Hunting for a family tradition

Dean Dimick has been hunting for 30 years after learning the sport's techniques from his father and grandfather.

Now his two daughters, Jamie, 15, and Kelsie, 12, are dressing in camouflage and heading into the outdoors with their rifles.

"I would say the majority of my family hunts," Dimick said.

Jamie is entering her fourth season and Kelsie is about to make her first attempt this fall.

"She has been out with me since she has been little," Dad said of Kelsie, "and she loves it."

But the Dimicks are unusual. The number of youth hunters has been declining, said Randy Hampton, public information specialist for the northwest region with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

"Certainly there is a nationwide decline in the number of young people involved in hunting, fishing and outdoor activities in general," Hampton said.

He said there are a few theories as to why this is.

"I think all of them have some merit," he said.

The first is time. Many youths are busy with sports and other extracurricular activities, and they just don't have enough hours in the day to get outside and learn the sport.

"People don't have as much time as they used to -- don't have as much leisure time," Hampton said. "I think there are people who don't have the time to devote to the sport and be successful with it."

Also, as cities grow in size, it takes longer to travel to a place where people can hunt. Traveling more also requires families to be financially able to do that, which is another reason Hampton cited for fewer hunters.

"There are social conditions that limit what people can do," he said.

Youths need skilled hunters to teach them how to seek out animals and field dress them, and sometimes, parents may not be hunters themselves.

"I'm amazed by the number of people wanting kids to learn to hunt but need someone to teach them," Hampton said.

That's why the DOW offers youth hunts, which provide staff and volunteers to give one-on-one help to young sportsmen.

The DOW organizes 17 such hunts in Northwest Colorado throughout the season. All already are filled. Many are still on waiting lists. Hampton said that's a good sign.

Joe Herod, owner of Craig Sports, agrees. Many of his customers are middle-aged, but he has seen a recent influx of youthful hunters. He has noticed many tags for sportsmen ages 12 to 16.

"I get a lot of parents who are teaching their kids about hunting and they are looking at guns," he said.

Hampton said the DOW wants to do more to ensure hunting remains an important sport. The agency hired a youth hunt coordinator this year to ensure a dedicated effort to the continuation of hunting.

The License Allocation Work Group, a citizen group formed by the DOW, is also making recommendations to the Colorado Wildlife Commission for greater numbers of youth hunters.

Those proposals include increasing the number of licenses given to young hunters, particularly through youth organizations, and establishing a youth mentoring program. The DOW also suggested expanding the age of youth hunters to include those 16 and 17.

The reason so many are making a concerted effort to keep hunting alive is tradition, said Dimick said. He thinks his daughters are picking up important lessons.

Herod has passed on the outdoor tradition to his 22-year-old son Casey, who got his first bear at 12. It's a sport that has been passed down generations in his family, and he's glad it's still going.

"It's just part of being in America," he said. "Freedom to do the things that somebody fought for."

In other countries, Herod said, hunting is a "rich man's sport," where people can only hunt on private land.

"It's starting to get that way here," he said, "but we have so much Bureau of Land Man--agement and national forest land that we're still allowed to hunt."

To keep the sport alive, Hampton said he needs more people to help out. That could include mentoring, cooking, photographing or donating equipment.

"Anything like that people can help us out with would be great," he said.

For more information, or to donate time or items, call DOW Education Coordinator Stan Johnson at (970) 255-6191.

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