MEEKER I Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s long-running efforts to help novice youths experience the joys of hunting in Western Colorado continued successfully this year. That’s because CPW District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin of Meeker, along with his fellow officers and several volunteers, once again took time from busy schedules to give six lucky young hunters memories they will not soon forget.
An important part of the CPW’s Hunter Outreach Program, the annual Jon Wangnild Memorial Spring Youth Turkey Hunt took place on April 7-9 on private lands near Meeker.
“The generosity of the local landowners providing the access is the key to the success of this hunt,” said Franklin. “We are very grateful we have solid partners that believe in what we are doing. They are actively involved in helping instill a love of the outdoors and hunting in our future generation, and that benefits everyone.”
The six participants this year include Kloey Weythman, 12, from Palisade, Brendan Clatterbaugh, 12, from Meeker, Chakwah Brink, 12, from Meeker, Maya Nibbe, 16, from Littleton, Cade Blunt, 10, from Meeker and Harley Swann, 14, from Montrose. All bagged their first gobbler during the weekend excursion.
Each young hunter earned the opportunity by writing a short essay detailing why they should be selected for the hunt. Preference went to novice youth who have never hunted and do not come from hunting families.
After a half-day orientation learning about turkey biology, tactics and the safe use of firearms, the six youngsters and their guardians or parents shadowed CPW officers and volunteers as they headed out for an exceptional turkey hunting lesson on pristine private land. Under expert guidance, each novice hunter experienced the thrill of bagging their first turkey, despite less than ideal weather.
“We had wind and rain the weekend of the hunt, but that is part of the outdoor experience,” said Franklin. “Everyone hung in there and thanks to the expertise of the mentors, each kid went home with a turkey and great memories.”
Franklin adds that with the knowledge everyone gained over that weekend, most now have the ability to hunt on their own.
“Good mentoring is critical for kids that want to hunt but do not have someone at home that can teach them,” he said. “Kids like these will help us protect our natural resources in the future, but unless someone shows them how to safely and ethically hunt, they probably would have never tried it on their own.”
CPW officials say hunting is one of Colorado’s most treasured traditions and is very important for the successful management of the state’s wildlife. In addition, it encourages youth to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“Too many kids spend a lot of time indoors, usually with electronics,” said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro, one of several CPW officers providing mentorship. “But once any kid experiences something like this, it will change their lives. They may even become lifelong hunters and passionate stewards of our wildlife resource.”
For allowing access to their private lands, Officer Franklin thanked the Jensen Family Ranch, Rocky and Sparky Pappas, Clark White River Ranch, Seven Lakes Lodge, M/R – K/K Ranch, Mike Fritzler, Pete Swenson, Slash EV Ranch, Scott Casto, Jim Goff, LK Ranch, Doug and Debra Overton, James Ritchie and Chad and Eleanor Carter.
In addition, Franklin credited three private citizens, Travis Flaherty, Tom Hazelton and Dusty Allen for volunteering their time and equipment, guiding three of the young hunters and supporting CPW’s Youth Hunter Outreach program.
“Getting involved, either by providing mentorship to a novice or allowing access to private lands for guided hunts can go a long way to keep the traditions of hunting alive in the next generation,” he said. “And that is very important for the future of Colorado, and our wildlife.”
Landowners or volunteers interested in supporting CPW’s youth hunting programs in Northwest Colorado are encouraged to call Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Meeker office at 970-878-6090. Anyone interested in learning more about youth hunting opportunities can also call the same number and request an application for upcoming youth hunts.
For more information about CPW’s Hunter Outreach programs, go to www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/ HunterOutreach.aspx