Proud hunter and father
In 2006, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and my employer, the Grand Junction Veterans Administration Medical Center, did a cooperative program to take disabled veterans hunting.
During this hunt, Stan Johnson from Colorado Parks and Wildlife spoke to me about getting involved in the youth hunting program, so I looked into it and decided I would do the Huntmaster training.
I have always loved working with kids and have volunteered my time coaching softball, baseball, football, basketball, etc.
So being able to take the kids hunting and teaching them good hunting ethics, safety, being outdoors, identifying animals, reasons for hunting, etc. was something I truly would love.
In 2007, I did a couple of youth hunts and my daughter (Jenna) was scheduled to go on a youth hunt in December.
I was told I was going to be a parent and not a guide on this hunt, which was great, I know how to keep my mouth shut and what was expected.
It was a very cold day in December, 8 degrees.
Jenna followed her guide up a very steep and snowy hillside, when they got to the top I saw her lie down in a prone position and put her gun on the guide’s pack.
She took careful aim and she pulled the trigger.
I never actually saw the elk fall because I was still on the steep hillside, I could just see her shoot.
After she shot I ran up to the top (10 yards), she jumped up and said she got it.
I had tears of happiness in my eyes.
Getting the elk down was not real difficult since it was so steep and snowy, but boy, was it cold.
Jenna was the only female in camp so when we got back to camp she was congratulated by the other four boys, their fathers and the CPW staff.
That evening after dinner the kids sat around with Senior Huntmaster Kenny Marcella playing poker.
The kids were betting Jolly Ranchers and nobody really won or lost because Kenny had his own rules and they changed from hand to hand (Kenny’s rules said 2 pair beat a flush).
I sat back watching the kids have so much fun and Kenny would look at me and just smile and I thought to myself, this is how LIFE is supposed to be.
The next morning (-8 degrees) Jenna went with Kenny and another boy to try to find the elk he had shot at the evening before.
They climbed a mountain went to the top, hiked for five hours and never found it.
I was watching them with my binoculars coming down sliding on their butts, having a great time.
The kids were ready to play Kenny’s Poker again.
The next day the kids who had not got an elk went out hunting and the others stayed around camp to tear down. We could not pull the stakes out of the ground because it had been so cold so the ranch manager brought a Bobcat up to help.
We got everything down and were ready to go home.
On the way home Jenna told me that was the most fun she had ever had in her life.
She said she was the only female up there but the boys treated her as just another one of them.
The kids exchanged contact information and they talked by e-mail quite a bit after the hunt.
Even though it was so cold, everyone had a great time and the CPW, guides and landowners did a great job.
After watching what happened at this hunt and how it made me feel, it made me realize even more I want to get involved more with the youth programs.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife youth programs gives kids and parents the opportunity to get involved in a positive recreation activity and something they can do together for the rest of their lives.
The program is very structured and is a very good education model for hunting with youth.
The program teaches the kids hunt safety, ethical hunting, tracking, cleaning, etc.
The volunteers spend their own time, money, and use most of their own equipment during these hunts.
The CPW employees are outstanding and spend a lot of their own time on the weekends to make sure these hunts happen.
I tell the kids going hunting is not about going out and killing an animal, it is about going out to experience the outdoors. I teach the kids that unless you are going to use the animal for food you should not shoot it, so I tell them, we don’t kill an animal, we harvest it for the food (I never say kill any more).
In 2010 I was given a belt buckle from Colorado Parks and Wildlife signifying I had volunteered and led enough hunts to become a Senior Huntmaster.
This was something special to me and let’s me know I am making a difference in the kid’s lives.
I have made a lot of friends through this program and when I see the kids in the community they come up and give me a hug and talk about what a great time they had.
I feel for any kid turning 12 (I don’t care how great a hunter your mom or dad is) this is the best way to start hunting.
My son Joe is going this year, 2011.
(Matt Lucas is a recreational therapist at the Grand Junction VA Medical Center and a Senior Huntmaster in the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Hunter Outreach program. More information about the agency’s youth hunts is available at wildlife.state.co.us.)