MEEKER - Three lucky young hunters, including a Rifle youth, 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 Colorado Parks and Wildlife mentors.
Tagerty Poole, 10, of Rifle; Henry Musser, 10, of Meeker; and Antoinette Dorris, 13, of Rangely, were selected from a group of novice youth hunters that 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. They 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.
To ensure 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.
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.