It’s the second-most anticipated email of the year (Badlands’ 12 Deals of Christmas being no. 1, naturally).
It’s the annual elk tag draw results email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Your entire hunting season rests on this email. Clicking this will determi…… Crap. Didn’t draw again.
Maybe next year will be the year. Or the year after that. Definitely the year after that.
In the meantime, to help ease the disappointment of a bad lottery draw, we talked to the Badlands pro staff to find out what they go after when the fates are against them.
Al Quackenbush quickly shifts from elk mode to “good citizen” and does his part to remove damaging or nuisance critters.
“One of my favorite things to do in the summertime is hunting varmints, especially woodchucks. There are plenty of farmers around that are fed up with the large rodents,” he said. “When I was much younger, my dad would get us up early in the morning and we'd head out for three or four hours scouring the countryside, ready to play whack-a-mole with a .222 or .22-250. The farmers are happy, and it gives you some great target practice.”
If varmints aren’t your speed, there is another real problem critter that needs everyone’s help controlling. And… Bacon.
“Many hunters tell me they wish they could hunt year round. In fact, you can,” Al said. “Many states allow you to hunt feral pigs or wild hogs 365 days a year. Most places don't have a great deal of public land to hunt them on, so you usually need landowner permission, to pay a trespass fee, or simply pay for a guided or semi-guided hunt.”
One of the biggest pluses to hog hunting is the variety in ways to take the animals.
“The great thing about hunting hogs is you can usually take them with almost any weapon: archery equipment, crossbow, firearm and other weapons,” Al said. “Some states allow you to take as many hogs as you can because they are such a nuisance. I also like places like Oklahoma and Texas that allow you to hunt at night for hogs. That’s a whole new level of excitement.”
Staff member Freddy Harties is no stranger to the bad news email, but he always has a big-time backup plan in case the elk tags don’t come through.
“Due to the increase in numbers of black bear throughout the state, Colorado has reduced fees on non-resident tags, and is encouraging all deer and elk hunters to consider purchasing an over the counter or limited black bear license to have with them during their time in the field,” Freddy said.
It’s more than just a great opportunity to check bear off your bucket list, it’s a great way to help the ungulate populations as well.
“According to recent studies being conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife Services, deer fawn and elk calf retention are at all-time lows as a direct result of black bear predation,” Freddy said. “Colorado needs your help in effectively managing the black bear population.”
All of our pros pointed out that almost every state has a super-challenging quarry, that’s cheap to hunt and the tags are… well, what we’re hunting doesn’t need any tags (just a license).
We’re talking squirrel. The dreaded tree rat. The buffalo wing of the woods.
It’s fun, relaxing and a great way to get the kids started. Just need a .22LR and some patience. We also recommend squirrel calls… not so much for hunting, but for annoying the daylights out of your office workers.
All you need is some public land, a few Approach items from BadlandsGear.com and your trusty lil’ rimfire. With that simple package you can gather up what my Kentucky family refers to as a “mess o’ squirrels” for a fry party later on.
So, in the end, we share your pain over the “Sorry, but you have been unsuccessful” emails. They stink and can wreak havoc on your big-time hunting dreams. But, we’re hunters at our core. While we want to be tracking that monster wapiti through the Oregon mountains, we also appreciate that all game is a meal earned. That our skill, dedication and unconditional commitment to our craft is what puts food on the table, be it elk, venison, pork shoulders or squirrel.
No matter what that damn email tells you, find your reason to get out and hunt this year. We won’t see you out there.*