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Wildlife officials are trying to recruit new hunters

Caramie Schnell

Hunting is beginning to show signs of age.

Wildlife officials say fewer younger people are hunting these days, a trend that could lead to an overall decline in hunter participation in the future.

To help keep Colorado’s numbers steady, the state’s Division of Wildlife has started hunter outreach programs for both women and youth.

“We feel that it’s our responsibility to give kids in the next generation every opportunity to hunt and help them develop that passion,” said Tyler Baskfield, public information specialist for CDOW.

Wildlife officials say that despite a national decline in hunter participation, Colorado numbers have remained fairly stable so far.

“Colorado is such a mecca for hunting, so far we haven’t seen, in terms of big game hunting, a huge change in the amount of hunters,” Baskfield said. “We’re aware of the national trend though, and it’s a trend that we don’t want to see take a grip on Colorado.”

Hunting is big business throughout the area and the county, bringing in $10.18 million worth of business to Eagle County, according to wildlife officials.

Baskfield said that surveys done by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agency show there are fewer younger people hunting. And though they haven’t been able to put their finger on the exact cause, increased urbanization has certainly played a part, Baskfield said.

CDOW has developed relationships with various conservation organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation, Randy Hampton, CDOW’s public information specialist for the northwest region of Colorado, said. The goal with the relationships is to set up youth programs to help keep Colorado’s hunting legacy alive, he added.

The programs, Hampton said, have been successful so far.

“We’ve got our first deer hunt of the season coming up this week near Craig, it’s a youth hunt,” Hampton said. “It’s actually a game damage hunt, there are some crops that are damaged and we go in there and allow a very limited hunt. It disperses the deer off of the field – it’s a technique we can use to limit damage to crops.”

Hampton said that there are 17 hunts planned for women and children between now and January.

And there is, in fact, quite a demand for such programs. Hampton said there is a waiting list of kids who want to learn to hunt but have parents who either don’t hunt or don’t have time to take their children out and teach them.

CDOW is always looking for volunteers to help with organized hunts.

“There are lots of opportunities available for people who want to pass along the hunting legacy, even if they’re not necessarily a hunter,”

Hampton said “We need people that can cook, that can do a variety of things.”

For more information on volunteering, contact Stan Johnson, the education coordinator for the Western Slope at (970) 255-6191. VT

Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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