Youth turkey hunters brave the cold and create memories

MEEKER, Colo. – On a cold, breezy weekend in early April, seven young turkey hunters and their mentors huddled quietly on pristine private land on the outskirts of Meeker, scanning the terrain for their elusive quarry. Participating in their first turkey hunt, the youngsters battled the frigid air and their own nervous excitement, listening to whispered suggestions and tips from their expert advisors. When at last, a turkey comes into view, the young hunters put their newly learned firearm safety education into action, carefully aiming their shotguns, and pulling the trigger.

While four of the seven young hunters were able to take a turkey home for their family’s dinner table this year, in keeping with the mission of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Outreach Program, the focus of the hunt was education, ethics, and safety.

The annual hunt – held in honor of CPW Officer Jon Wangnild who died in 2013 – is led by Meeker South District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin. Along with fellow CPW officers and volunteers, they provide the critical mentorship the novice hunters need to hunt in a safe and ethical manner.

“All of these kids dreamed of hunting turkeys but couldn’t for a variety of reasons, primarily because they did not have a mentor,” said Franklin. “Because of the expert advice and equipment provided by CPW, the hard work, dedication and generosity of many local people, these young hunters now have experience and knowledge. Most of these kids can now hunt wild turkey on their own, and may become mentors themselves in the future.”

Hunting is one of Colorado’s most treasured traditions and is critical for the successful management of the state’s wildlife, today and into the future. In addition, it encourages youth to maintain a healthy lifestyle with outdoor activities as a priority.

The seven youth turkey hunt participants this year were Toren and Tilden Gates, Thomas Theos, Jake Grieser, Myles and Parker Dupire, and Jacob Roberts, all from Meeker.

Prior to the hunt, each novice and parent or guardian participated in an in-person orientation learning turkey biology, turkey hunting strategies, firearm safety, and hands-on shooting practice with shotguns. Once in the field, they learned how to scout, track and identify signs of turkey activity.

CPW would like to express our sincere appreciation and thanks to the following landowners for sponsoring the program and allowing access to their private lands: Nine Mile Guest Ranch; Elk Creek Ranch – Pollard/Dry Creek parcel; M/R White River Ranch – Miller Creek Ranch; Lunney Mountain Ranch; Slash EV Ranch, Hunting Maestro LLC; White River Lodge; LK Ranch; Cross L Ranch; R Lazy J Ranch; Buckles Ranch; George Rienau; Etchart Ranch; L Bar Slash Ranch; David Smith Ranches; Peggy and Ronnie Griffin; Mahogany Resources; Kurt and Sandra Hotto; 4M Ranch; Hole in the Rock Ranch; Meeker Dome.

In addition, CPW would like to thank Travis Flaherty, Tom Hazelton, Dusty Allen, Nick Fetchik, and Curtis Keetch for supporting the Northwest Region’s Hunter Outreach Program by volunteering their time and equipment to guide and mentor four of the young hunters.

“We are very grateful that we have dedicated and generous partners that believe in what we are doing,” said Franklin. “They are actively involved in helping instill a love of the outdoors and hunting in our future generation, and that benefits everyone.”

Landowners or volunteers 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 call the same number and request an application for upcoming youth hunts.