RBC I Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s long-running efforts to help youths experience the joys of hunting continued this spring as CPW District Wildlife Managers Mike Swaro of Craig and Bailey Franklin of Meeker, along with fellow officers and volunteers, all took time from busy schedules to give seven lucky young hunters memories they will not soon forget.
As part of the agency’s Hunter Outreach Program, the hunts took place in early May on private land, made possible with access donated by local landowners from Craig and Meeker.
According to the officers, the key to stirring a lifelong passion for hunting is patient guidance from experts. They add that CPW’s guided hunts help build a good foundation for the young novices if they decide to continue hunting in the future.
“Good mentoring is the most important consideration for kids who do not have someone at home who can teach them,” said Franklin. “Hunting is one of Colorado’s most treasured traditions and is very important for the successful management of our wildlife. Kids like this will be the future stewards of our natural resources, but unless someone shows them how to hunt safely and ethically, they probably would have never tried it on their own.”
“Too many kids spend a lot of time indoors, usually with electronics,” added Swaro. “But I’ll bet once any kid experiences something like this, it will change their lives. They may even become lifelong hunters.”
All of the youths selected for the experience earned the opportunity by submitting an essay describing why they should be selected for the hunt. Preference went to youngsters who have never hunted and do not come from hunting families.
During a half-day orientation prior to the hunts, the youths learned about the safe use of firearms and hunting basics, ethics and safety. When they were ready, 10-year-old Judd Harvey of Meeker, 12-year-old Jordan Breck of Grand Junction and 8-year-old Peter McDonald of Fort Collins followed DWM Franklin and other officers from the Meeker area to hunt on private land with access provided by several local landowners.
“High quality hunts like this would not be possible without key partnerships with private landowners and access to their lands,” said Franklin. “Special thanks to the Jensen Family Ranch, Clark White River Ranch, Seven Lakes Lodge, M/R – K/K Ranch, Elk Creek Ranch, Mike Fritzler, Pete Swenson, Scott Casto and Jim Goff. I would also like to thank several property managers, including Travis Flaherty, Brett Harvey, Bill Wheeler, Tom Hazelton and John Etchart for their tremendous efforts to support CPW’s Youth Hunter Outreach program.”
Joining DWM Mike Swaro and fellow officers were 11-year-old Chase Blaisdell of Grand Junction, 11-year-old Shiv Ghosh of Littleton, 11-year-old Sophie Hough of Craig and 10-year-old Nathan Bomgaars of Aurora.
This group of young hunters found adventure on private lands belonging to John Raftopoulos, Jimmy Horton, Dawn Nottingham, and Scott and Debbie Estes, all of whom allowed access for the hunts.
With tough weather conditions, including snow, rain and cold temperatures adding to the experience, each young hunter saw and heard turkey, but only two of the four were successful.
Although young hunter Shiv Ghosh did not harvest a bird on his first hunt, he gained valuable, first-hand experience hunting in tough conditions. In an essay he wrote about his hunt, Ghosh stressed that he learned one of the primary lessons the Hunter Outreach program espouses.
“To me, hunting is more than the harvest; it is experiencing the adventures of being outdoors and creating memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime,” wrote Ghosh. “It left me wanting more.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” said Swaro. “They all understand that this is all about getting outdoors—even when the weather is not the best—learning new skills, experiencing the thrill of the hunt in beautiful scenery and seeing wildlife up close; and I’m pretty sure it won’t be long before Shiv bags his first gobbler on his own.”
Franklin adds that 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.
Landowners 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.