Landowners, DOW team up for April youth turkey hunt
MEEKER I A chilly late-April weekend provided an exciting opportunity for three Colorado youngsters when they embarked on a guided private land turkey hunt. The opportunity came about through the coordination of the local DOW and the generosity of Seven Lakes Lodge and Nine Mile Guest Ranch, both near Meeker.
The applicants for the 2010 youth turkey hunt were selected from youth who recently passed local CDOW hunter education classes in Meeker, Craig and Rangely.
The three youth chosen for this year’s spring turkey hunt were Charles Tell Blanke, 11, of Meeker; Daniel Connor, 12, of Rangely; and Isaac Montoya, 11, of Craig.
“We could only accommodate three kids this year, but with the continued success of the program and anticipated interest and support from other private landowners in the Meeker area, we hope to be able to give more youth this opportunity in the future,” said district wildlife manager and youth turkey hunt coordinator, Bailey Franklin.
Nine Mile Guest Ranch owner Rocky Pappas and Seven Lakes Lodge owner Greg Norman were enthusiastic supporters of the program. The Division of Wildlife greatly appreciates the continued support from Pappas and Norman because the youth turkey hunt would simply not be feasible without access to key parcels of private lands in the White River Valley where the relatively small wild turkey population is concentrated in the spring.
As part of the Division of Wildlife youth turkey hunt program, hunt participants were required to go through a half-day orientation prior to the hunt. The kids and their parent or guardian learned that hunting isn’t just about shooting an animal. Presentations by wildlife officers provided information on wild turkey biology and management, hunter safety and ethics, state laws and turkey hunting and calling techniques. After the classroom orientation, the youth hunters were taken to the Meeker Sportsman’s Club range where they received hands-on training in firearms safety, marksmanship, shot placement and live-fire exercises. The Meeker Sportsman’s Club should also be commended for its continued support of the CDOW’s youth hunting programs.
The Division of Wildlife loaned the hunters youth-model 20-gauge shotguns and provided ammunition and other turkey hunting equipment.
After the orientation, each youth hunter was paired with a Division of Wildlife officer and guided on the prime private land parcels. District Wildlife Managers Jon Wangnild, Mike Swaro and Terry Wygant were the primary turkey guides for the youth hunt participants again this year. Youth hunters and their mentors were then taken into the field where they were shown turkey hunting techniques including the use of calls to locate “gobblers” and how to identify turkey sign in the field (tracks, scat, feathers, etc.).
One of the youth hunters, Tell Blanke of Meeker, was fortunate enough to harvest a wild turkey and a second youth had an opportunity at a gobbler during the hunt. After a turkey is harvested in the field, guides demonstrate how to properly field dress and care for a wild turkey.
National studies indicate that hunting participation is on the decline. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of hunters and anglers has declined every year since 1990. Studies show that the decline has a number of contributing factors. People cite a lack of places to hunt and fish, a lack of mentors to teach outdoor skills, increasing entertainment options such as television and video games, and busier lifestyles as reasons for not getting outdoors. Through programs like the youth turkey hunt, the Division of Wildlife’s Youth Hunter Outreach Program has worked closely with sportsmen’s organizations and private landowners to reverse the trend in the state.