There’s much more to hunting than just the kill. The release of the arrow or pull of the trigger may be the best part, but that neglects the hard work that got you there. Steamboat Lake Outfitters, established in 1986, works that moment and all those that lead up to it.
Owners Russ Lambert, Jamie Cesana, and Mike Deill began working at the outfitter in 2008 and became owners in April 2013. Cesana started hunting in 1998, a year after she moved to Steamboat. Lambert, 45, who moved here from Maine in 1994, and Deill, 42, who hails from Grand Junction, have been roaming the woods and chasing big game ever since they were kids.
Lambert and lead guide Jimmy Horne know all about the pre-game work. Their base camp just outside of Clark, where clients stay in cabins or wall tents, provides the gateway to horse- and mule-led hunting trips that take hunters deep into Routt National Forest and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area in 12 different GMUs.
With up to 10 experienced guides and the option of either a drop camp or guided hunt, they not only help hunters get a kill, but teach them all aspects of the sport. They know all the signs for the right moment, from weather and time of day to the effect thermals have on wind patterns. This comes into play whether clients are hoisting rifles or bows.
“What sets us apart,” Lambert says, “is our top notch archery program. We’re not here to chase the animals. They’re coming to us, unaware and unafraid.”
Lambert says that his team is respectful of the animals, making sure not to disturb their bedding and other safe places. “We’re careful at managing our areas,” he says. “We always keep the animals under low pressure so they don’t feel the need to go somewhere else.”
Guides also have to keep in mind other hunters when they’re on public land. “We don’t want to over hunt an area,” Lambert says.
Potential clients meet face-to-face with Lambert or Horne at sport shows or fill out a questionnaire online. They quiz and size up the hunters to make sure they’re the right match for their program. “We’re selling hunts, not elk,” Lambert says. “It’s not just about the kill; it’s the whole package. We don’t want to be tracking injured animals.”
The guides also prioritize teaching clients the skills needed to hunt on their own, including understanding the ruggedness of Colorado country. He tells clients to practice and “get woods tough.”
The SLO program requires plenty of hiking and tracking, and while some hunts are easier than others it’s up to Lambert and Horne to decide who can handle which hunts. “Just through a conversation I can tell if a hunter can handle our program,” Lambert says. “We want to find the right people who will appreciate the true experience.” Info: www.steamboatlakeoutfitters.com, (888) 711-5913