Vail Daily column: Tips for a good hunting season
Make It Count
I declare with full disclosure that I’m fairly apolitical. I don’t understand politics or find any pleasure discussing political issues; why would I care to discuss something I don’t know anything about anyway? This disclaimer is appropriate because of the nature of this article. I am discussing hunting related subject matter today. Given the current climate of disdain for the Second Amendment, I must clearly state I own guns for the sake of harvesting animals to satisfy my palate for elk carpaccio. I have no opinions on gun related laws whatsoever. Even if I ever lost my right to bear arms, I would hunt with a spear. Fair enough?
We are now midway through the first rifle season in Colorado. I was unsuccessful during the black powder season, and as I attempt this first rifle season, I thought it would be appropriate to share some nuggets of hunting wisdom I have learned thus far. If you haven’t been hiking or staying somewhat active through the late summer and early fall, I don’t know what to tell you. You might get tired, and I hope you have horses or a good ATV handy. It’s too late to develop any usable fitness, so let’s discuss some other factors that can contribute to your success without too much planning.
First, hunting pressure is a strong consideration during rifle seasons. Elk receive ample hunting pressure during the rifle seasons as many hunters enter the woods. What does this mean? Many hunters stomp through the woods, stir up animals and shoot; the end result is skittish elk that bury themselves far away from you. The logical assumption is to go deep into the woods, as elk hide out there. This isn’t a bad plan, but understand that elk don’t necessarily go far, they go where it’s safe. If the landscape looks so daunting that you second guess going into it, it’s good elk country. If it’s so steep and overgrown that you can’t imagine walking into it? This is a likely area for pressured elk to hang out.
Consider an out-of-the box hunting tactic here as well. Two years ago I shot a bull that was pressured. Several shots rang out a mile or so from where I was walking. My father taught me years ago, that whenever you hear several successive shots in an area, it’s a good sign. Many shots in succession mean only one thing; it’s likely the hunter who is firing is missing the target, and during successive shots the animals will be running, reducing the chances of follow-up shots hitting anything meaningful. Stand still, and keep a good lookout. It wasn’t 5 minutes later, that bull ran 200 yards in front of me with no intent of stopping. Let other hunters push the elk to you during rifle seasons.
FIND THE RIGHT GEAR
Consider equipment needs during your adventure. My goodness, the years I have spent trying to figure out the right footwear. By the way, purchase all of your footwear from REI. They will give you a full refund within a year of purchase date, even if you’ve put miles on them. I’ve tried most boot configurations you could imagine. It was the most frustrating, fruitless search that finally ended peacefully when I gave up on traditional hiking, or mountaineering boots. At one point, my wife was about to divorce me as I had a dozen different pairs of boots in our living room. The closest thing I found was a Lowa Ticam GTX. This was a $350 liability that worked up to about 100 miles of walking. I was in agony as they aggressively pressured calcium deposits that haunt my heels from years of playing hockey and skiing.
I was back in Ohio for a wedding last fall, as I shopped around a Quality Farm and Fleet for a wedding gift — why yes, my friends back home register for weddings and showers at such places — I found redemption at this humble warehouse. I have always heard great things about traditional rubber boots from companies such as Muck, LaCrosse and Bogs. I didn’t feel like spending much because I knew they wouldn’t work well; $50 dollars later, a pair of Itasca, camouflage rubber boots proved worthy. They have been the best companion I could ever ask for! They fit like your best household slippers. Downside? Heavy and hot. Solution? My friend Mike should be a lobbyist for LaSportiva as he always foams at the mouth when discussing the virtues of their footwear; the LaSportiva 2.0 GTX is a winter-trail running shoe that has a Gore-Tex “boot” liner that zips up around the ankle. He recommended them, so I gave them a shot. They are light, comfortable and perfect for days when you don’t need the intense snow or rain protection from more robust options. Moral of the story? Traditional hiking boots are overrated. A trail hiking shoe is more comfortable, mild weather option and a full rubber boot is better when it’s cold, snowy or rainy. Find what works for you.
Lastly, travel as light as possible. Hunting on foot is hard work, so take far less equipment than you think. A compass, whistle, lighter, map and knife will do the trick. Forget food and water and opt for a LifeStraw or other simple, water purification systems. Most of these small “straws” enable you to simply suck water right out of a stream, puddle or pond. They sure beat carrying water that can weigh you down. Food? Simply eat when you get home at night — hopefully wild game from the days labor! Be safe and have fun out there!
Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at http://www.r2hp.com or 970-401-0720.