Colorado Ice Kokanee

Happy New Year everyone, I hope this year brings you all the species on your wish list and plenty of them.

There are several lakes and reservoirs in Colorado that have Kokanee Salmon stocked in them. A landlocked sockeye salmon. Blue Mesa Reservoir, Eleven Mile Reservoir, Antero Reservoir, Gross Reservoir, Wolford Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir, Green Mountain Reservoir and Dillon Reservoir all have Kokanee in them just to name a few and I know there are several other lakes that have them as well.

 Normally you could find the Kokanee Salmon starting in spring through the ice using jigging spoons tipped with a wax or meal worm and they are usually immature and are still very silver. They are a schooling fish so they can light up the fish finder when they come through when you have an active school you can get some of these salmon on the ice in a hurry. We target deep drop offs on points in the main channels of the reservoirs we fish looking for Kokanee.

Sometimes you can find them still in the spawning stage under the ice and if your lucky they can still be firm and just perfect for the smoker. Kokanee are an aggressive fish if you can observe them when they are in the spawn you would understand why they hit an assortment of lures and jigs in all colors at that time of year. They are a blast to catch and are very good eating. Kokanee will die after they spawn and it is okay to take your daily limit if you are a fish eater like myself.

We were on a trout trip and found the Kokanee in this very stage just last week. Our trout trip instantly turned into a Kokanee Salmon outing. They were very aggressive and were hitting anything in pink and chartreuse and the majority wanted it jigging. Kastmasters, Swedish Pimples, and small BPS teaser tubes were the hot baits. They were shallow and were cruising the bank so look for them in spawning areas with rocks and sandy bottoms if you are at a reservoir where they are known to be.

Don't get stuck on just fishing for one species in a particular body of water if other species are in there you might be just as surprised as we were when we lucked into these salmon. Please be safe out there on the ice and never go alone. 

                                                                         Best of Luck,  Sam Heckman / Pro StaffMale Kokanee SalmonFemale Kokanee Salmon10 Kokanee limit




Colorado High School Regional Champions

High school fishing. Yes, an actual sport growing in high schools nationwide. Along with football,baseball, basketball high school kids have the opportunity to join up and fish team bass tournaments. I know it sounds crazy but it is here and here to stay. 

Many of you who read this will probably think there are no bass in Colorado and most people who live here fish for other species. We actually do have some great bass fisheries in Colorado. A few examples are Pueblo Reservoir, Aurora Reservoir, Chatfield Reservoir, Brush Hollow Reservoir, Cheeseman Reservoir, Horse Tooth Reservoir and Trinidad Reservoir just to name a few. Not to mention the hundred of ponds throughout the metro areas that hold a lot of nice bass.

High school fishing is very popular in the South and by far there are several more high schools affiliated with the program there but there is an opportunity in Colorado if this peaks your interest. There are two organizations that have high school fishing under their name one is BASS and FLW. I am a member of both and they are great for our sport of bass fishing. The group I am involved with is the FLW side that has a sub organization called the TBF. "The Bass Federation" Here they have the SAF, "student angler federation".

Currently there are a few high schools that are involved in the SAF high school fishing program. Pueblo West High School in Pueblo, Co. has been the longest active club and Mesa Ridge High School in Fountain, Co. is in there second year. BASS has the Windsor High School program in Windsor, Co. Clubs are starting to form throughout the state for both organizations. 

You can go on the website and check out and see how you can get a club started in your high school. If you live in a rural area and still want to be a part of this you can sign up under my youth club as a SAF member the Fountain Valley Junior Bass Club. The TBF has allowed the club to be sanctioned as a high school so no kid would be left out who wanted to fish. Pretty awesome.

The format is having one qualifying tournament usually at Pueblo Reservoir every year with each high school team fishing against other high school teams.The team consists of two high school team members and a boat captain. The winner of that qualifying tournament earns a spot to move on to the regional tournament and from there on to the National event to fish for scholarship money towards a college of there choice. 

This year the team of Bradley Czosynka and Josh Cundiff from Mesa Ridge High School also members of my youth club competed against eighteen other teams to win the Colorado SAF high school state champion title. From here the team , myself and their boat captain David Wilkins made the long 22 hour one way trip to Clear Lake California to fish the SAF regional tournament. We spent a few days on the water prefishing looking for a pattern and with the FLW Rayovac series and the College regional also going on at the same time the lake and most common spots were getting hammered.

We decided to let the boys fish all the techniques they gained information on through research, the internet, club members and friends it was a treat to hear the strategy of how they were going to throw big swim baits and then flip docks and then go punching weed mats and then go deep cranking....that didn't last a full day of practice so we decided to fish their comfort zone the following day. We found a pretty decent pattern and the boys were good with what they needed to do to catch fish during the tournament. Practice was over and it was all up to them now.

 There were six other high schools from the western states who made the trip and they all were excited at the launch.This would be a one day shoot out and the winner would go on to the National championship from here, I would not be on the boat the final day so all I could do was wait and hope they made the right decisions to bring in the five bass limit. It seemed like forever for the 2 pm weigh in to get here and they came in with only four fish but two of them were in the 4 + pound range. They weighed in 12# 14 oz.with those four fish and were the first team to weigh in. The California team had a five fish limit and weighed in 12# 13 oz. Three other teams had limits but were just ounces shy. This was the closest tournament for the SAF regional championship so far and I am proud to say they pulled it off. Great job Bradley and Josh. SAF high school regional champions from Colorado. Best of Luck at the National Championship.

Get involved with some classmates and start up a fishing club in your high school. Get out and go fishing as much as you can. Your team could be the next National contenders and move up to a College fishing program from there, Yes. College bet. It only gets better from there. :)

                                             Bradley & Josh weigh inJosh and Bradley with trophiesDavid Wilkins, Bradley Czosnyka, Josh Cundiff, Sam Heckman   Best of Luck, Sam Heckman / Pro Staff




South Park Trout Action

 Morgan FitzgeraldSouth Park is known for its excellent trout fishery and you have three lakes within a ten mile stretch off Hwy 24 to choose from. There is 11 Mile Reservoir, Spinney Mountain Reservoir and Antero Reservoir all three produce giant trout and you can fish from the shore or boat and have great success.

Sam's 11 mile troutThere are a variety of baits and lures that many of you can use to catch trout at all three of the reservoirs. Spinney Mountain has a special regulation and you can use artificial flies and lures ONLY.  Traditional baits such as Berkley power bait, Kraft miniature marshmallows, salmon eggs and night crawlers can be used at Antero and 11 Mile fishing from the shore and are very successful baits for many fishermen. Each reservoir has their own regulations on bag limits if you are wanting to keep a few to eat.

Isaiah PerkinsI prefer to throw hardware like Kastmasters, small rapalas, tube jigs and an occasional fly and bubble every now and then. Mainly because I am in my boat and moving around looking for active fish. Now is the time to go West and enjoy some great trout action at all three reservoirs. The weather has been exceptionally rainy this year and the water is starting to cool down and the trout are becoming very active.

I have fished all three reservoirs in the past few weeks and have been very successful for trout on all three. I have had the pleasure of taking out some of my youth club kids, Morgan Fitzgerald and Isaiah Perkins to watch them catch some of their biggest trout so far. What a great time and lasting memories.Dayton Tervort

  My most recent trip was The winners of the Bass Pro Shops Preferred Rewards night. Ryan and Dayton Tervort from Kiowa, Colorado. We discussed where we wanted to go and we chose to go to Antero because it was fishing very well with lots of numbers of fish being caught. We used copper colored kastmasters and small rapala jerk baits and we caught well over 40 trout. We did manage a few 2 plus pounders but for the most part the fish were in the 14'' to 16'' range and they were very cooperative. Ryan told me it was one of the best trips he has had in a very long time and I was glad he was able to bring his son Dayton along to enjoy the day with me. Great company and new friends for sure.

Ryan & DaytonIf its trout you are wanting to catch head West to South Park as the weather cools it will only get better. Stop by your Bass Pro Shops for the baits and lures you will need to make your trip a success, our Team is always willing to help set you up and let you know where the action is.

