Novice Hunter Program goes from classroom to field.
Pheasant season is one of the high points on Colorado's sporting calendar. But for new hunters, figuring out how to successfully harvest Colorado roosters can be frustrating.
That's the idea behind Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Novice Hunter Program, a mentored hunting curriculum that takes new hunters from the classroom to the fields of eastern Colorado to hunt wild roosters.
"Learning to hunt pheasants can be a long process without a mentor to help you," said CPW small game biologist Ed Gorman. "Many of us had family, friends or relatives who took us under their wing. What we're looking to do is provide the same opportunity to novices who may not have that support system."
The Novice Hunter Program class starts off with Pheasant Hunting 101, a series of lessons in pheasant biology, habitat, hunting strategies, laws and ethics and more. The classroom moves to the field in the afternoon, where students practice safe pheasant hunting tactics and watch trained dogs work live pheasants planted in the grass. The final station is the trap range, where students learn the fundamentals of shotgun shooting before they step to the line and start breaking clay targets under the eye of certified instructors and range safety officers.
"Our Hunter Ed curriculum is great at teaching the basics of how to handle a firearm safely, " said Area Wildlife Manager Mark Leslie, a lead instructor in the novice hunter program. "This program adds a whole new dimension, from pheasant biology to hunting strategies to the importance of working as a team during a successful hunt."
For students, their one-day Novice Hunter class is just the beginning of their program. Later on, they can sign up for additional shooting instruction and go on mentored dove hunts with instructors. During pheasant season, CPW leases special Walk-In Access properties just for students' use to give them a place to practice their new skills in an unpressured setting. Finally, students can go on mentored pheasant hunts with experienced CPW staff and volunteers from Pheasants Forever.
"The Novice Hunter model is built around the idea of mentors helping students gain the confidence and experience they need to become pheasant hunters," said Theo Stein, the Northeast Region Hunting and Angling Outreach Coordinator. "Pheasants Forever volunteers were instrumental in the success of the program's pilot year in 2013. We could not ask for a better partner."