MEEKER I In what is now an established tradition in Meeker, local Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers and area landowners joined together April 10 to give a trio of young novices a few memories that will last a lifetime—a three day, high-quality turkey hunt on private land with education and mentoring provided by experienced wildlife officers.
As part of CPW’s statewide Hunter Outreach Program, the annual turkey hunt brings skilled mentors together with inexperienced youth who want to learn and participate but do not have someone to teach them the skills necessary for a safe and successful hunt.
“We have been offering this opportunity for several years and my fellow officers and I have loved every minute of it,” said hunt organizer District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin of Meeker. “It’s very rewarding to give a kid an experience like this.”
The youths selected for this year’s hunt were 14-year-old Charlie Day of Meeker, 13-year-old Kathryn Walsh of Denver and 10-year-old Garrett Hayden of Monte Vista. Each qualified by fulfilling their hunter education requirements, then submitting a 500-word essay about their lack of experience and willingness to learn.
“These kids had never hunted before and neither have their families, and that is a key factor in why they were chosen,” Franklin said. “With the skills they learned, they can now go out on their own and maybe they will be the mentors someday.”
Along with Franklin, District Wildlife managers Mike Swaro, Terry Wygant and Johnathan Lambert provided expert guidance during the three-day excursion. The various lessons covered by the wildlife officers included ethics, biology, firearms safety, regulations, how to use a call and reading turkey sign in the field.
“Responsible hunting is not just about aiming and shooting,” said Swaro. “There is a lot to learn before anyone heads to the field.”
Using borrowed youth model shotguns provided by CPW, the young hunters spent a little time practicing and learning about the safe use of firearms at the Meeker Sportsmen’s Club, a long-time supporter of the Hunter Outreach program.
Another important lesson imparted on the youths by their mentors is how to care for their harvested turkey and prepare it for human consumption, a critical part of all successful hunts.
According to wildlife officers, a significant reason for the success of the guided hunts has been the generosity of local landowners who allow access to their properties. This year, they included the Jensen Family Ranch properties leased and managed by Rocky and Sparky Pappas and Travis Flaherty, the Clark White River Ranch owned by Mike Clark, Seven Lakes Lodge, K/K Ranch, Elk Creek Ranch, CPW commissioner Jeanne Horne, Charlie Barrett, John Etchart, Mike Fritzler, Pete Swenson and James Ritchie.
“We had even more interest and support from landowners from Meeker this year, which is very encouraging,” said Franklin.
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.