                                 Best of Luck,  Sam Heckman / Pro StaffRyan & Dayton Tervort



Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 3

Practice Your Shooting

It really doesn’t matter what you shoot, whether if it’s a rifle, muzzle loader or bow (compound, re-curve, or long bow) you need to shoot year round. I know it gets very expensive to shoot a rifle or muzzle loader all the time but to stay proficient you need to shoot more than just a couple times a year. That’s not really the case with archery, we can shoot our arrows over and over unless you are a beginner and then you ruin a lot of arrows practicing. I can shoot my Carbon Express arrows over and over as long as I don’t miss and jack up an arrow which very rarely happens unless we are getting stupid and trying almost impossible shots.  Another advantage with archery is I can shoot in my back yard and no one cares, but if I started popping off with my 30-06, oh man look out, the cops will be there in a heartbeat with their guns drawn and aiming right at me. For the rifle and muzzle loaders if you can’t shoot a lot during off season you need to at least get out once a month or every other month before season and make sure your gun is still sighted in, plus if your gun is in a gun safe for extended periods of time you might start to have a rusting problem. When you do go shoot you may find something is wrong or broke or something breaks while you are at the range, if it does you can get it fixed before you go on your hunt. I had this happen a few years ago, I hadn’t shot my bow for a couple months because of an injury and when I pulled my bow out of the case and started waxing my string, I noticed that my cable guard slide was broke. I don’t know about you but most of the places I hunt it’s a long drive to a town that may or may not be able to fix the problem. If I wouldn’t have caught that broken slide I would have had a very long drive to find a place that would have one for my bow. The bottom line here is to shoot as much as possible so when that moment of truth comes along you’re ready.

Staying Organized

Keeping all your hunting equipment organized is one of the most import things to do that I can’t stress it enough. A lot of hunters when they get home throw everything in the corner of the garage, clean their gun, put it away in a gun safe and they're done until their next hunting season. Well the next hunting season arrives and you are going through everything trying reorganize and make sense of everything when come to find out, you left a pair of used socks in one of the bags, and the worst part of it all is there’s no laundry detergent made on this earth that’s going to take that smell out of everything you had in with those socks. This may be a little over kill but I think you get the picture.

I’m not much different but when I unload my truck I put everything into three different piles. One pile is all my hunting clothes, another is my regular clothes and then the third pile is all my other hunting stuff like my bow, boots, and that sort of stuff. My hunting clothes go straight into the washer and are washed with Hunter’s Specialties Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent and then hung out side to dry. When it has all dried completely it is all folded and put back into my Hunter’s Specialties Scent Safe Travel Bags with one Primetime Fresh Earth Scent Wafer in each bag. Now I’m ready for my next hunt. I go as far as all my shirts are in one bag, my pants in another, and my coats in another. Each bag is marked so if I’m looking for a pair of pants I don’t have to go through all the bags to find them. While everything is washing I’m putting all my other stuff away down in the basement where it all has its own place, this way when I go looking for something I know where it is. Now my wife will disagree with this but at least I know where it is.  If something is broke I will fix it right away and if it’s something I can’t do I’ll get it to someone who can. There’s nothing worse than having something broke and forgetting about it and then as you’re getting everything out and ready for your hunt and you find it, well I know the words you’re going to use because it happened to me and it was a good thing there was no kids around when I found it. If you can fix it, fix it, but if it’s one of those items you can’t fix take it to someone and get it fixed right away.

Everything I have talked about organizing so far has been all about when you get home. Don’t forget about staying organized while hunting. I’m just as guilty as the next when it comes to staying organized. When I get back to camp after hunting all day all I can think of is getting something in my stomach and going to bed. Now the next morning comes and I’m scrambling to get a lunch made, make sure my hydration bladder has water in it and off I go with a pop tart in one hand and a soda in the other.  It's really frustrating when you’re about a mile from camp and all of a sudden you hear a bugle and you go to grab your cow call that normally hangs around your neck and it’s not there along with the rest of your calls. Been there, done that, but it only took that one time for me to learn that lesson the hard way.

Check Off Sheet

A check off sheet is something I feel every hunter should have, get one of those generic ones that you find in magazines or at the game and fish department and modify it for you. A rifle hunters check off sheet would be different then a bow hunters as would a muzzle loaders. Some of the items will be the same like your licenses, GPS/Maps/Compass, but a bow hunter doesn’t need blaze orange and a rifle hunter doesn’t need camo. I have my list broke down into categories, day pack, hunting clothing, camp clothing, camp accessories, and camping equipment. Like with my day pack, I have a list of everything I carry in it, my camp clothing is what I wear around camp and it’s broke down as far as how many pair of socks and underwear I bring.  It took me quite a while to come up with my lists, but I started with one of those generic lists a long time ago and went from there. Sometimes I may add to the list or I may remove some thing. Once you start don’t stop unless you feel everything you have is sufficient. I’ve been using these lists for a long time and things are constantly changing as to where I’m adding and subtracting all the time. I even have a needs list and a want list. The needs list is stuff I need before next year’s hunt. My want/wish list is a whole lot longer than all my other lists combined. I don’t think I need to explain what kind of list that is but you know, like a new AR15 to whack a few coyotes. Maybe if I’m real good this year Santa might bring me one.

Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight

Mark Campagnola







Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 2

Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 2

I don’t like to pre-scout too early in the summer because when the rut hits the bulls will be looking for the cows and those bulls you saw above timber line probably won’t be there come opening morning. Now depending on the weather, a heard bull may take his harem up high if it’s too hot, or there’s a lot of hunting pressure, or he’s trying to get away from other bulls, but like I said, at the beginning of the rut (not pre-rut) those bulls will come looking for cows. It’s nice to see elk during that time so you can get somewhat of an idea of the antlers they are growing and how many elk may be in the area. But don’t expect them to be there when the rut hits, or during a rifle season.

I like to try and get out about 2 to 3 weeks before the season starts and that’s when I get real serious about what I’m finding or seeing. Some bulls could still be above timber line but their antlers are pretty much done growing so what you see is what you get. Going later also shows me what the moisture level is closer to the season. During June it could be lush and green but by the end of August it could be dry as a bone or a foot of snow late October. There is no right or wrong time to pre-scout as long as you can get out and have fun. If you’re hunting in a different state and you don’t have the time to pre-scout, you’re going to have to do a lot of research and looking over maps. This is where hiring an outfitter may be your best option.

After you have put all this together, now you are ready to go out and look the area over. Even if you have hunted the same area for many years it’s still a good idea to get out and look around. You never know if a new road was put in, an old road is now closed, or the worst of all, land was sold and someone is developing it. All this will affect elk in a negative way with the exception of a road being closed. This will help the elk but it won’t help you if you used that road in the past to get from point A to a long away point B.

Elk need three things to survive; food, water, and cover, cover could be thermal cover or escape cover. When I go out pre-scouting the first thing I do is get up as high as I can early in the morning on a ridge that overlooks a large area and start looking it over with my eyes first, you have a better field of view to start with then binoculars. Once I’ve done this then I will use my binoculars and start from one side and work my way to the other side going up and down in a grid pattern. If you use a grid pattern and not just randomly looking around, you won’t miss much. Once I spot something then I’ll pull out my spotting scope to zoom in for a better look.

If you are only trophy hunting this will let you know whether you want that animal or not, but still, try figuring out a game plan on how you would get to him as if you were actually hunting. If you are meat hunting all the better, you have located them and now you can figure out how you would get to them. When you do spot elk, mark it on your map, put down the total number of elk, number of bulls, and number of cows, plus the time of day and what the weather was like. Also make a note which way they left after feeding, but don’t stop there, continue looking for them because you may get lucky and see exactly where they go to bed. If the timber is too thick that you can’t see them any more unless they go through another meadow, go back to the area you seen them last and continue looking for other elk using the grid pattern again because there could be more.

If you were to miss any other elk during your actual hunt and started after the first bunch you may get busted by one you didn’t see and then it’s over. Don’t overlook deer either, you spook them and the same could happen. When you do set up to glass an area plan on being there for quite a while, especial if you are glassing areas with oak brush. Elk blend into oak brush so well that one minute you’re looking at one spot and you see nothing, then a couple minutes later you look at that same spot and there’s elk everywhere. Trust me; it has happened to me more than once. Take your time when you’re glassing, there’s no reason to get in a hurry whether you are pre-scouting or actually hunting.

During the middle of the day I don’t like tromping around the forest where elk may be bedded. I want to keep the area as human scent free as possible, nor do I want to spook them into the next county. It doesn’t take a lot to move elk out of an area and by running around the country side it could happen. Just because elk have to bed to digest their food doesn’t mean they don’t get up to drink, wallow, or just wonder around during the middle of the day. During my walk in and out of the area is when I look for elk tracks, droppings, rubbed trees, and good game trails. I pay special attention to which way the tracks are going, if everything seems to be heading only one way I want to figure out why. If they are going both ways then I know this would be a normal travel route usually from their feeding area to their bedding area in the mornings and reversed in the late afternoon.

