By his own admission, Dan Uhrich isn’t your typical hunter.
Most hunters will admit to having a personal preference when it comes to stalking wildlife.
It might be the challenge of out-smarting a super-cautious wild turkey, out-maneuvering a wily bull elk or out-climbing a massive-horned bighorn sheep.
Uhrich, however, said he’s happiest just hunting.
“I’m an avid everything hunter,” said Uhrich, who works on Encana’s natural gas measurement staff when not plotting or filling out some hunting plans.
He also loves to share that enthusiasm for hunting with less-experienced hunters.
He not only leads youth and women on turkey and deer hunts for Encana, he’s also a senior Huntmaster for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Outreach program.
Huntmasters plan and lead hunts for youths and inexperienced hunters, and depending on the season and type of hunt, Uhrich may leading someone after their first turkey, mule deer or elk.
“After I moved here, I saw the (Huntmaster) program and what they were doing and decided to get involved,” Uhrich said. “It’s just so fulfilling to help people enjoy the outdoors.”
Before moving to the Grand Valley, he spent nine years as the president of the Cortez chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation and was active in that chapter’s volunteer efforts.
The NWTF has an active campaign called JAKES aimed at fostering and educating youth hunters, and Uhrich transferred his experience with the JAKES program to his new home.
When he started working in Parachute, he quickly recognized the value of the Encana hunt program and the wildlife habitat on the energy company’s Parachute Creek ranch.
“This whole area is tied up with oil and gas development but after I saw it, it’s like a game reserve,” Uhrich said. “The birds are getting some age on them and I believe we’re harvesting birds that could break the state record.”
In addition to running Huntmaster hunts, he’s in charge of the Encana hunt program and has recruited a handful of volunteers from Encana.
“I average six youths and six women in the elk hunt and six women in the turkey hunts,” he said.
He said sharing the excitement is particularly easy when it comes to turkey hunting.
“The really cool thing is turkey hunting is so interactive,” he said. “You’re calling and the excitement builds and as the turkey gets closer the volume goes up and so does the excitement level.”
“When you see the excitement of a youth or a woman who’s never hunted before, I tell you it’s so fulfilling, there’s been times we all have been teared up,” he said.
Kathleen Tadvick, Hunter Outreach coordinator for the Northwest Region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said Uhrich and the other senior Huntmasters carry more responsibility than the regular Huntmaster volunteers.
“He went from being a volunteer to saying, ‘I want to step up and run some hunts,’” Tadvick said. “A lot of volunteers don’t want to run their own hunts and we understand that. But the senior Huntmasters take that volunteerism to another level.”
Anyone at least 23 years old can be a Huntmaster after successfully going through the required training, Tadvick said.
“We usually hold our training once a year, in mid-August,” she said. “A lot of people get excited about the program but then get overwhelmed when they see the tremendous amount of responsibility they are accepting. The ones who continue, however, are fabulous.”
She said the number of women Huntmasters is growing slowly.
“Last year we had three women in our class, which was awesome,” Tadvick said.
Uhrich said the program emphasizes education, not simply killing an animal.
“We often take women who have never hunted before and we tell them, ‘It’s your choice whether you harvest an animal or not,” he said. “When it comes time for the shot, you decide, there’s no pressure one way or the other.”
Well, at least no pressure from the Huntmaster, he said.
“It’s funny. We may have six women in camp and once three or four of them harvest an animal, the rest get really serious about it and it becomes quite competitive,” he said.
“Once they do harvest something, there’s often some tears but always a lot of excitement and lots of hugs all around. It’s really something to experience.”
Information about the Hunter Outreach and the Huntmaster program is available on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, wildlife.state.co.us. Click on hunting.