Turkey Federation hosts educational day for children

Although Thanksgiving is still three months away, it is already time for a few local hunters to start talking turkey.

The Moffat County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) will host its first Jake's Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Craig Trap Club, two miles west of town on U.S. Highway 40.

Jake's Day is an educational day for children interested in learning more about hunting and the benefits of the conservation programs groups such as the NWTF provide.

"It is going to be a great day for any kids who are interested in wanting to learn more about hunting, or just the outdoors in general," event organizer Kristie Bruce said. "We will be going over all of the aspects of hunting and outdoor safety, and it will be a good way for some of these kids who have never had exposure to the outdoors to learn about what is out there."

The event will feature a variety of educational opportunities for those in attendance, including archery instruction by Donna Smith and Bob Knez, who are both Level 2 Olympic archery instructors. Dave Watson of High Country Sports in Craig will hold a presentation on four-wheeler safety when hunting. Medicine Bow National Forest Service officials will give a presentation on fire education and prevention and Division of Wildlife (DOW) officers will put on programs about how to watch for bears and mountain lions when hunting, camping or hiking in the forest.

"The topics are going to vary broadly, from shooting to safety to information on what the NWTF does," she said. "The kids who come out are definitely not going to be disappointed."

The NWTF was founded in 1973, when only 1.3 million wild turkeys were living throughout the U.S. Today, thanks to the efforts of state conservation agencies and outdoor groups, such as NWTF, Ducks Unlimited, Waterfowl U.S.A and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, more than 5.4 million birds are living throughout the U.S., and the NWTF has increased its membership to more than 315,000 active members.

The Moffat County Chapter of NWTF is only three years old; however, its impact is already beginning to be felt in certain areas of the county.

Last year, the group trapped 51 merriam turkeys from an area near Rifle, and transported them to the Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge near the Utah border.

"From reports that we've heard, all eight of the toms have come back to the drop site, and we've had reports of a number of hens returning or being spotted as well," Bruce said. "The DOW helped us out greatly in our effort, and we are thankful for that.

"Before we started the trapping, we consulted with the DOW state biologist, who traveled out to Browns Park to get a look at the area. After he was finished, he said that area may provide the best habitat in any part of the state to attempt a restocking effort," she said. "This spring, there have also been reports of chicks walking along with the hens, so it appears as if everything is going well."

Jake's Day will also feature a hunter's safety educational program presented by Ron and Lois Stoffle on a variety of outdoor topics.

"This is a good way to let the kids know what is out there and what to expect when they get ready to take a class," Ron said. "We can also get some of the kids who aren't aware of hunter safety classes, and let them know that people are out there who can help them to get involved in something like this."

Stoffel also believes that this is a way for children to gain an introductory knowledge of the environment, and some of the ways that future generations can protect it.

"We can also explain the benefits of groups such as Ducks Unlimited, and the positive things that can come from being a member of a group like that," he said. "We will also discuss safety, show some firearms and hand out some pamphlets for any kids that are interested. It is going to be an excellent learning opportunity."

The Moffat County chapter will also be giving away a .410-caliber New England single-shot shotgun to the winner of a raffle drawing.

Just recently, 14-year-old Conner Walton of Maybell took home third place in the state's NWTF essay contest, and also won a Mossberg .835-caliber multi-mag shotgun for his efforts.

Those who attend and pay the $5 registration fee, will also receive a Jake's sticker, four NWTF magazines and a membership card.

"If the kids just want to come out and see what's going on, there is certainly no charge for that," Bruce said. "To enter into the chance to win the gun will require the $5 registration fee."

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