As long as they are fresh I know for certain there’s elk in the area, but if everything is old, they have moved for some reason. This could be a matter of not enough food or maybe water. It’s nothing for elk to travel 10 to 15 miles in a single night, and if pressured enough this could very easily happen and possibly more. Never take your elk calls with you pre-scouting, you may be tempted to use them and this is neither the time nor place to do this. You may be a great caller but just one mistake and you get busted by some elk you have just educated them. It can happen fairly easy too because you’re not in the hunting mode and you’re not paying as close of attention as if you were actually hunting. Leave your calls at home and just listen to the elk and learn.

So during midday I will drive around looking at other areas that I picked out on my maps. What I’m looking for here is where the aspen stands meet the timber, headwater drainages, and bowls. A lot of this you should already have an idea about if you studied your maps beforehand. Most of this can be seen from the road along with the use of your maps. If you are scouting fairly early in the summer you may see elk above timer line lounging around and soaking up some rays.

Now, that evening, I will go to the same place as I was that morning and watch to see if any elk come out in the same area. If they do I mark my map the same way I did that morning. Don’t forget time of day, make sure you document that any time you see elk. Elk are creatures of habit and if not disturbed they will stay in the same areas as long as their food and water source remains.

I will continue doing this in different areas until my scouting trip is over. If there’s more than just me, and some of my friends I hunt with are there too, then all the better. We will get better coverage of the area.

Now, here’s the fun part for me. When I get home I will take all my maps and notes and try to figure out a pattern from the elk I seen and then form a strategy for my opening morning hunt.

My next post we will finish up Preparing for Your Elk Hunt with Practicing, Staying Organized, and Check Off Sheets.

Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight




Scrappy Panfish / Lake Havasu Giants

I love to catch big bluegills. Pound for pound they are one of the scrappiest fighting fish there is and we all know as kids growing up they were always willing to accept any bait and presentation we presented to them without any hesitation, This is still true today. I love to take kids out for their first time fishing down to the local ponds and wet a line and catch plenty of willing bluegills.

I now have a whole different outlook on those scrappy little fish. I was headed to the TBF Southwest Divisional tournament with my great friend and travel partner Bryan Leck at Lake Havasu in Arizona. Like all tournaments we were anxious and anticipating what the bass would be doing when we got there and we had high hopes on finding a pattern that would last the entire length of the tournament after all we had four days of practice to figure them out.

What we found in practice I wanted to share with all of you. Yes we happened to pattern the bass that would help us out in the tournament but the giant bluegills and red ear sunfish we found in practice are a memories I will have for a lifetime. We were working a main lake point with some crank baits and what seemed like a decent fish for Bryan ended up being the biggest red ear sunfish I have ever seen a 14''' giant. Looking at a sunfish you could lip like a bass in real life changes your perspective at least it did mine. Wow a giant. That's all I could think about. We laughed about it all day.

I couldn't get that giant red ear sunfish out of my head and come to find out the new world record red ear sunfish was caught there this spring a whopping 5 plus pounds on a Texas rigged rubber worm. I saw the replica in the local tackle shop and it it was unbelievable and absolutely a giant. I had to catch one of those red ears for myself.

I had heard that some of the guys were seeing some big red ears on spawning beds in the very back of the coves and even though we were establishing a pattern on main lake for bass I took the boat as far back in the coves as I could to get a look for myself. Yes there they were red ears spawning all over the place. But there weren't those giants I had pictured. don't get me wrong there were several that would be pushing a pound or better and would be a great catch in anyone's book. I needed to find the giants.

Bryan was definitely being a great friend knowing I was wasting time looking for sunfish when we should have been looking for bass after all we were there for a bass tournament. I am the type of guy who just loves to catch anything. It definitely helped when the stripers started schooling on the third morning and Bryan didn't have a choice but to throw at them for the hour I spent chasing them. I live for those opportunities.

As my luck would have it I never did find a giant red ear sunfish but while working down a bank I thought I had hooked a decent bass and when it came up all I could think was please don't get off. I had hooked the biggest bluegill I have ever seen and I had to take a picture of it. A giant bluegill on a crank bait. This lake is awesome. On the last day of official practice I was blessed with a picture opportunity of his twin brother that lived way up the river in a back slough.bluegill

I normally try to do my blogs on whats happening now in Colorado but when you see the size of the red ear sunfish and bluegills at Lake Havasu AZ.  You might want to take a vacation where the giants live. If you love to fish for them as much as I do this will be a special trip that will have you hooked. Your kids will love you even more. I could only imagine how awesome a worm under a bobber would have been.

                                                                  Best of Luck, Sam Heckman / Pro StaffBryan's Red Ear Sunfishsize verificationgiant bluegill




Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 1

Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 1

Preparing for my next year’s hunt starts the last couple days of the hunt that I am currently on at the time. This may sound funny or weird to a lot of people but depending on how that hunt went depends on whether or not I go back to the same place or I start looking for another. This gives me a whole year to prepare for next season. If it was a draw unit and the hunt was good I will know how many years I may have to wait to hunt it again or try drawing some other unit because this one wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

Type of Weapon

So your first decision you need to make when preparing for your hunt is deciding on what type of weapon you’re going to use. The reason for this is it will dictate when and where you are going to pre-scout and hunt. For example, if you were to choose Colorado’s fourth rifle season, the odds of hunting up high (10,000 Ft.) would be slim because of snow.  Colorado’s fourth rifle season is towards the beginning of November and the odds of having snow is very possible and a lot of snow is quite possible. Depending on how much snow there is will also dictate when the elk start migrating down or not. During the migration the cows and calf’s start first then the younger bulls with the big mature boys pretty much last unless it’s a big storm then the big boys may come down sooner. If you were to choose to hunt archery then the chances of a storm that big is fairly slim and you would pretty much be able to hunt anywhere. In all the years that I have bow hunted I have never had a big storm like that hit. I’ve been rained on, hailed on, about blown over by the wind and snowed on, but never a massive snow storm that dumped 2 to 3 feet over night.

Deciding Where to Hunt

Now you need to decide where you want to hunt and/or if you want to hire an outfitter.  Hiring an outfitter takes about 90 percent of the work away from you, and then the other 10 percent is showing up and hunting. Also knowing where you want to hunt will depend on if you have to draw for the license or if it’s just an over the counter tag. If you decide on a (DIY) do it your self-hunt, selecting an area to hunt (if you don’t already have one) will take a lot of time and a whole lot of researching especially if you are looking for nothing but a trophy bull. A trophy bull, what exactly is, “a trophy bull”? Most people if asked “what is a trophy bull” would say, one that is around 300 plus. For me, it’s any bull that is legal. If I was strictly meat hunting, it would be any legal elk except for a calf, I will go home empty handed if that was my only choice, but that’s just me, let them grow. So depending on if you want a trophy bull or anything legal, either one will dictate where you’re going to hunt, and how much time it will take researching. Another very important equation is altitude sickness. Even though I live in Colorado it still takes me a couple days to get acclimated to the altitude. I got a minor case of altitude sickness a few years ago and I never want that to happen again, I lost a day and a half of hunting. So when you are planning your hunt be prepared for the altitude difference, start drinking a lot of water a couple weeks before you arrive at camp and keep drinking a lot of water throughout your whole hunt. When I got sick mostly what I drank was ice tea, thinking it’s made with water right, WRONG, it’s a diuretic and that’s how it happened to me. I love ice tea but since that day I have never drank it up hunting again. A severe case of altitude sickness can kill you. So drink a lot of water and take it easy the first few days and you should do just fine.

Where Will You Stay

Deciding on where to stay or camp hinges on what season and where you’re going to hunt. A lot of people stay in tents and that’s great but if you think you’re going to go to Wal-Mart and buy a tent and then use it fourth rifle season in Colorado, you got another thing coming. If I’m staying in a tent, and I have for many years, it’s going to be an outfitter tent with a wood burning stove on a late season hunt, I don’t like freezing when I’m sleeping. I do have an outfitter tent that’s 12x 18 foot with 4 foot side walls and I love it. In thirty-four years of hunting elk I have stayed in cabins, tents, fifth wheel trailers, pull behind trailers, and motor homes. Depending on where I hunted really dictated what I stayed in. If you’re packing in on horses or on your back you’ll be staying in a tent. For me in all honesty it doesn’t matter what I stay in as long as I’m comfortable. If I don’t have a comfortable organized camp my hunt becomes unorganized and not as enjoyable in my opinion. So whatever you choose remember comfortable.


