Easier access to private land a tool for hunter recruitment

If you were to list the major reasons why people stop or never start hunting, near or at the top of the list you’d have put “having a place to go.”

Although the cost of licenses, having someone to hunt with, and the likelihood of actually finding something to hunt are important, it’s arguable that unless you know you have a place to go, you aren’t very likely to be interested in taking up hunting.

And many surveys of former hunters have revealed that no longer having some place to go, whether because it’s been closed, or the ownership changes, or development takes over the habitat, is among the leading reasons why ex-hunters are just that.

Other states (think Kansas and Nebraska as star pupils) have long recognized that ensuring hunters a place where they are welcome is the best way to build your hunter base.

Recruiting a new hunter, or keeping an older hunter in the field, is exponentially easier when that person doesn’t have to spend hours knocking on strangers’ doors, begging to hunt.

To that end, both states have long participated in walk-in access programs. By paying farmers and ranchers to open their land to the public, not only do those states attract and keep hunters, they also help landowners with a bit of necessary jingle to help pay the bills.

Colorado adopted a similar program about a decade ago, and since then the enrolled acres open to small game and waterfowl hunting have grown to more than 220,000 acres of private land.

Initially, a fee ($20 last year) was charged to participants, the money going to landowners on a per-acre basis in hopes of encouraging them to enroll more property.

One of the goals behind the program was to get hunters and landowners talking, and it was hoped hunters would use the walk-in lands as a springboard to finding other places, including additional private land, to hunt.

Although that undoubtedly has worked to some extent, it’s also not surprising to hear many hunters say they use the walk-in lands as their sole hunting resource.

A smaller number of hunters have become very adept at reading the walk-in maps and locating those smaller, lesser-used parcels, mining the information provided by the Division of Wildlife to find hunting areas virtually to themselves.

Recognizing the benefits from the program, the Colorado Wildlife Commission opted to remove the walk-in fee system, opening all the walk-in property to any properly licensed hunter.

“They realized the fees weren’t paying for the program anyway,” said DOW spokesman Tyler Baskfield. “The commission figured it would be a good way to get more small-game hunters involved, And recruiting new hunters is much easier if there’s a guaranteed place to go.”

This year, small-game hunters will get a bonus when they pick up a copy of the DOW’s small-game regulations brochure.

Each brochure will include a free copy of the division’s newest DVD, “Pheasant Hunting Colorado.”

Baskfield said that while the entertaining 30-minute DVD offers some stunning footage of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, it also is a comprehensive guide to pheasant hunting.

You can see a short preview of the DVD at http://bit.ly/dcXmzi

“Not only do we think the DVD will make people more successful, we hope hunters pass these DVDs on to other people who might be thinking about hunting,” he said. “Who knows? We may be looking at the new face of hunter recruitment.”

Hunter recruitment often is done through the DOW’s Outreach Program, where special youth and women’s hunts offer education and hunting experience for novice hunters.

But that program, as successful as it is, reaches only 15 to 30 people at a time.

“This is a mass-scale recruitment program,” Baskfield said. “The DVD approach may reach hundreds or thousands of prospective hunters.

“All these things coming together bode well for recruiting additional hunters in the state.”

Errata: The cutline under the photograph of a young bull moose in on the Outside page Wednesday failed to give credit to photographer Dyann Walt of Grand Junction.

Walt said the moose was photographed near Silverjack Reservoir southeast of Montrose, where Walt has seen other moose.

“I love to take moose photos, but have yet to see one on the Grand Mesa,” Walt wrote. “All the ones I’ve seen were down in the San Juans.”

One of the state’s largest moose herds lives in the Rio Grande drainage around Creede and in extensive parts of Hinsdale and Mineral counties.


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