Newspaper Column



Weekly Trout Republic by Kevin Kirkpatrick

Submission date: 21 August 2013

Publication date: 29 August 2013

Word Count: 837

Headline: Let the Hunting Season Begin!


This week marks the beginning of the Big Game seasons in Colorado and there is already a buzz in the air over the influx of hunters to the area. These hunters -- whether local or out-of-state -- bring in much needed revenue to the San Luis Valley. Although the first bow season opens this Friday, last week saw hunters arriving in preparation for their hunts.

Before leaving home, many of these hunters have already trained for the grueling conditions found in the mountainous region. They have walked daily, eaten a good diet and paid attention to their fitness level. If you don’t hunt, you can’t imagine what it is like to pursue animals through beetle-ravaged forests often with snow on the ground and all the while breathing through what feels like a straw thanks to the altitude. It puts a strain on even the healthiest people.

Last archery season, I was on the road to Summitville and spotted a huge 5x5 Bull Elk. I watched him for a while then started home when I encountered a couple of archery hunters on their ATVs. I stopped to talk and told them that I had just spotted the Bull Elk and that he was no more than 300 feet down the road. One looked at the other and said, “Man, we’re also only ½ mile from camp. I’m done.” And off they went, too tired to even go look. They had evidently already had a long day.

To avoid walking all over tarnation and then becoming too tired to hunt requires a lot of scouting. For those of us fortunate to live close to where we hunt, evenings or weekends are good times to check out the area for animal signs. This gives us a chance to find out what pattern of travel or grazing animals are engaged in and hopefully to be able to translate that into a successful season once it opens.

And, for me, scouting is a great way to extend the hunting season. Whether that be at laugh-out -loud gatherings around the campfire or snatching a few Brookies from the high mountain streams, those days are often more memorable than the hunts themselves.

Out-of-state hunters often forego this critical aspect of hunting due to travel expense and time required. Many find coming just a couple of days earlier even helps with acclimatization and locating likely spots to find the game they are pursuing.

Some folks have started using game cameras to investigate the areas they want to hunt as well as walking the area. While not necessary, it is fun to see animals moving past your chosen stand in the days and weeks prior to hunting season. In the last few years the prices have lowered significantly, now ranging from $50 to $300. I recently got two of the Tasco 119223C which retail for about $50 and seem to have the base features that I need. The camera attaches to a nearby tree and thanks to a motion sensor will take a photo when an animal walks by. They are even equipped with a flash and a clock so you know when the animals are passing by and also can get great nighttime shots.

My son Kody is a great hunter and one of his friends placed three of these cameras out in the woods where he and I were also hunting. Well, you know how boys can be. We couldn’t resist purposely getting them to take a photo of us in all sorts of hilarious antics and poses. A week later, the friend checked the camera only to find the two of us horsing around and no deer. We laughed until we cried at his rants about no deer pictures.

In my experience, there is one type of scouting that is hard to get but always successful: the wisdom born out of being in the forest day after day and year after year. I learned this lesson the hard way. Back in my youth, I got up pre-dawn and was out of the house by 4 a.m. to climb one of our local peaks in search for elk. When I arrived at my truck after an all day hike and no sighting, there was an elderly gentleman sitting by my tailgate in a lawn chair with his rifle across his lap and a sandwich in his hand.

I asked him if he were waiting for someone and he said no, he was hunting. Apparently, he had shot an elk in that exact same spot for the past 29 years. He knew that the elk crossed the road there often and simply waited for them.

Now that is some successful scouting! Regardless of your techniques, whether they be old school with lots of walking or using the latest technology, time spent afield before the seasons will help you be successful in your hunts. I”ll see you out there in the trees; Cooper, however, will be keeping the home fires burning. Here’s to a great fall!