After you have chosen where you’re going to hunt you’ll need to get maps of the area. You’re going to need topographical maps, forest service maps, and aerial maps if possible. Topographical maps are going to show you how the land is laid out along with elevations. It’s a good idea if you can find a class that teaches map reading because if you don’t know how to read a topographical map and match it up to a compass and/or GPS you stand a greater chance of getting lost. Reading a topographical map will help you in finding areas that elk like.  For example, elk love to use saddles on ridge lines to get from one side to the other; if you can find these on a topographical map you will have a starting point, plus a possible ambush area as they go from point A to point B. Elk are lazy and they are going to take the easiest route possible just like us, but spook them and it doesn’t matter how steep that mountain is they will go straight up it like nothing.

Forest service maps are a necessity in my opinion. These maps have a lot of information and will show interstate highways, county roads, dirt roads, and forest service roads. They will also show four wheel drive roads, closed logging roads, walking trails, and closed roads. Most importantly they will show boundaries from National Forests to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and the BIGGEST of them all, PRIVATE LAND BOUNDRIES. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know what is private and what is not. If you’re lucky and have permission to hunt private land then it is still your responsibility to know where the private land boundaries are. Get the land owner to mark on your map where their land is so there’s no question. If you can get one of those private land permission cards and have the owner sign it or at least something in writing so if you were stopped you can prove you have permission to be there all the better. In Colorado if you are caught trespassing you could have everything confiscated including your vehicle and a very hefty fine.

Good aerial maps are worth every penny you spend. If you take a topographical map, match it up to your aerial map, you will know exactly what’s over the next ridge or how deep that canyon really is. You can also down load Google Earth for free which is a very good one to look at on your computer when you are at home looking the area over, but the problem is you can’t print the free version, you have to pay for a yearly subscription to print anything. Virtual Earth is another one you can down load and use your computer for free.  There is topographic software you can purchase and down load yourself to your computer which than you can print and take it with you. I used DeLorme topographic software and when I chose a spot I would print it and then laminate it so it was waterproof and tear proof and kept it in my hunting pack all the time. That software at the time was around hundred dollars but for the amount of copies I did back then it paid for its self. Now I use Map Data which has maps specifically for elk and turkey hunting. They show summer and winter areas along with migration routes, densities, and a whole lot of other great information. I can personalize my maps to any area I want within any unit I want in Colorado. Map Data will pay for itself ten times over with just the information it has let alone being able to print your own personalized maps. Go and you will see just how much information you can get from their maps.

Next month I will cover pre-scouting in Part 2 of Preparing for Your Elk Hunt.


Hunt Hard and Shoot Straight

Mark Campagnola




Colorado High School Fishing

Colorado offers many fishing opportunities and in the past few years I have had the pleasure to be a part of an amazing opportunity for our High School youth. Four years ago I received a call from a good friend Mark Gintert of the TBF. A bass fishing organization. He asked if I could set up a High School state championship for Colorado and I had three short weeks to make it happen. High School fishing I thought how awesome is that. It turns out that the SAF Student Angler Federation is the largest growing sport in many high schools around the country just like baseball and football an actual high school sport.

High school youth who have completed the eighth grade and have not graduated by the time of the regional tournament are eligible to find a partner in high school and a coach/boater to team up and compete in high school bass fishing tournaments and possibly end up winning $10,000 in scholarships if they make it to the Nationals and win it.

It starts by having a sponsor teacher who would step up and sign up their school as a high school team. From there it would take six high school kids to get the club started. They would have meetings and possibly have a few fishing tournaments to focus on competitive bass fishing. They would partner up and fish as a team in qualifying tournaments all the way to the National event. If this sounds like something you would like to have in your high school please go to and get it started.2nd Place

There were nineteen High School teams from throughout the state that competed in this years state championship at Lake Pueblo in Pueblo Colorado. Kids from Windsor. Salida, Ellicott, Montrose and High Schools along the front range made the trip with their coaches/boaters to compete and test their skills on the water and see what High School would be crowned the Colorado state champions.

The weather was perfect after a week of freezing temperatures and rain and snow they were all ready to get out and do some fishing and the anticipation at the pre meeting with the talk of the bass cooperating  would cause a restless night for most thinking about what strategy they would put together and if their patterns would hold up.

At the weigh in all but four teams caught a legal bass "fifteen inches in Colorado" and everyone reported that they caught lots of bass and had a great time. As the teams weighed in the crowd gathered and waited for the results to see who this years Colorado state champions were going to be.

Rounding out the top three. In third place was the team of Morgan Fitzgerald and Forrest Beckman. Salida High School Spartans. They caught their bass throwing BPS Sticko's in the tires in both the North and South shore marinas weighing in two spotted bass and one largemouth bass for a total weight of 6.7#.

The second place team was Dexter Flick and Calvin Corey. Olathe High School Pirates. They caught their bass throwing tube jigs along the bluff walls and main lake points weighing in four smallmouth bass for a total weight of 7# even.

3rd PlacePlacing first was the team of Josh Cundiff and Bradley Czosnyka. Mesa Ridge High School Grizzlies. They found their bass on beds in the very back of the North coves and threw BPS Sticko's to get them to bite. They weighed in the only five bass limit of the tournament weighing 8.9#. to win the title of SAF / Colorado High School State Champions.

From here Josh and Bradley will be making a trip to Clear Lake California to compete in the SAF / High School Regional tournament against other High School State Champions from the Western States. From there the winners of the Western division will earn a trip to the National tournament and compete against the Divisional champions. The winners of the National tournament will receive $10,000 in scholarships. Best of luck guys make Colorado proud.

High School fishing is just the beginning. There is also College fishing with teams From CSU in Ft. Collins and UCCS in Colorado Springs. The great sport of bass fishing is growing bigger every day and it starts with you. Take a kid fishing and make a positive impact in their lives. To see it come this far in just a few years is awesome. Get involved and make a difference. You will be as blessed as I have been.

                                                                 Best of Luck,

                                                                                         Sam Heckman / Pro Staff



Calling all Coyotes


Calling all Coyotes


   When we hunt and call any predator (coyote, bear, mountain lion, etc.) we are playing on three different animal instincts. First is food, we’ll use some type of animal in distress call. Second is sexual, we’ll use different coyote vocalizations during their mating season. Third is territorial, these vocalizations are a lot like the calls we use during the mating season but are more aggressive and challenging. Basically we are invading their territory and antagonizing a fight.


    Coyote vocalizations are really just yelps, barks, whines, and howls with different emotions within their tone. There are other sounds coyotes make but these four sounds are what we mainly use. For example, if you do a long howl, you’re basically doing an invitation howl or hey everyone I’m over here. If you do the same howl only with a lower tone and anger you’re clamming your territory and letting all other coyotes know this. Now, if you do the same howl but cut it off real short and throw a couple barks before or after, it has now become a challenge howl. Learning these sounds is the easy part; it’s the when and what sound to make that’s the difficult part. Part of the learning process is being in the field as much as you can and listening to the real thing and then deciphering what their saying or doing. Another way is getting a DVD or CD and listening to them and then imitate what you’re hearing.



​To do these different sounds there are three different types of calls you can use. One is the mouth diaphragm which is the most difficult to learn but has the least amount of movement. When I use a mouth diaphragm I use two different ones from Hunter’s Specialties, Wayne Carlton’s Premium Flex 2.5 Elk Diaphragm and the Premium Flex Triple Elk Diaphragm 2.5 Elk Diaphragm and the Premium Flex Triple Elk Diaphragm. With either of these diaphragms I can make all four of those sounds, plus if I get into a barking challenge (which I have) I can mimic that coyote’s bark for bark or howl for howl. Coyotes are like elk, they don’t like to be mimicked and the more you do it the madder they get.


    Another type of diaphragm call is the Johnny Stewart Mac Daddy Howler with the Megaphone. Anyone can learn all the vocalizations fairly quick with it because it is so very user friendly and sounds great. The best part about the Mac Daddy Howler for me is I can take the mouth piece out and use just the megaphone with my mouth diaphragm to get a loader volume when needed; it acts like an elk bugle tube.





