Hunting is a lot like many outdoor pursuits in that you can’t control the weather. Hunting guides and outfitters also know that you can’t control the animals, so they control what variables they can: the food and the lodging.
Fred and Michele Eichler operate Fulldraw Outfitters in southern Colorado where they host hunters looking to harvest elk, deer, bear, antelope and turkey in fair-chase pursuit.
Fred, arguably one of the greatest bow hunters alive today, became the first person to harvest all 29 North American big game species with a recurve bow, completing his Super Slam. Michele, who’s also been a bow hunter since childhood, was CEO of Muzzy Products, an archery brand that all bow hunters in the country are familiar with.
The hunting on the properties where the Eichlers outfit is exceptional, and the accommodations have always been very good, but in early 2020 the family made a decision to raise the stakes. They wanted to build a new lodge to host guests, with all the amenities that a professional hunting outfit might need – 11 bedrooms, a walk-in cooler for game, vaulted ceilings for hanging trophies, entertainment space and a giant kitchen complete with two expansive hardwood islands.
Michele designed the lodge with comfort and environmental sustainability in mind. The dream materialized over the course of two years. After ordering the steel frame building, the Eichlers called Steve Fernandez, owner of Twin Peaks Plumbing & Hydronics, in Trinidad, CO. Fernandez is also a very successful big game hunting guide and has known the Eichlers for decades.
“Steve was one of the first people we called,” said Michele. “He quickly suggested using spray foam to insulate the whole building, and to install an in-floor heating system. We hired him for both the plumbing and heating work.”
Twin Peaks, a six-person company, has a fantastic reputation in the Spanish Peaks area of Colorado. Steve’s son, Ty, is the fourth generation plumber in the family.
Simple radiant, outstanding comfort
Trinidad might be close to the New Mexico border, but its elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level means that the region sees serious winter conditions. Temperatures can plunge as low as -20°F.
The 6,000 square foot building – not including the offices, gym and storage space on the second story – is divided into six zones. The entire space is heated from below with half-inch MrPEX oxygen barrier tubing, with the exception of the 225 square foot walk-in cooler. This portion of the slab is isolated from the rest of the polished concrete slab with the same two-inch rigid foam used beneath the pour.
Heat is provided by a propane-fired, 96 percent efficient Aspen condensing boiler, made by U.S. Boiler Company. Fernandez prefers the firetube Aspen over other modulating boilers because it’s easy to program and even easier to service.
“We have 30 or more Aspen boilers in the field, all of them at high altitude,” said Fernandez. “Their design is so intuitive that my apprentices have caught onto them very quickly.”
Most of the 20 loops in the slab enter the main mechanical room, but Twin Peaks placed two, three-quarter-inch remote manifolds at either end of the 100-foot-long long building. Each zone is circulated by a Taco 007e ECM pump. With outdoor reset and a maximum supply temperature set at 130°F, the system provides a 12°F Delta-T.
“Our loops here are all between 280 and 290 feet long, so there was no need to use balancing manifolds,” said Fernandez. “The ports on balancing manifolds severely raise head pressure by constricting flow, especially with a high glycol mixture. We isolate all our loops with ball valves to help purge the system. That said, there are times I feel balancing manifolds are necessary, especially when we didn’t install the tubing and we have no idea what’s under the slab.”
Before firing the system, Fernandez injected the radiant system with Fernox F1 Protector. This helps guard system components against the low pH water and high hardness common to Colorado and other parts of the Southwest. To provide burst protection down to -20°F, Twin peaks used Fernox Alphi-11 antifreeze.
The system, which covers two diamond-plate aluminum walls, also incorporates Taco’s Near Boiler Trim Kit. This includes air separation, an expansion tank, combination backflow preventer and boiler feed valve, and the brass fittings needed to assemble the components.
Conserving water, ensuring supply
Fernandez installed the largest of the wall-hung Aspens available, 270 MBH, mainly to handle the massive DHW load. The Aspen is also available in 320 and 399 MBH floor-mounted light commercial sizes, but with the 75-gallon indirect fired water heater installed at Eichler’s, the extra boiler capacity wasn’t needed.
The home’s domestic hot water load is comprised of five bathrooms, a large laundry, kitchen, commercial pot filler and wash-down hoses in the game processing area.
“The amount of laundry my boys create is unbelievable,” said Michele. “When the lodge is full, hunters all come back at roughly the same time, expecting hot showers, a meal, and likely game to process. I told Steve that I never wanted to run out of hot water.”
The floorplan made the use of a domestic hot water circulation system an easy decision. Twin Peaks installed a three-quarter-inch recirculation line, with a stainless steel Taco 006e3 circulator set on medium, plugged into a SmartPlug instant hot water control. Using a temperature sensor that mounts to the hot water supply pipe, the control monitors water use patterns in the home and runs accordingly; no programming, timers or aquastat required.
The large indirect water heater, set to priority, is maintained at 170°F. Water is then mixed down to 135°F before entering the recirculation loop.
“We had 20 guests here at one point and never ran out of hot water,” said Michele. “Hot water arrives immediately at any tap in the lodge. There’s no fresh water being wasted. It actually took a bit of getting used to, after years of waiting for hot water to arrive at a tap.”
The lodge was occupied in March of 2022 and the Eichlers hosted turkey hunters the next month.
“The heating system has been amazing,” said Michele. “The floors are warm, everything is comfortable, and this building makes a big difference for our guests, Fred, the boys and myself. We have the space to be organized, entertain, and be the best hosts we can.”
From an energy and water conservation perspective, the new lodge demonstrates Fulldraw Outfitters’ environmental responsibility.
“Few non-hunters know it, and anti-hunters won’t admit it, but the vast majority of conservation dollars in the United States are raised by hunters,” said Fernandez. “Whether those funds are used for research to combat wildlife sicknesses like Chronic Wasting Disease, improve and protect wildlife habitat, or re-establish wildlife populations, such as we’re seeing with Bighorn Sheep today, the work is largely funded by, and depends on volunteer manpower of, American sportsmen and sportswomen.”
“As hunters, we’re more invested in the health of wildlife populations and preservation of the places they call home than anyone else,” he added.
By reducing their carbon footprint, selecting high-efficiency products and water-saving technologies, and using as many renewable building materials as was feasible, Fred and Michele Eichler have continued to demonstrate their commitment to conservation.