Field Notes Of A Rookie Sportsperson: Still Learning

It was fresh, organic meat and it fed RSP families with rich, wild flavors you just don’t often get from store-bought, farm-raised meat.
Travis Duncan peers out of a blind on a hunting expedition.
Travis Duncan peers out of a blind on a hunting expedition.

After nine months of outdoor adventures including hunting, fishing, hiking and camping, my final outing as a member of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Rookie Sportsperson Program (RSP) ended up being an indoor event – the banquet where RSP members could share their food and favorite memories of the program. 

RSP is a free program offered by CPW’s Southeast Region headquartered in Colorado Springs. Over the past nine months, my daughter Natalie and I have learned about all things outdoors. We became certified in the safe handling of firearms through a Hunter Education course and have been out on a couple hunts with our mentor, District Wildlife Manager Logan Wilkins. 

Natalie Duncan, 14, proudly displayed her Hunter Education certificate.
Natalie Duncan, 14, proudly displayed her Hunter Education certificate.

Fresh and Organic

One of the main motivations many RSP participants had given for wanting to learn how to hunt way back when the program started in March 2019 was on display at the final banquet on Jan. 18.

Everyone who had harvested an animal in RSP brought a dish they had prepared to share with the group. (Since I wasn’t successful on my pronghorn hunt, I brought an apple pie. Sigh!)

There were so many amazing dishes. Classmate Dave Hoffa brought lasagna with sausage made from white-tailed deer. Kevin Williams brought venison green chili. Evelyn Zhao prepared pronghorn meatballs. Vasu Seeram prepared deer biryani, a mixed rice dish from India. 

hungry RSP participants look at pots of homemade stews
Pots of homemade stews and soups made from fresh, wild game harvested by members of the Rookie Sportsperson Program lined a table at the final banquet.

And there was much more. Even with taking small portions, there was more food than I could personally sample in one evening. I did my best.

It was fresh, organic meat and it fed RSP families with rich, wild flavors you just don’t often get from store-bought, farm-raised meat. It was a great reminder of how much care the participants put into preparing their harvest for friends and family to enjoy.

Sharing the RSP Experience

Later, we went around the room relating our favorite part of the 2019 RSP experience. 

Hoffa, who was there with his wife and two kids, shared how both he and his son harvested a deer during RSP and what a great experience both hunts had been. He also expressed deep gratitude for all the time CPW staff had put in to teaching us how to hunt and prepare our harvest. His words really resonated with me.

“When I was a college student in my mid-twenties, I had learned somewhere, probably in German classes, that one of my favorite German dishes, which is sauerbraten, was actually intended to be a deer dish and the vinegar sauce you get is for trying to cover the gamey flavor,” Hoffa said. “I thought: ‘That sounds like a really good idea. I’d like to have an authentic sauerbraten, but there’s no way I’m ever going to find a deer roast in a grocery store. So I’m going to have to get into this (hunting).’ 

“But by that point I was too old and nobody wanted to teach a grown man how to hunt. I am so grateful that we got selected to be a part of this program because I’ve been wanting to do this for 20 years – to learn how to hunt. So to all of you in the program, thank you so much for finally helping me get deer sauerbraten on my plate.”

It was a good example of all the ways that sharing unique experiences with family members outdoors, of preparing food and sharing food with one another, and of taking part in a greater historical tradition – cultural and culinary – are all part of the fabric of what it means to be a sportsperson.  

CPW’s Southeast Region Manager Brett Ackerman sent us off with more words I took to heart.

“As I pondered the experiences that you’ve had over the past year, I’ve realized you are no longer rookie sportsmen,” Ackerman observed. “As a matter of fact, you may be more experienced than many people who’ve been hunting their whole lives. 

“You’ve fished and you’ve hunted many different species, whereas others just have experience with one or two types of hunting … Lots of times we become experts at things and we don’t realize it, because it sneaks up on us. But the experiences you’ve had are more than a lot of others have had and I hope that you find opportunities to get out there and share hunting and fishing with your friends.”

Making Memories

I know I am grateful for the good people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had over the course of the program, and I’m sure my daughter and I will be remembering some of our days out in the field together when she’s much older. 

Natalie and Travis Duncan display their targets
Natalie and Travis Duncan display their targets after practicing their new shooting skills during the Hunter Education phase of the Rookie Sportsperson Program.

I hope by sharing my RSP experiences, you’ve learned of opportunities available to you through CPW. And I hope you will continue to join me in coming months as I explore even more of the parks, the wild places and wildlife in this state we love and call home. Next month, my “Field Notes” column will continue as I relate new outdoor adventures.

Stories from the Rookie Sportsperson Program

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hunter Outreach Opportunities

Are you looking for a way to learn more about hunting? Colorado Parks and Wildlife(CPW) has a program for you. CPW’s Hunter Outreach Program seeks out people with non-hunting backgrounds. They offer clinics, seminars, advice, and educational hunts for novice hunters of all ages. Their educational programs appeal to diverse interests and levels of ability. CPW staff and volunteers will help you make the most of your hunting pursuits, or help take you through the first steps towards becoming a part of the hunting community.​ To learn more about these amazing opportunities, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

Follow Hunter Outreach on Instagram.


Travis Duncan is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. Travis has lived in Colorado for 17 years and loves the outdoors. If you have a question, please email him at travis.duncan@state.co.us

2 Responses

  1. I appreciate your stories and hope they motivate others to contact CPW and become involved. I have assisted with youth, women and people with disabilities during the past several years and have reaped more than I have sewn from these experiences. Camaraderie among hunters is a critical part of these adventures.

    1. Thanks for reading and for the work you do helping get folks out in the field hunting, Richard! I agree, the camaraderie is what makes these adventures and time spent outside so special.

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