   Second is a hand held internal or external reed call. This type of call has been around for a long time and is probably the call most predator hunters started with when they first started calling. The internal reed is probably the easiest to use because you just blow air through it. The way it works is the air you blow goes through the barrel and the reed inside vibrates making the sound. The harder you blow the loader it is and by varying the amount of air you blow is what makes the call sound realistic. The same applies for an external reed type call but is a little more difficult in which you use your teeth or lips to put pressure on the reed while blowing to make it work. The more pressure you apply the higher the tone, less pressure the lower the tone.


  The third call is by far the easiest but the most expensive and that is electronic digital calls. There are really only two types of electronic digital calls manufactured today, remote and non-remote. A non-remote has a wire attached to the speaker and it is plugged into the hand held pad. This limits how far you can place the speaker away from you; average length is about 50-60 feet. Then when you’re done you have to roll up all that wire and when it’s cold the wire is stiff so it’s not a fun task doing it over and over. With a remote caller you are wireless and you have the freedom to place the speaker up to 300 yards away in any direction depending on the terrain and what type of digital call you have. You can put the speaker on the ground in a bush or in a tree. When you’re done just grab the speaker and off you go, no tangled wires in any brush and no rolling up 50 feet of frozen wire. The drawback like I said is the cost.Wireless calls can range from $50.00 dollars up to $600.00. The wireless digital call I use is the Jury from Johnny Stewart which has 25 preloaded sounds right at my fingertips, plus I can download more sounds at  All the sounds are authentic and are not computer or man-made; they are, the real sounds of real animals.



It is very important that you read the hunting rules and regulations for the state you may be hunting in on the use of electronic callers. Some states like Colorado, electronic callers are illegal to use on bear or mountain lion, but coyotes, fox, and bobcats it’s legal. In Colorado the only calls you can use to call bear or mountain lions in are hand held calls.


Mark Campagnola


Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight


Colorado Walleye Fever

The Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classic ended today. I had the opportunity to meet a ton of great people and was blessed to give a few seminars at both the Denver and Colorado Springs stores. For those of you who braved the weather the first couple weekends I would like to give you a thumbs up and just say "Thank You" for visiting us at both locations.

One of my seminars was titled Jerk Baits "the night bite". I have given this in the past and it is a type of fishing that I lose sleep over and over again and again. With the full moon rising up from the East I thought I need to be out tonight. I was out last night with a few friends and after a long weekend at the Bass Pro Shops my body was telling me to take a break.

I did however manage to get out more than a few time as the Spring classic was going on. I tell folks that if you have never been out during the full moon phases starting in February thru December you could be missing out on a photo fish of a lifetime here in Colorado. I get out as much as I can this time of year and yes, I throw Jerk baits. Bass Pro XPS Nitro Minnows, Smithwick rattlin' rogues both in suspending versions are my lures of choice. I like a clown color and a black gold orange belly color. Firetiger and chartreuse are good to have in your arsenal also.

The key to fishing at night and being successful is to do your homework before the sun goes down and find a rocky point  that will allow you to cast parallel to the shore. The walleye like rocks to spawn on and are very active when the sun goes down. The full moon triggers them to move up. I like to make a long cast and try a slow retrieve mix in a few small twitches or a jerk - jerk pause and just let the bait sit there up to thirty seconds and jerk it down again keeping the same cadence all the way back to shore. When the fish hit it on the pause you feel a tick in the reel when they hit the slow steady retrieve they crush it. Set the hook.

Any body of water that has walleyes and saugeyes in it will produce if you put your time in. The smaller bodies of water heat up earlier and produce first then the bigger deeper reservoirs follow. You can always catch walleyes at night but early spring and late fall can produce giants.

Last week when I was giving my seminar on the night bite I told the folks I had been out catching walleyes already but I haven't landed anything worth a" CPR" Catch, Photo and Release picture yet and I hoped it would happen during the full moon phase. I went out a few days ago dressed for the wind and cold temps. I had to remember to put new batteries in my headlamp and after many No's from some of my diehard night fishing buddies I had a taker and we headed out to the reservoir at 1 am.

I worked the rocks pretty good and I finally hooked a nice one only to lose her in a bush close to shore. It didn't break my spirits but I wanted to land her since she felt heavy. I always wonder how they can manage to pull free from three treble hooks in a jerk bait but they do. It was a good hour later when I felt the tick and set the hook on the32' walleye big walleyereviving walleyereleasing walleye biggest walleye I have caught to date so far. This fish fought good and I knew she was a giant when she came to the surface. I had truly been blessed with this fish a 32'' fatty.

I always dream of a fish like this one and finally it was on the end of my line. I practice what I preach and after a few photos I gave her a kiss and let her go so someone else can have the same opportunity I just had. I wanted to share some photos with all of you and to let you know that there are giant walleyes in Colorado. 

Give it a try. that feelings and thoughts you have after you catch a few isn't a's just Colorado walleye fever.

                                                                                     Best of Luck,

                                                                                                            Sam Heckman / Pro Staff






Colorado Hardwater Panfish

Living in Colorado we don't have a lot of opportunity to chase panfish through the ice as most folks in the eastern states have and while I love to catch trout and most other species through the ice there's something to be said about having a huge crappie or a giant bluegill on the end of of an ultra lite ice rod and fighting it all the way up to the hole.

There are a lot of places to catch crappie and bluegill in Colorado and there are several ponds loaded with them that some have an opportunity to fish but for the most part it is tough to find a good spot where the ice is safe enough to provide some good action through the ice. I would say we have a very short window around the metro area for chasing slabs through the ice. One month the ice is good and a few days of warm weather and it all goes back to mush and becomes very bad in a hurry.

I will never say there is safe ice here in Colorado and I always carry a throw cushion with a fifty foot rope attached to it just in case. I have had some close calls in the past and this year I have heard about way too many anglers going through due to poor conditions. Always go with a few friends and use caution when venturing out on metro lakes. Don't risk it if you are unsure. If others are out on the ice there's a good chance it will hold you too. Wear your ice cleats. One bad slip and your day could be ruined this is from experience.

When you have the opportunity to get out and chase panfish through the ice you can do it very easily. A hand auger, A few ultra light rods with a spring bobber with two to four pound fluorocarbon spooled up on an ultra lite spinning reel. Pick up a few tungsten tear drop jigs in various colors and a few wax worms and your set. A Vexilar is nice to have but not necessary.

Look for structure like rock piles off points that have a deep channel close to a flat and cover like trees and weeds and you will be well on your way to finding the crappies and bluegills that live in the area. The best way to know where all this is at is to find it in the summer and mark it on a map or GPS and come back to it during the winter.

I like to drop my jig down to the bottom and work my way up from there if I hit weeds I keep it just above them. I like to use a very short jigging action and never move my bait too fast. The spring bobber is a must when the bite is light which is most of the time with panfish. Tip the jig with a wax worm and pinch off the head to allow the juices to flow into the water for more attractant. There will be pressure on the spring bobber when one sucks it in. Set the hook lightly because they have very soft mouths. Usually when you find one there are more with him. If the bite slows down move to similar spots and look for the school. They move around a lot so you need to be mobile.

Take advantage of this recent cold weather snap and chase some panfish around if you know a spot where they are try catching them thru the ice it is a lot of fun and the action can be constant. Be safe and I will see you on the ice.

                                                                                                                                   Best of Luck,

                                                                                                                                                         Sam Heckman / Pro StaffForrest with BluegillsChris and Sam with CrappiesSam and Bubba dogBubba dog



Twenty-First Century Coyotes

Hunter's Specialties Johnny Stewart's  Jury

Coyote hunting has really become a very scientific sport in the past few years. Not only has our electronic calling abilities gone from heavy batteries with cassette tapes and 50 feet or more of tangled speaker wires, to, light weight wireless digital calls with built in speakers. Our choice of hand held and electronic predator calls as a whole has over quadrupled in the market place in just the last five years.

The late great Johnny Stewart was the pioneer of electronic predator calls over forty years ago. When you put in a Johnny Stewart cassette tape, the sounds that you heard were the actual animal that was recorded and not someone making the distress call and recording it, they were real.

Now fast forward to the digital age of today. Johnny Stewart’s digital call the Jury is tops in its class packing many features other calls in its price range do not. Powered by 8 AA or 8 C batteries gives you 6 – 8 hours of run time. The Jury has 128MB of storage with 25 preloaded sounds and your choice to customize your calling by down loading over 25 different sounds from Hunter’s Specialties web site With a compact 12 key wireless remote with a range of 75 yards, plus the option of playing 2 sounds at the same time from its 9 watt Omni –directional speaker that doesn’t sound like a tin can?

