It’s not the harvest, it’s the thrill of the hunt
Had she been given the opportunity, it’s possible Kathleen Tadvick would have been an elk hunter.
“I didn’t hunt when I was growing up around Atlanta because it was all private land and if you didn’t know people with property ..,” she said. “But I fished all the time with my Dad.”
Today, Tadvick is the Education and Hunter Outreach coordinator for the Northwest Region of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and it’s her job to connect eager women and youths with the opportunity to hunt.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a variety of hunts, including waterfowl, upland birds and big game, to novice and inexperienced hunters, at no cost to the participant other than personal gear and a willingness to learn.
The Women Afield and outreach hunts provide just about everything, including experienced and trained guides, food, tents, and in some cases, firearms and ammunition.
“We provide a little bit of everything,” Tadvick said. “We even have two extra rifles on our big-game hunts in case one of the hunters has their rifle malfunction.”
Senior Huntmaster Matt Lucas, who went along when his daughter Jenna participated in an elk hunt in 2007, called the experience “awesome.”
“It shows the kid a lot about safety, and I learned to keep my mouth shut because each person does it differently,” Lucas said. “They learn about safety, hunting ethics, tracking animals, it’s just a great program.”
Lucas also makes sure to tell his youth baseball team about the program.
“I tell the kids it’s for the entire family,” Lucas said. “I try to send them an application, it’s a great way to start hunting.
“And (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) provides all the food and has the tents and everything.”
The agency also provides a list of what to bring on the hunt, which normally last from a Friday afternoon to mid-day Sunday.
The hunts, scheduled outside of the normal hunt-season framework, take place on private ranches, both to reduce competition from public land hunters and also to increase the chance of a successful hunt.
Applicants (the hunts are limited to Colorado residents, with an application deadline of Aug. 1).
Last year, the Northwest Region ran elk and pronghorn hunts for women and youths and also hosted more than 200 youths on pheasant hunts.
“Eighty percent of our participants are novice hunters,” Tadvick said.
But some of hunters, particularly some of the youth hunters, not only have some prior experience hunting with their families but also hold licenses for other seasons.
“Some of them are already harvesting more animals than we are,” Tadvick said with a laugh.
And no youth goes hunting without an parent alongside.
“Sometimes the parents want us to be babysitters, but that’s not the idea,” Lucas said. “It’s to get the entire family, including the parents, involved.”
The demand for the hunts is such that sometimes there are more applicant than hunt available.
Participants are selected through a lottery draw, Tadvick said.
Last year, the Northwest Region hosted 24 women on elk and pronghorn hunts.
“We’ve usually been able to account for most of the women but this year because of changes in license allocations we lost a number of our ranches,” Tadvick said.
Jim Bulger, state hunter outreach coordinator, said the elk hunts are the most popular.
“This is an elk-hunting state, that’s what people want,” he said.
Tadvick said some women unable to go on an elk hunt have turned down pronghorn hunts, even though it means waiting another year for a shot at an elk.
“Many of them specify an elk hunt because they think pronghorn hunting is easy,” she said. “But once they go on a pronghorn hunt, they see it isn’t so easy, after all.”
After the hunt, Tadvick and her crew of volunteer Huntmasters spend time talking with the participants, learning what they liked and didn’t like about their experience.
“That’s ultimately what we enjoy most,” Tadvick said. “It’s getting people outdoors and providing them with the opportunity to show them what hunting is and how it’s done properly.”
And showing them what hunting really means, added senior Huntmaster Dan Uhrich.
“It’s not about harvesting, there’s no pressure whether they decide to harvest or not,” he said. “The greatest thing about hunting is the hunt.”