Fishful-Thinker-2012Being at the top of the food chain comes with some great benefits. One of them is getting to choose what you eat. Some days, veggies sound good. Other days have fish sounding pretty good and still other days have us craving a nice elk loin or possibly some duck. Sure, you could go buy food, but being a well-rounded outdoorsmen sure ups the feeling of accomplishment when putting food on the table; to say self-harvested food is more rewarding to consume would be a major understatement.

We often joke about there being two kinds of outdoors enthusiasts - fishermen that hunt and hunters that fish. While that is not entirely true - there may be a few anglers that don’t hunt and vice versa. It is true that, statistically speaking, many folks will buy both licenses at some point if they buy either one. I hope you are one of them because the rewards are great and tasty.

As we head into fall, preparing for some of my fishing trips involves guns. A little later in the fall, preparing for hunting trips often involves fishing tackle. Yes, I believe the good ol’ “cast-n-blast” outing is a fine way to spend a day afield. Even better, it’s a great way to feed yourself a variety of protein and that speaks volumes to Paleo types like me.

My favorite combo trips occur when the timing is good. That is to say that the “bite” is seasonally hot and coincides with established hunting seasons. For instance, white bass love to plunder schools of shad on the surface in early fall which makes for some really fun fishing and the timing coincides perfectly with dove season. So fish all morning, fillet your white bass mid-day and then shoot doves all afternoon. Yahtzee! At several State Wildlife Areas in my home state of Colorado, this is a very solid option. Another fun cast-n-blast a little later in fall is walleye and teal. The walleyes are on their own fall feed-up, while the teal are flapping their way south.

Perhaps you’re more of an ice fishing guy? No problem, you too have cast-n-blast options. One we did last winter was shooting ducks on the South Platte River while they were flying strong in the morning and then swapping the shotguns out for ice rods to target panfish on neighboring reclaimed gravel quarry ponds in the warm part of the day. Colorado is dotted with gravel quarries along the major drainages and most offer decent fishing, especially on winter’s ice. I’ve known guys that hunt Canada geese on a couple of our frozen reservoirs and then drill and fish. Geez, you could probably do both simultaneously if the action was slow for either.

Another winter option is coyote hunting. While the food value is lost, the sporting and conservation value is not. Mid-winter coyotes are often responsive to calls on ice or around the lake edges and even congregate around some popular ice fishing areas to mooch or otherwise scavenge scraps. This cast-n-blast can occur in many areas and perhaps you can make a coyote skin cap to wear on your next ice outing.

Spring turkey hunting is all the rage these days and the seasons typically occur during prime-time fishing for crappie, walleye, white bass and many other species. I don’t know about you, but calls and camo in the morning and Jon boats and spin poles in the afternoon seems like a good plan. Have I mentioned the food value?

So far, we’ve only talked small game or birds, but sometimes we need to consider bigger chunks of protein, like elk for instance. Everybody loves elk steaks and it just so happens that elk commonly live in prime trout fishing country. How about a pan full of fresh brook trout sizzling over a fire in elk camp? Sounds righteous to me. In my home state of Colorado, non-resident big game tags automatically include a fishing license good during the established dates of the big game season, so you have no excuse for not packing an ultra-light or fly rod for your hunt. If you haven’t seen brook trout in their fall colors, you’ll be amazed and they commonly over-populate, making them a prime food source. By the way, they are easy to catch, too.

Deer and antelope hunters, especially with doe tags which are often much quicker to fill, can do unbelievably well on fall brown trout in lots of areas of the west. Geez, the last time I drove up to Delaney Buttes (a well-known State Wildlife Area in North Park) to fish fall browns, we had to literally dodge doe mule deer and antelope in my Tundra and they were all on public ground during rifle season surrounding the lakes we fished with great success. Along the same lines, much of the land surrounding western rivers is also public and offers the option of great trout fishing and big game hunting in the same day.

Everybody loves choices and that’s true whether we’re talking about the menu or the sporting means of building said menu. Experiencing a successful cast-n-blast day has become one of my favorite ways to be outdoors and I’d bet a seared elk tenderloin it will become yours as well.