So if you’re looking to buy a wireless digital call, take a look at the line up from Johnny Stewart starting with the Jury and then up to the Bloodhound, then the Gallows, and the top of the line, the Executioner. I know you won’t be disappointed with the user friendliness and the authentic sounds, plus all that you get for the price.  

Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight

Mark Campagnola


Colorado's Tiger Trout

Happy New year, I hope everyone caught lots of fish last year and plan on catching many more in 2014.

As a youth club director I have had the opportunity to chase many different species of fish mainly because many of my kids have not caught a certain species of fish and I try to help them catch a new species as much as I can.

I have witnessed many first species for several of my kids in the club this last year. Kokanee salmon, walleye, crappie, bass, pike, bluegill and tiger trout. Yes, tiger trout. Colorado has tiger trout in selected lakes. They are a hybrid cross between a brook trout and a German brown trout.Tiger trout in ice holeForrest with tiger trouttiger trout in full color

We made a trip up to a lake that has been known to hold a good population of brook trout and tiger trout. I wont give the exact name of the lake but I will say that it is five or so miles from the new Bass Pro Shops that just opened up in Colorado Springs.

The lake is a mile and a half up hill from the parking lot so we had to pack lightly and carry up the hand auger. I thought I was in decent shape but my calves were burning and I felt it when I made it to the top.

We discussed setting up in the inlet area where there was some current but a group was already there and we had to move into a cove that looked like it had a very small stream coming into it and that turned out to be a great choice.

We drilled some holes and spread out across the cove. The super ultra light ice rods were spooled with 4# fluorocarbon line and we used tungsten teardrop jigs tipped with a wax worm. The fish were just above the bottom and were biting very light. A spring indicator will help you detect the lightest of bites.

The brook trout were willing and they were providing most of the action for the morning. The colors of a full spawning brook trout are hard to beat and make a nice photo.

As luck would have it the first tiger trout was on. The fight was a good one and the rod was bending and it was pulling drag - what a fighter! It was awesome to see a first tiger trout on the ice. After a few photos back she went. Now if I could only catch one myself.

The brook trout were hitting really light so when my jig got hit hard and the rod started to bend I was hoping a tiger trout was on the other end. The fish was strong, pulling line and staying deep. When I saw it under my hole it was the most beautiful site. My first tiger trout at age 46.

I was blessed with a few more tiger trout as the day went on and finally another first for a buddy of mine was on the ice and he was all smiles. More photos and back she went. Awesome, the first tiger trout for three of us on o trip. It was amazing.

The colors of the tiger trout are spectacular especially the males in full colors, The markings are so unique for a trout and it is definitely a trout you would want to take a photo with.

Make it a point to take a kid out fishing for a new species this year. You will enjoy it as much as they do. I promise. See you on the water.

                                      Best of luck,

                                                          Sam Heckman / Pro Staff


Tiger Trout


Crankbait wind blown banks

November brings lots of changes and many of opportunities for the anglers and hunters in Colorado. You can go out and hunt some critters or head out to the reservoirs and chase some bass and walleyes. I am not ready to trade in my fishing rod for my shotgun and park my boat just yet.

The water in Pueblo Reservoir is the lowest I have seen it in years. I am praying for a good amount of snow in the high country this winter to help out with the water level come spring. There are points and islands I have never seen exposed and I know now why they hold fish when the water is up.

I took an afternoon with a few friends to head down and chase some walleyes during the day. The water is unusually stained for this time of year and the night bite has been slow. There was a strong wind blowing out of the west and I knew just where I wanted to look for feeding fish.

At Pueblo Reservoir I tell everyone the wind is my friend. I fish the wind blown banks and points as much as I can. The shad are usually stacked in those areas and the walleyes and bass take advantage of the mud line to ambush their prey.

I like to cast parallel to the bank and keep my Bomber crank bait in the strike zone as much as possible. You need to cover as much water as possible and when you find a stretch of bank that is holding a lot of fish, you beat it up and make pass after pass. When the bite slows down continue to look for the active feeding fish. Find the shad and you will find the fish. A good indicator to look for arekids craknin the bank22'' walleyekeeper walleye2 keepersgood day on Pueblo the feeding birds, they know where the shad are schooled up.

Shad imitation crank baits are what to throw this time of year. Chunk and wind is the name of the game. Have your buddies throw a different color phase or a shallower or deeper diver to see which one the fish like better and then change up to what is working best.

Take a trip down to Pueblo with some buddies for a great crank bait bite right now. Run the wind blown banks and keep it in the strike zone. The shad are schooled up and still shallow. It wont be long before they will be starting to move deeper as the weather gets colder. See you on the water.

                               Best of Luck,

                                                    Sam Heckman / Pro Staff







High School / College Road Trip

state championsAfter a long season waiting for the Western regional championships at Clear Lake California the road trip finally begins. I have had the great pleasure to mentor this years TBF Colorado state champions from Ellicott High School and watch former Fountain valley junior bass club members start a College fishing team at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and qualify for the Western regionals. 

high school weigh in

The High school and College fishing teams are part of the FLW/TBF circuit. They compete in tournament bass fishing just like any other sport in high school and college. New to Colorado the high school and college fishing is growing statewide. Clubs are beginning to form in schools across the state. To look into starting your schools own club go to or FLWOUTDOORS.COM .Get in the game and make the love of bass fishing happen in your school.

Leaving Colorado hours later than planned we were finally on the road heading to Clear Lake California. No one has fished Clear Lake before and it has been years since I have been there so the boys had to do their research on line. They were excited to say the least and so was I. These kids are the future of the great sport of bass fishing and are part of the Fountain valley junior bass club and two now compete in the adult Fountain valley bass club here in Colorado springs. I have been the youth director for the local club and for the state for several years now and have seen these kids learn a lot in just a few years. Now I realize that all the time and dedication I put into it is worth it. It's about them. college weigh in

After twenty-one hours on the road we arrived at Clear lake just in time to watch the FLW circuit launch for their final western tournament. Meeting Ish Monroe in person was amazing for the kids they were in heaven. What a great guy to take time out before launching to chat with the kids...funny guy too. He couldn't believe we were in shorts and let us know it.

The rest of the day was preparing for the College tournament. They needed to make the top ten to qualify for the National championship in South Carolina next spring out of forty five college teams. They were as ready as they were going to get. Five AM came early and we headed to the ramp. The High school teams didn't fish till Sunday so we went to a few spots to practice until the noon cutoff. We headed back to watch the weigh in and saw some giants come in on the pro side. It was awesome. Clear lake bass are huge.

College launch

The college teams were starting to weigh in and some impressive weights were coming to the scales. I was rooting for UCCS and CSU to make the top ten. The college weigh in is so cool with all the different school jerseys and the crowd was big. After the dust settled the team from UCCS was sitting in eighth overall and they advanced to the final day along with qualifying for the National championship for 2014. Awesome.

college trophies

The final day for the top ten college teams and the one day shootout for the High school was Sunday. we started the day early and excitement was in the air. The boys launched and all I could do was wish them the best of luck. After a long day the teams started coming in for final weigh in. The boys did well.

high school trophies

I would like to congratulate Justin Solverson and Peter Decker from UCCS in qualifying for the Nationals and Graydon Brewer and Mike Warner from Ellicott High School for placing 3rd overall in the High school western division. They all took home trophies and had caught some of the biggest bass of their lives so far. This was the best road trip ever. I can't wait until next year.

 Take a kid fishing. That how it starts. They are the future of our sport.

                                                 Best of Luck, Sam Heckman / Pro Staff






Wave of the Future for Elk Hunting

 Wave of the Future for Elk Hunting

One lucky spike bull

Trail cameras are one of the best tools to use for finding elk or any other type of game you may hunt 24/7. Trail cams price out from a little under $100.00 to over $500.00 depending on what features you want. If you have three trail cams it’s like having four hunters out in the field with three of them looking all the time night and day. The problem I have is that where I hunt elk is over a three hour drive, or if I was to go out of state to hunt, I can’t afford to be driving there every two or three weeks just to look at some pictures. So what I have figured out for this little dilemma is this.

The areas that I archery hunt I don’t always know very well, so what I do when I get to elk camp is take my trail cam and set it up in an area I know the elk like to hang around. Like this water hole, it’s a long way from any road and at the top of a ridge of heavy timber. On the second day after my morning hunt I’ll go in and check it to see what kind of action I have. In a little over twenty-four hours I would have four areas covered, two morning hunts and one evening hunt, all in different areas with one trail cam taking picture after picture of elk, I hope. After retrieving those images and down loading them on my lap top computer, I can make a good educated game plan on where I would want to concentrate my time hunting. Even if I was hunting out of state on a do it yourself hunt this plan would still work.

