Growing up in the northwest corner of Colorado afforded me many opportunities. The typical question I receive from people when they find out where I’m from is, did I grow up hunting? It seems if you are a hunter or not, the northwest portion of Colorado is renowned for its abundant big game opportunities. Hunting was a family event as I grew up, and now 32 years later a tradition that is now being passed down to my son.
Today we have many more options than I did as a kid back in the late ’70s to introduce our youth into the hunting world. I believe “the hunt” consists of much more than the success of harvesting an animal. As a youngster I don’t think I understood this, however, now as a father “the hunt” has an entirely different meaning. As parents we always want our kids to be successful in their adventures. However to ensure our first time hunters continue returning to the woods each year, success and “the hunt” should be measured differently.
I look back to when I followed my father into the early morning dark woods in October or November. Snow on the ground, freezing temperatures, uncertainty and excitement in my mind. With that said, it’s lucky I continued hunting from many of those experiences. Most times my feet and fingers felt as of they were going to freeze off. Running the mountains with non-insulated, non-waterproof boots. Gloves that weren’t suitable to scrape your windshield. I was expected to keep up with the adults, remain quiet, pull my own weight, and above all else, be successful when I was of legal big game hunting age. How did my father do it in the same gear I had?
As parents we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. We are not introducing our youth to the outdoors for just that one hunt. We as parents and family have a responsibility to our kids to ensure they have positive all-around experience with the outdoors. Northwest Colorado has much to offer those of us of all ages. Remember with youth “the hunt” is about them. Be prepared for them to be cold, be prepared for them to be hungry, to make noise and to keep asking where the deer and elk are. Make sure they are dressed appropriately, as our options for boots, gloves and coats are endless now days. Be their mentor, and teach them about the outdoors along the way. Enjoy the journey without the focus on the harvest.
I’ve learned something every year from “the hunt,” however none as important as the lessons learned from listening to my own son on our hunting trips.
I’m grateful for my father and my family to have introduced me into the outdoor lifestyle. It’s our responsibility to keep our youth coming back for that experience each and every year the way my parents did. It’s also our responsibility to hand down those traditions in a responsible manner so that our youth learn and come back as ethical hunters. With the grand picture in mind, a little planning, the right resources and a lot of patience, a lifetime of memories will be made second to none.
Good luck and above all else—be safe!
By Mark Ridgeway
Target Tournament Director
Rocky Mountain Archery Assn.
Photos courtesy of