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 until encountering two hunters on their ATVs. I shared that I had just spotted the Bull Elk no more than 300 feet down the road. One guy 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, evenings or weekends are good times to search for animal signs. These signs indicate current pattern of animal travel and feeding.
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 streams, those days are often more memorable than the hunts themselves.
Out-of-state hunters often must forego this critical aspect of hunting due to travel expense and time required. Many do find that coming just a couple of days earlier helps with acclimatization and locating likely spots to find the game they are pursuing.
Instead of walking the forest, some folks have started using game cameras to capture the illusive game. While not necessary, it is fun to see animals moving past your chosen stand prior to hunting season. In the last few years the prices have lowered significantly, now ranging from $50 to $300. I recently bought 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 – day or night.
My son Kody is also a hunter and I recall when one of his friends placed three of these cameras out in the woods near where we hunted. Well, you know how boys can be. We couldn’t resist purposely walking in front of his friend's cameras so they would capture our hilarious antics and poses. A week later, the friend checked the cameras only to find the two of us horsing around and no deer. We laughed until we cried while he ranted for days about no deer and two fools.
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. One lesson really stands out in my mind. Back in my youth, I got up pre-dawn and in truck by 4 a.m. to climb one of our local peaks in search of elk. When I arrived at my truck after an all day hike and no sightings, 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. For the past three decades, he had watched elk cross at that point on the road and was successful each of the last 29 hunting seasons by wisely waiting for the right moment.
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.
If you would like to see what my Game Cam sees, check out my hunting adventure page. I’ll post photos and any other tidbits I find this archery hunting season. Or, if you would like me to share your Game Cam photos, send them to me on the site. Here’s to a great fall!