A second straight year of drought took its toll on pheasant habitat and populations in 2014. But for 144 newly graduated hunter-education students who participated in a new Colorado Parks and Wildlife course, 2014 was a fun and exciting introduction to the sport.
The Novice Hunter Program was developed by CPW’s Northeast Region in response to a challenge by a former wildlife commissioner to do more to recruit youth into hunting. Drawing on expertise from across the agency, CPW developed a program designed to give new hunters the knowledge, skill and confidence to hunt pheasants in eastern Colorado.
Working with volunteers from Pheasants Forever, CPW’s Novice Hunter Program combined a morning of classroom instruction on pheasant biology, hunting tactics, safety and hunting ethics with an afternoon of field exercises and shotgun-shooting instruction.
“I’ve mentioned the class to many of my friends and showed them our photos and how wonderful it was,” said Gracie Marquez of Greeley, who took the class with her five kids. “You could not put a price tag on what was taught – it’s been priceless for my children and myself, absolutely invaluable.”
Students were given the opportunity to get additional wing-shooting instruction during the summer. This fall, Novice Hunter Program students took to the field on their own and with instructors, hunting a small number of Walk-In properties that have been set aside for their use.”Building confidence in the field is important for a new hunter,” said Theo Stein, Northeast Region hunting and angling outreach coordinator. “We wanted to give these novice hunters a few places to gain that confidence this year.”While NHP was originally designed as a youth-recruitment tool, almost half of the students were adults.
“I’ve always had a curiosity to hunt, I never had anyone to show me the ropes – no one else in my family hunts,” said 25-year-old Iowa native Brett Larson. “Without any guidance or experience, hunting can be a difficult sport to approach as an ‘outsider.'” Larson said after taking NHP, he’s looking forward to exploring other types of hunting as well.
Because the pheasant forecast was so challenging, CPW also held a planted bird hunt for the youngest students to make sure that they had at least one day with guaranteed bird contact.
CPW will be offering the Novice Hunter Program again in 2014. Look for information on the CPW webpage or sign up for CPW Insider to have information about this and other hunter education programs delivered straight to your email inbox.
Story written/submitted by Theo Stein, hunting and angling outreach coordinator for CPW’s Northeast Region.
Click on the video below to see a photo montage of students on a recent NHP hunt (photos/montage by Jerry Neal/CPW):