These three pictures where from my Moultrie M-880 IR trail cam at elk camp this year. While I was setting it up at this water hole I accidentally reset the date and reversed the AM/PM on the time. I didn’t catch it until I downloaded these pictures plus 42 more on my lap top the next day. This was not a mechanical malfunction, this was operator malfunction. The actual date these pictures were taken was September 7, 2013. What was cool was that morning of the 7th around 6:30am about three quarters of a mile northwest of this water hole, that spike that is standing in the water; I had called in to no more than twenty yards from me. Then about ten hours later he’s getting his picture taken. That day was a great day for information and really made me wish I had the new Moultrie Panoramic 150. This trail camera out does my M-880 IR in all categories and I do not have one single complaint with it either but, the 150 has three motion sensors instead of one, a lens that will rotate with no sound to take pictures or HD video with a 150 degree wide angle view.  Plus, it has a built in 2” viewing screen. No more changing out SD cardsSpike bull elk with cow elk.

Now rifle or muzzle loader hunting it is a little more difficult on public land because of the pressure from all the other hunters.  For rifle and muzzle loader hunters on  public land, get deeper into the woods where other hunters aren’t. Remember, pressured elk are going to go where the hunters are not. This could be walking one or two more ridges farther, or going down lower in elevation because most of the other hunters are up higher, just get away from them. Once you have done this and you have found fresh sign, set your trail cam up and keep hunting if time allows and then come back after about twenty-four hours and see what it has to offer. Now I know what you’re saying, I’m not going to carry my lap top five miles back to those spots just to see some pictures. Well I won’t either, but what I do here is I have an extra SD card for each trail cam and then just swap them out,  then when you get back to camp you can look and see if there was any action in that twenty-four hour period. If you know you are going to be hunting like the suggestion above, I would recommend the trail cams that have a display screen so you can review your pictures right there, or get a trail cam viewer. If you come up with nothing and you’re seeing sign that they are in the area find another spot and try it again, if there’s no fresh sign pack them up and try a different area completely. Trail cams are a little too expensive to lose or have stolen. Wes someone will take them, so when you do set them out make sure they are locked no matter where you set them up at. Then make a way-point on your GPS so you can come right back to them. There are a lot of variations with what you can do with trail cams; it’s just a matter of figuring out what will work for you and your type of hunting.

Cow elk















Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard and Shoot Straight





Summertime Salmon Fishing

Tired of the summer time heat? Maybe it's time to take a road trip over Monarch Pass and head over to Blue Mesa Reservoir and hook up with one of my greatest friends and owner of Sport Fish Colorado, Robby Richardson.

This year the kokanee salmon have started schooling up early and if you have never experienced a thousand plus salmon below the boat all schooled up and whacking a jigging spoon in ninety plus feet of water it is an experience you will never forget and it will constantly be on your mind.

Robby has been a guide on Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison,Colorado for many years and he is the absolute best at finding kokanee salmon schooled up on the fish finder and has the know how on triggering them into striking the lure. You will always know where he is at on the water when he is guiding,"just look for the crowd". I will never forget the first time Robby took my son Saje and I out for a day of salmon fishing. In my mind I thought "wow" everyone loves Robby and he is the nicest guy you will ever meet and he knows just about everyone out on the water today.

Turns out. I was right. Robby is the nicest guy you will ever meet. When Saje stuck the first salmon off a deep ledge I was excited and the school Robby found was huge. Ten feet stacked on the fish finder and all it took was one to strike to get the whole school to start whacking our jigging spoons. Just as quick the boats were all around us and everyone was getting in on the action. Fishing a lot of bass tournaments I found the encroaching crowd a bit disturbing and when we had to pull in our rods because other boats were bumping into Robby's boat I almost lost it.

I looked over at Robby and he had his smile and he was calm as could be. I said,"you look like this happens a lot" he just smiled and said this is salmon fishing here at Blue Mesa when they start schooling up. You just get used to it."No worries", Everyone was out just salmon fishing having a great time. They would ask how deep and someone would shout out the depth, what color was working and make sure you re-bait with white shoe peg corn or they wont hit it. This would go on until the school dispersed and then they would find another boat on a different school and it would become a salmon party again.

This was the craziest thing I have ever experienced on the water. I think about it, smile and laugh. It was a lot of fun.  Everyone got along and caught a bunch of salmon. Not your every day trip by no means but one you will never forget. Time to get out and hit the kokanee salmon at Blue Mesa. Look up my buddy Robby at and have him take you out. You won't be disappointed.

                                                        Best of Luck,

                                                                              Sam Heckman / Pro Staff

crowdfishfinderSaje with salmonlimit of salmon


The Straight Facts

The Straight Facts

Carbon Express Mayhem Hunter

            If you decide to get into archery hunting there is a lot to learn. First is finding a bow that fits, learning the fundamentals of shooting and being proficient with it. Anyone can pull a bow back and shoot, but to be proficient is a whole different story. When picking a bow, go to a pro shop with someone who knows bows and can get you set up with one that fits and feels good in your hand. When you draw a bow back and if the draw length is to short or to long you won’t shoot tight groups, your arrows will be all over the target. When shooting a bow it is very critical to anchor your bow hand in the same spot every time, and shooting one that is ether to short or too long, you will never anchor in the same place. There are so many bows on the market to choose from that you shouldn’t have a problem finding one that is just right. Plus most new bows today have some type of adjustable cam so you’re draw length will be perfect. I shoot G5’s Quest Torrent and it has a rotating module called a Fluid Cam which allows me to adjust it exactly to my draw length without a bow press. Prices for bows generally range from three hundred up to over a thousand dollars for a new top of the line bow. You could buy one on-line or from a friend, but then again if it doesn’t fit, you’re wasting your money. Same goes for the arrows you shoot.

You’re arrows need to be matched up to your draw length and the poundage you’re shooting. You want an arrow to be as straight as possible, ideally +/- .003 or less and weight wise you want +/- 1.0 gpi (grains per inch) or less. If I’m shooting 65 lbs my arrows have to be of a certain spine size and straightness in order for me to shoot consistently tight groups. If you shoot arrows that are too light they are considered under spine and if they are too light you could be slowly damaging your bow over time. Your arrow takes all that energy that’s stored in your bow limbs at full draw, so if that arrow is too light, your whole bow will be absorbing most of that energy and it won’t be long before it fails, plus when you release your arrow your bow will be very noisy. If your arrows are too heavy for the poundage you shoot they are considered over spine and your arrow will have an arc instead of a straight flat line. You may not see a huge difference at 20 and maybe 25 yards, but from 30 yards and out you’ll look like your aiming at the moon. When purchasing arrows for the first time you need to be measured for your draw length, know the poundage you can handle, and then you can decide what type of arrow you’re going to shoot. There are a lot of different types of arrows to choose from, but, before we go any further there’s one very important thing to remember. NEVER EVER shoot any type of wood arrow out of any compound bow. Compounds have so much energy built up in the limbs that if your wooden arrow has even the slightest crack in it; it could splinter upon your release leaving part or parts of it in your forearm and causing a trip to the emergency room.

There are many other arrow options that will be safer and more effective to use with your compound bow. Examples include aluminum, carbon, aluminum wrapped with carbon and on and on and on. Once you decide what poundage you will be shooting and what brand of arrows you’re going to use, you then can match it to an arrow chart from the manufacturer that will tell you the number (spin size) of arrow you should be shooting. Most arrow charts recommend one size of arrow but I have seen arrow charts that will recommend 2 different sizes of arrows. If this happens I recommend shooting the heavier of the two arrows possible in order to have the highest possible kinetic energy hitting with deeper penetration.


Now, taking penetration one step farther is adding more weight to the front of your arrow. This is called Front of Center (FOC). The heaver the front of your arrow is the more penetration you’re going to get. Doing this also allows you to use smaller 2”Blazer vanes for stabilizing your arrow faster than if you had 4 or 5 inch vanes. You will have less cross wind drag with smaller vanes also.

