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DINOSAUR I Shawn Bruner’s eyes grew wide with wonder as three bull elk began running across the sagebrush park towards him. As the elk approached, Joe Nicholson of Rangely North District, an officer with the Division of Wildlife (DOW), whispered to Shawn and his father Mike to remain still. The elk chased each other in circles before running into a pond less than 50 yards away. As the elk splashed in the water and chased each other out of the pond, Shawn turned to Nicholson and said, “This is like television, only better because it’s for real!” Nicholson told Shawn and his father that moments like that are what makes hunting in Colorado great even when you don’t harvest an animal.
Shawn Bruner was just one of three lucky kids enjoying a special youth antlerless elk hunt on Three Springs Ranch in Northwest Colorado in August. He, along with Travis Cavenah, Charlie Craven and their sponsors had submitted applications to the DOW’s Hunter Outreach Program for an opportunity to participate in the unique three-day event. One goal of the DOW Hunter Outreach Program is to encourage kids and their families to spend more time hunting and fishing in Colorado.
“While Colorado is rich with wildlife resources and opportunities to hunt and fish, times have changed,” explained Nicholson. “Many kids are growing up in families that don’t have traditions of hunting and fishing that were once commonplace in Colorado. While rural traditions may still exist, most kids are growing up in urban areas where kids and their parents may not know how to start exploring a budding interest in hunting and fishing.”
The DOW Hunter Outreach Program relies on the combined efforts of DOW employees, volunteers and interested landowners to expose young hunters and their families to quality experiences that will give them basic skills and a positive hunting experience. Nicholson coordinated the youth elk hunt on Three Springs Ranch.
“These opportunities would not be possible without the cooperation and support of local landowners,” Nicholson said. “Joel Tuck and Josh Hill of Three Springs Ranch made this event successful by volunteering their time to guide the kids and by sharing local knowledge about the ranch and Blue Mountain area where the hunt took place.”
The enthusiasm displayed by Shawn, Charlie and Travis throughout their hunt on Three Springs Ranch indicated the type of positive experience kids should have while hunting. Hunting isn’t just about the harvest. Shawn, Charlie and Travis had the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife species, interact with landowners, discuss regulations and ethical dilemmas with the local DOW Officer, and experience disappointment at missed opportunities to harvest an elk. The three boys did all harvest their first elk during the event, but the entire hunt and sharing that experience with friends and family is what ultimately makes the experience memorable.
• For more information on youth hunting opportunities sponsored by the DOW, contact the local DOW office or the Hunter Outreach Program at (303) 291-7248.