in Colorado during the hunting season are migrants from breeding areas north of our state, Gammonley noted. Typically the best hunting is available when a cold front pushes birds south along the Central or Pacific Flyways (or “aerial highways”) from southern Canada, the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. Read more
Photo by: Brandon KilstadAfter my father had unexpected surgery, I worked to put together an elk hunt for my dad and my son. The draw deadline had passed, so I focused on over-the-counter (OTC) units with public land, choosing one in the San Juan Mountains. Summer scouting revealed one bull that stood out among the others. My Dad took a 5X5 on opening morning then it began to snow so I hunted close to camp. During a break in the clouds, I spotted a herd and the big bull several valleys away. I headed out well before daylight and hiked about 8 miles at 12,000 feet. Nearing the basin, a few cows came over the ridge and pinned me down above tree line. While I lay there, the storm worsened with howling wind and lightening. When the cows fed off, I bolted for the trees to get out of the wind. Then I spotted the rest of the herd coming over the ridge, including the big bull. I crawled out from behind the trees and went prone with my rifle steadied on the bipod. I struggled to see through the snow with the scope, and scooped snow out of the scope repeatedly. As he was entering a drainage, I was able to see well enough to pick out the big bull against the snow. One shot at 425 yards with my .338 Ultra Mag put him down at 12,167 feet. We all returned the next day with a camera and horses to pack him out.
I’ve been hunting elk in the backcountry of southwest Colorado’s sky-scraping San Juan Mountains for going on a decade now, and have never given much thought to springtime big-game scouting (which is popular in the northern Minnesota, where I grew up hunting whitetails). But this year, the sparse spring snowpack allowed for a combination San Juans turkey hunt and elk-scouting foray during mid-April.
My goal, after putting a Merriam’s gobbler in the freezer, was only to revisit some elk hunting haunts, pay my respects to elk kills of seasons past, and look for water sources and likely wallows. And given that I was scouting around the 9,000 to 9,500 foot level, I didn’t expect to come across many (if any) elk sheds. In addition to being an unlikely elevation (I thought) to find sheds, antlers are a source of minerals that can be quickly consumed by forest creatures such as squirrels, mice and porcupines, hastening their demise if not found within a couple of seasons.
The phrase “fair chase” has a very specific meaning in the hunting world. The Boone and Crockett Club defines it as “the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big-game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.” This means fair-chase hunters pursue their quarry on foot; hone their skills so they make quick, clean kills; and obey the law.
Jim Posewitz, the founder of Orion, The Hunter’s Institute, writes (in Beyond Fair Chase) that fair chase “addresses the balance between the hunter and the hunted. It is a balance that allows hunters to occasionally succeed while animals generally avoid being taken.” The principle of “fair chase” is revered by ethical sportsmen and a cornerstone of the American hunting heritage.
Roosevelt enjoys a hunt in Colorado’s backcountry.
It was President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid hunter of big game, who in 1887 joined leaders such as George Bird Grinnell, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Gifford Pinchot to form the Boone and Crockett Club, a group of sportsmen dedicated to stemming the destruction of America’s natural resources and wildlife at the end of the 19th century. Together, they worked to save Yellowstone, advocated for the principles of fair chase, and embraced the principles of science-based management of natural resources. Read more
David Lien displays his Merriam’s turkey taken in southwest Colorado.
Anyone who’s heard the echoing “Gobble-obble-obble!” of a longbeard at dawn during April knows something primordial lives in the woods, hills, mountains and valleys of this country and continent. It’s an explosive vocalization, one like no other, that my friend David Petersen says is, “at once high-pitched, deep-throated, melodic and maniacal, with emphasis on the last quality.”
The wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is endemic to North America and evolved more than 11 million years ago. While they have no close relatives, they’re cousins of pheasants. And not unlike a male pheasant, the wild tom, with his bold tail fan and bright wattle, is one of a kind. Prized for his keen senses and fabled intelligence, a tom can reach 30 pounds or more with a wingspan pushing 5½ feet. Read more
Online hunter-education courses make it easy for aspiring hunters. Photo by Jerry Neal/CPW.
Story by Gary Berlin
Formal hunter education training has existed since 1949 when New York became the first state to require hunters to complete hunter education prior to buying a hunting license. More than 20 years later, Colorado joined the ranks, requiring anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1949 to obtain a hunter education certificate to purchase or apply for a hunting license. Because of the success of hunter education training, which reduced hunting-related shooting incidents, today all 50 states and 11 Canadian provinces have some type of hunter education requirement.
Between 1949 and 2000, a typical hunter education class consisted of 12 to 22 hours of formal classroom training, passing a comprehensive written exam, demonstrating safe gun-handling techniques and firearms proficiency at a firing range. It was not uncommon for a student to attend three to six individual class sessions before obtaining their hunter education certificate.
At the onset of the 21st century, a number of far-sighted, state hunter-education administrators recognized that many of their residents were resorting to the Internet for their news, information, entertainment and education. These administrators submitted a proposal to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) to create a program for online delivery of hunter education. Read more
In this Colorado Outdoors magazine video-supplement, author and fly fisherman Ron Belak demonstrates techniques for fishing small streams. Anglers will learn how to locate and approach spooky trout and see Belak’s recommendations for fly rods, flies and other equipment.
To learn more, see Ron Belak’s article, “Fly Fishing Small Mountain Streams” in the 2011 Colorado Outdoors Fishing Guide. Now available by calling 1-800-417-8986.
How a person hunts is often a precise indicator of their character. In many instances, personality traits revealed in the field can either enhance or ruin the hunting experience for everyone involved.
I recently hunted pheasants with a large group of people, and at the risk of sounding elitist or judgmental, there were certain actions and behaviors by several members of the group that diminished the hunt for me and for the other hunters. These actions were not as atrocious as broken game-laws or blatant disregard of safety issues–those types of infractions will end my participation instantly. Instead, these behaviors are more comparable to bad etiquette at the dinner table, behind the wheel of a car or on the golf course—tolerable acts but unpleasant and indicative of poor character. Read more