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RBC I Three lucky young hunters from northwest Colorado bagged their first turkeys after being selected to participate in Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 2012 Hunter Outreach Program’s Youth Turkey Hunt. The trio found success after spending some chilly, late April weekends enjoying a private land hunt and learning hunting strategies from their Colorado Parks and Wildlife mentors.
Ten-year-old Henry Musser of Meeker, 13-year-old Antoinette Dorris of Rangely and 10-year-old Tagerty Poole of Rifle were selected from a group of novice youth hunters who had recently completed their hunter education classes.
“To see the smiles on their faces and the fun they were having was fantastic,” said district wildlife manager Bailey Franklin, who coordinates the turkey hunt each year. “It’s truly a highlight of my career as a Colorado game warden.”
The focus of the Hunter Outreach Program is to pair young hunters with experienced veterans to help build knowledge and confidence, which is critical for beginning hunters. District wildlife managers Jon Wangnild, Mike Swaro and Terry Wygant were the primary guides for the youth participants again this year. The skilled wildlife officers taught the youngsters various hunting techniques including the use of calls to locate “gobblers” and how to identify turkey sign in the field.
Hunting access was provided by the Jensen Family Ranch properties, which are leased and managed by Rocky and Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaherty, K/K Ranch owners Bill and Ross Wheeler, Seven Lakes Lodge owner and professional golfer Greg Norman and landowners Lonnie and Todd Shults.
“We had increased interest and support from several landowners from Meeker this year which is very encouraging,” Franklin said. “Without them, these once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunities would not be possible, and we are very grateful.”
In addition to the landowners, ranch employees donated their time to help make the hunts successful. Travis Flaherty of Jensen Family Ranch properties/Nine Mile Guest Ranch scouted and located turkey flocks and served as a guide for Swaro and one of the young hunters. Brett Harvey and Rich Krauss of K/K-Wheeler Ranch, along with Tony Decker and Robert King of Seven Lakes Lodge, also provided valuable assistance.
To ensure that they received the best information and training, the aspiring turkey hunters were required to go through an additional half-day orientation where they learned more about hunter safety and ethics, state laws, wild turkey biology and hunting techniques
They received additional firearm training at the Meeker Sportsman’s Club shooting range, where they honed their shotgun shooting skills. The time and facilities were donated by the club, a long-time supporter of the hunter outreach programs.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife loaned the young hunters youth model shotguns and turkey hunting equipment to participants that did not already have their own. The kids also received hunting gear, prizes and food for the hunt.
After successfully harvesting their mature gobblers, the youngsters learned how to properly field dress and care for their birds.
Although turkey hunting has seen a rapid growth in popularity across the country, the overall number of hunters and anglers nationwide has declined every year since 1990, according to research conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The reasons include a lack of places to hunt and fish busy lifestyles and a lack of mentorship from an older, experienced hunter.
The Hunter Outreach Program provides skills seminars, clinics, mentored hunts and online articles and information as a means to encourage the public to learn and apply their new skills in hunting and angling.
“Our goal is to expose novice hunters of all ages to a quality experience and give them basic skills so they will continue with the sport into the future,” said statewide hunting outreach coordinator Jim Bulger. “Without the help of private landowners and other stakeholders, we’d be unable to provide that experience.”
Landowners who are interested in supporting Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s 2013 youth turkey hunting program or any other youth hunting program in northwestern Colorado are encouraged to call the Meeker office at 970-878-6090.
Youth and parents interested in learning more about youth hunting opportunities can also call the Meeker office and request an application for upcoming youth hunts.
For more information about the Hunter Outreach Program, please visit: http://wildlife.state.co.us/ Hunting/HunterOutreach/Pages/HunterOutreach.aspx