4" Vane & 2" vane


Carbon Express, a leader in the weight forward concept, came out with the Mayhem Hunter a few years ago with unbelievable speed, accuracy and penetration all in one arrow. With its Built-in Weight Forward these arrows have less oscillation with a faster recovery which means better accuracy, especially downrange. The front 2/3 of the arrow has a heavier material called BuffTuff which gives it added strength with deeper penetration. While the back 1/3 of the arrow is lighter and stiffer with the BuffTuff Plus K-360 Weave which aids in quicker recovery of  your arrow after release. 


  I shoot the Mayhem and can vouch for the speed, accuracy, and deeper penetration. I shot the Mayhem against another un-named carbon arrow head to head and I had almost 7 inches of deeper penetration and my groups were tighter. I used a brand new 18x16x11 Red Head Layered Target so that there was no soft spots for the penetration testing portion so everything was equal.The one item that does come standard on the Mayhem is the BullDog Nock Collar. The BullDog Nock Collar attaches on the end of the arrow below the nock and protects the shaft against nock-end impacts that can ruin an arrow in a split second. This is a great idea because when you shoot very tight groups like you will with the Mayhem Hunter, nock-end impacts will happen a lot.

Tight group

Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard and Shoot Straight         








Memories of a Lifetime

Big BassBig Bass 2Big Bass 3When I was a little kid I always wanted to just go fishing. I didn't care what it was I was fishing for as long as I could catch it I was happy. Now that I am much older that feeling is still going strong today. I have fishing on the brain 24-7. I had been taken back by one of my greatest experiences to date and I will share it with you.

I remember the days when my dad would take me out to a pond on Fort Carson I would get up early pack a lunch and grab a few rods and spend the entire day trying to catch fish before my dad would pick me up after he got off work. I spent countless hours trying to figure out each species of fish that were in the lake, where they hung out, how do they react to my baits, how spooky they were, watching them feed on minnows and bugs on the top of the water and all the crazy things they did throughout the day.

I pretty much had the bluegills figured out. A small piece of worm on a #10 eagle claw hook under a small bobber was all it took and after seeing the trout hit a grasshopper I scared off the bush as soon as it hit the water it didn't take me long to whack a bunch of them also every time I went out. It was that bass that would always get to me. The little green fish with the black stripe that continues to drive me crazy today. Not to mention its cousins the spotted and small mouth bass. 

The bass seemed to mezmorize me, They would hit that grasshopper I threw in the water but refused to hit the one on my hook.The trout didn't seem to mind it. I flipped a few rocks and threw crawdads at them and they would eat em up but not on my hook. Every now and then I would get a smaller bass to take a whole night crawler but those big ones crusing would just come up and look and just swim off. Stressful for a little kid.

Through the years I studied about bass. I read every book I could find in the library about them and would read every issue of Bassmaster magazine I could get my hands on. Now we have every resource available just by the touch of a button from the internet or a phone call to a buddy. The kids sure have it easy now it seems like.

I still go back to that lake that has been there for forty plus years. it's just ten minutes from my home in Fountain, Co. so a short after work trip is always good for the mind, body and soul. I have seen pictures of giant bass being caught at that old lake and I have yet to catch a good one for myself. I went out with a few of my youth club kids that have held some 4# plus and one 7# in the years earlier and this was more than enough to peak my intrest. Giant bass close to home is like a dream come true.

This year the weather has put the spawn behind and the bass are just now starting to come up. I was out in my Stealth 2000 duck boat looking for active fish and when I saw them I beached it and tried to sneak up on them from the bank. I told my buddy that I had just seen the biggest bass of my life, he laughed and said, "like the ones in the tank at Bass Pro Shops" exactly I said. I knew that was a giant bass I just needed to figure out how to catch it and take a picture with her.

I mentally marked the spot and snuck up to find her and another smaller male on a bed. I covered myself with dead bulrushes and settled in with my rods. I threw a drop shot rig with a BPS teaser tube and the male whacked it instantly. I set the hook and landed him and quickly put him back in the water and right back to the bed he went.

I worked those fish for over two hours and the male kept pushing that big girl back and holding his ground. He picked up my baits several times and I just let him spit them out. The female kept coming closer and closer and as soon as she looked like she was going to hit my bait the male would chase her off. We played this game over and over. I decided I was going to stick the male again just to shake him up a little more and threw in one of my hand tied football jigs with a Lazer Trokar 3/0 hook and as soon as it hit the bed he came up and sucked it in and I swung and missed. I regrouped and pitched back in and he spun around and then just grabbed the tail of my YUM Money Craw trailer and spit it out. I hopped it back on the bed and the female bolted in from the side and crushed it.

I set the hook and the fight was on. I yelled over at my buddy and he and a few others came running over to check out what all the fuss was about and when I finally lipped her I started to shake. I have caught big bass in my travels and my biggest to date was an 8# 2oz.. I didn't have a scale and there was no way I was going to keep or hurt this majestic fish but I know it was my biggest bass ever. I had a few photos taken and put her back in the water and watched her swim away. I always preach "CPR" catch, photo and release. I hope someday she will be caught again and be much bigger.

I have been truly blessed to have landed such a giant bass so close to home.This is one I will never forget. I am glad I have the opportunity to share it with all of you. I thank my dad for teaching me how to fish and I hope all my youth club kids share their knowledge and teach kids how to fish so they can have their own memories of a lifetime....

                                                                           Best of Luck,

                                                                                                   Sam Heckman / Pro Staff


Fly Fishing Colorado - Fantastic Five Concluded

June 3, 2013

Blaine Haskell/Denver Store                                                                                                              

Last month I introduced the favorite fly survey taken here at the shop for a few months where I asked each participant the question:  “if you could only fly fish for trout with one fly for the next 12 months, what would you use?” I also introduced the KISS method of fly selection where simplicity is the key and that you DO NOT have to carry dozens of patterns. The two concepts melt together quite well and if used properly can keep your fly selecting task to a minimum.   At the same time you will be well equipped to catch trout in the vast majority of conditions you will encounter.

Survey Said #1 Choice for only one fly all year is: #16 Bead Head Flash Back Pheasant Tail. This is also the #1 rated fly in my Fantastic Five that was introduced at the same time.  It is a mayfly nymph of generic proportions, size, and color that is just close enough to active nymphs of mayflies, stoneflies and caddis that you could get away with using it all year round.  A smaller version could be used to simulate a midge larva. 

Survey Said #2 Choice with the second most votes is the #20 Red Midge Emerger.  The Fantastic Five has this as the #2 rated fly also.  This is certainly another good choice since midge flies are present in our rivers 12 months a year. Smaller sizes are recommended for tailwaters.

While the survey produced some interesting additional results I am not proposing that you limit yourselves to just one fly.  What I will propose is that you do not have to have 25-30 different fly patterns in your fly boxes.   In fact all you beginners can limit your fly selection to just a handful, yes just five flies, actually the Fantastic Five.  It is not a coincidence that the survey top spots identified two of those Fantastic Five. These flies work nearly all the time and nearly everywhere.  As mentioned they won’t work in all situations such as for Salmon or Marlin. 

The #3 fly to add to your box is: #16 Royal Wulff. Why? So far all we have in our fly box are nymphs.  All spring, summer, and fall you will be encountering rising fish.  They may be rising to BWO, PMD, Caddis, Yellow Sallies, or Midges.  You will need a good, all around dry fly to attract trout.  You will also need to be able to see your fly on the surface.  The Royal Wulff is all of these.  We don’t actually know why it is so attractive to trout.  Perhaps it is the red belly. Folklore says that it has characteristics of all the flies mentioned.  It just does not closely match any of the species in shape.  What we do know is that it works as well as dynamite.  Wait, I don’t know anything about that.

The #4 fly to add to your box is: #16 Parachute Adams. Why? This dry fly will match the Mayfly BWO hatch, Trico Hatch, and the Baetis hatch throughout the year including winter and can even be used to fool trout when used as a tiny midge imitation. The silhouette of the upright post closely resembles the up right wing of the mayfly and the parachute style hackle helps to float the fly for a near perfect presentation.

The #5 fly to add to your box is: #16 Parachute Light Cahill. Why? The obvious reason is that all mayflies are not grey as matched with the Parachute Adams.  Many are yellow.  Please feel free to use the Light Cahill for this hatch, which will be experienced Mid June through August in Colorado.

Fantastic Five

 (1) #16 Bead Head Flashback Pheasant Tail

(2) #22 Red Crystal Midge Emerger

 (3) #16 Royal Wulff

 (4) #16 Blue Winged Olive

(5) #16 Light Cahill

Fly Fishing is fantastic right now so get out there.  Please visit us here at the shop for advice on places and patterns