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Split River Outdoors -

One of the more unique aspects of hunting waterfowl is that each year is different, and you never know what you’re going to get. Ducks and geese travel hundreds of miles each year, and their patterns change based on a number of factors. It’s both exciting and frustrating. The anticipation builds throughout the off-season, and you can never predict the type of season you’re going to have until you’re in the midst of it. You can plan and scout, but ultimately the birds have to show up; and you have to take advantage of opportunities, even if they’re limited.


Hunting waterfowl in western Colorado presents its’ own challenges. First, we don’t live in an area that see’s consistent migration throughout the season. We get one, maybe two big migrations a year. A few years ago wave after wave of new birds came to the area and the result was remarkable, but this year was very different....

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Split River Outdoors -

I never thought I would utter the phrase, “I passed on a cow;” but after doing so the previous day I couldn’t help but think it may have been a mistake. Countless hunters pass on bucks and bulls in pursuit of “One big enough.” I however had never passed up any opportunity on any game animal, probably just due to the fact that my opportunities have always been limited. Yet, upon seeing a cow with two calves, I couldn’t muster up the that sense of urgency needed to squeeze the trigger. I began to worry, almost immediately, that I may not get another chance; but I had a few things going for me. Since I was in possession of a late season tag, I had at least seven more days to hunt. Very rarely do I find elk on the first day of the season, so I was optimistic considering that I had already seen several dozen elk. Second, I was able to watch those elk graze as the sun sank below the horizon, and many of those elk were bedding down. Elk do have a tendency to move in the middle of the night, but won’t necessarily do so if they don’t feel the need to; which brings me to my third indicator of hope….. There was no hunting pressure. As a public land hunter in Colorado I’ve become accustomed to seeing the blaze orange army. It’s atypical to spend a day out without running into a slew of hunters donning their bright orange attire. Therefore, I had no reason to believe that the elk would leave the area, and I’d have another chance to give chase the following morning. So after a nights rest, I set out for day two with confidence and ambition...

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Split River Outdoors -

There are so many reasons I love living in Colorado. I’m surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers, so much of which is open to public use. There’s never a shortage of places to explore or sights to see; but the abundance of wildlife in Colorado is without a doubt the best my home state has to offer. Residents and non-residents alike, so long as they have any sense of adventure at all, can attest to the quality, and quantity of animals that roam the mountains, valleys, sage flats and prairies. However, as a born and raised ‘Coloradan’ I occasionally feel as though I’ve become complacent, considering that I’ve had countless encounters with most wildlife in the state (Mountain Lions and Mountain Goats still elude me….). I first became aware of this years ago when I was visiting Missouri and a local was astounded at the sight of a Bald Eagle...

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Split River Outdoors -

When I began waterfowl hunting I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about decoys, duck calls, the gear to buy or strategies to employ. Most importantly, I didn’t know where to go. I knew ducks liked water. I knew they moved and migrated. But I just had to pick a random piece of public land with water and start there.

Nowadays I have several options to choose from, but I’m still very limited by what’s available. I don’t have connections to private land and I don’t have a dog which limits my choices significantly. I have to find areas that allow me to retrieve without the risk of falling in, and I have to contend with all the other public land hunters. This was and still is the reality of hunting in western Colorado. Unless you’re able and willing to drive several hours, you work with what you got, unless you have access to something that expands your reach.

Cue the arrival of the duck boat… A few years ago I agreed to bring a couple guys on a duck hunt that I had not met. I’m always reluctant to hunt with people I don’t know because of negative experiences I’ve had doing so. However this invite paid off in several ways. Justin invited John and John would later invite Lance who are now good friends of mine. I took them on a couple of hunts that were far from spectacular. We got along, shared a lot of the same values, and managed not to get in each other's way. The season ended and we talked about needing to find new areas. Then in the middle of the summer I got a call...

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Split River Outdoors -

Another year, another tag, another hunt. Year after year we put in for the draw here in Colorado, hoping that we will have a chance to pursue deer and elk so that we can fill our freezers. We each typically draw a tag or two, and might even pick up a leftover tag or an over the counter tag. We make our plans, get everything ready, and set out with the hope of making the “I got one” phone call.  But year after year there are many obstacles that must be overcome, many of which are completely out of our control. This year in particular has made this even more evident.

I drew a buck tag for units near my home in Grand Junction, Colorado. I’ve had this tag several years before and I was really looking forward to the opportunity. Since I was going to be hunting close to home, I knew I could probably hunt three or four days during the 10 day season. However, I am also a high school teacher and football coach, which makes getting out difficult. My weekends tend to get swallowed up by other obligations in the fall, and I can’t justify taking time off of work. So despite having the opportunity to hunt close to home in an area that I am familiar with, I don’t have time to scout or prepare in a way that would increase my chances. Instead, I would spend Friday night coaching, run home, get everything together, and figure out where I was going the following morning on my way to pick up coffee...

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