One of the things that I enjoy most about hunting in Colorado with my Dad is that it’s the only time he listens to me! Admittedly, he’s usually not wrong to ignore my advice, as he’s taught me nearly everything that I know about hunting and shooting. However, the bulk of that experience is from hunting white tail deer in Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and hunting white tails from tree stands is very different from hunting pronghorn, elk and mule deer in Colorado.
So despite his better judgement, my Dad listens to me when we hunt together in Colorado, not because I’m an incredible hunter, but because I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of experience. Over the past ten years, I have had the privilege of working with CCALT to preserve working farm and ranchland throughout Colorado. For a “carpet bagger” from Maryland who fell in love with the West on a backpacking trip when I was 16, the opportunity to work in conservation in Colorado has and continues to mean the world to me.
One of the fringe benefits of working with CCALT is that many of the landowners that we have worked with generously allow me and my father to hunt on their land after conservation easement deals are finished. More importantly, hunting gives me an outlet that allows me to escape the “noise” of modern life and connect with nature in a way that only farmers, ranchers and hunters can truly understand.
Earlier this fall, I had the most incredible hunt of my life. After 11 months of training and practice, I had the opportunity to hunt mule deer and elk with a .50 caliber flintlock on CCALT preserved ranches. After stalking one group of bucks for several days and after passing up shots that were a bit of a stretch for a muzzleloader, I finally was able to sneak up on a great 5×4 buck and get the high percentage shot that I had been waiting for. While it took all of the skills that I have learned from my father and on my own, this hunt would not have been possible without the advice of the ranching family that gave me the privilege to hunt on their land.
As incredible as that hunting experience was, it still pales in comparison to any hunt that I get to have with my Dad. We’ve had two successful pronghorn hunts together; and I have enjoyed having that time to spend with him while we continue to teach one another what we know about the natural word and the outdoors, retell old stories for the umpteenth time, and share new ones. The process of getting out with my Dad is what really matters, not taking an animal. I subscribe a lesson he once taught me: “Hunting should always be about the process of getting outside and connecting with nature; actually taking an animal should only be the icing on the cake.”
And he’s right, because if I don’t get a deer, an elk or a pronghorn, I still had a successful hunt simply because I got outside! And, I can always buy beef from a CCALT rancher!
Now, please excuse me, as I have to pick up my Dad from the airport, as it’s time to go hunting!
Author’s Post Script: Scratch that – we’ve now had three successful pronghorn hunts in Colorado!
*Wade Shelton has been a project manager at the Trust for Public Land for 10 years. He lives in Denver with his wife, Lisa, their two dogs and three cats.