Now I suppose you’re thinking “isn’t it supposed to be a wild goose chase?”, perhaps. Also perhaps the fowl are colluding — Canada Geese with what Benjamin Franklin thought perhaps a more American bird than the Eagle, the turkey. Today I struck out from the house rather late, knowing that my primary turkey haunt I was interested in was still closed up until the end of May per the US Forest Service. I was looking for a place in the Front Range to do a little turkey hunting and still get home for dinner. I was hesitant to drive down past Pueblo, Colorado where several articles have recommended that the turkey hunting is both over the counter and quite good. In fact, OTC tags are valid on most of the state, with units in the Eastern part of the state handled by draw for state land.
I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, threw coffee down my gullet with reckless abandon as I tried and failed not to wake up my wife and gather my gear. Had I wanted to arrive pre-dawn I’d have left over an hour ago, but since I was walking into the unknown I wanted to do so in daylight hours. I left the house a little past five AM and headed towards the Lost Creek Wilderness Area outside of Jefferson, Colorado. I’d been there before and hiked a fair amount having spent an unsuccessful day grouse hunting there the previous fall. I pulled down Lost Park Trail Road in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Jefferson, entirely without traffic signals and the main street is 55MPH since it’s bisected by CO-285. If there’s much more of a town, I haven’t yet uncovered it.
The road itself goes to dirt immediately. From there the washboards were cleaning whatever fat deposits were on my kidneys as my Jeep shook the living hell out of them. Shortly after turning from town, a rooster tail of dirt thrown up from the Jeep I was presented with the most Western of problems. Why did the buck antelope get stuck on the road?
It took some willpower, I tried not to upset him but as he raced alongside the truck after zigging and zagging in front of it, but I finally overtook him in a way that he was able to relax and sped on my way. I had hunting to do.
The Lost Creek Wilderness is just over Kenosha Pass on CO-285, turning on Lost Creek Road in Jefferson until there just isn’t a road anymore. No road? You’re in the Wilderness. Well… that is if you can make it all the way down said road.
I’d just entered Pike National Forest, the patch work of public lands that spreads out massively directly west of Denver and was beginning to get to familiar territory when suddenly there was another car. Not only was it a car, but it looked like it’d been there a while, stuck in the snow high centered having gotten some momentum. It was… in the middle of the road with no useful option for me to get around.
This was the only road that I’m aware of into and out of that section of the forest, and I was still several miles from where I needed to be. Considering hoofing it I looked at my GPS and spread my thumb and forefinger expanding the map until the turkey pin was visible. I sighed, disgusted I turned off the truck, took a picture of the car so I could send it to local authorities, and took out my box call. I was on National Forest land, at least I could rip out a couple of yelps. Nothing.
I spun around to go to another parcel I knew had mixed conifers and fields that turkeys just love. I’ll spare you the directions, but it’s near by. No sooner than I entered the National Forest from the county road I saw the road quality deteriorate from dry dusty hard packed dirt to icy snow to deeply rutted icy snow. Then, there was no more road. Well, there is a road there, somewhere, but someone else previously got stuck, and was pulled out. During the recent snowfall there had been no further traffic and the snow was significantly higher than anywhere else. I stopped and got out to check, it was not going to happen. Not solo, and not without chains and going slowly. Again, I turned around, but not before scoring a brand new tow chain someone else had left behind.
I went back into the bustling metropolis of Jefferson and looked at my map before deciding on a nearby State Wildlife Area, there were rolling hills, conifer and aspens. Surely there’d have to be some birds there! Kicking up dirt on the roads through Jefferson, Como, and Fairplay I found my way through chunks of BLM, State, and private land, poring over each to see if I could find some ideal turkey habitat on the open plains. Finally a chunk of BLM with a gate! There was a road directly to the SWA through another chunk of BLM.
It all looked super promising. I’d be able to zip down the dirt road, turn west and head into the foothills and set up, if I didn’t hear gobbles I could run and gun, yelping every so often.
On May first. You have got to be kidding me. This is a cruel joke right? This was the fourth place I’d thought I might get into birds. Closed until May first. I’m unsure as to whether it’s because it’s elk wintering grounds and they don’t want to encourage shed hunters, or because of the mud season where people get stuck and buried to their axles in gumbo.
I was out of energy and running low on time. While I’m a firm believer in hunting all day, I just had the feeling that I wasn’t going to succeed without a little more research behind the warm glow of an LCD screen. So I headed home, beaten down but not without finding a new place to take some friends when the weather gets better. Oh well, there’s always tomorrow.