Program gives guidance to young hunters |

Program gives guidance to young hunters

Brandon Bingham, 15, rose before the sun Saturday, dressed in camouflage and bright orange and drove with his stepfather, Rodney Trail, to a place north of town hidden around a corner on Colorado Highway 13.

As snow drifted down from the sky, Bingham joined other young hunters in the office of Elkhorn Outfitters and waited for the day’s adventure to begin. He was taking part in the free youth hunt program put on by the outfit.

Guide Tony Arbaney, Trail and Bingham loaded into a tan diesel truck and made the quiet trip to the perfect elk-hunting spot, on private land even farther north.

When the hunters spotted a herd, they carefully exited the truck and sneaked up on the unsuspecting animals. Arbaney used his call while Bingham found his target in his scope. Trail videotaped the action.

A shot rang through the air, and the herd leaped a fence and made its way out of sight. None were left behind: Bingham had missed.

Arbaney whispered something too soft to hear and walked back to get the truck.

“Don’t take the shot unless they’re standing still,” Trail advised.

The men climbed into the truck again and made their way down a bumpy dirt road made white by fallen snow. Arbaney sighted another herd and the men tracked across several hills and up the side of one, where they peeked over and saw the animals resting.

Bingham used the fence for support as he took another unsuccessful shot.

On the walk back to the truck, Trail rubbed Bingham’s hanging head and patted his back. Neither said a word.

The trek to find another herd was longer, and Bingham seemed to be getting discouraged. But it seemed the third time was the charm for this hunting expedition.

The men scaled a barbed wire fence and steep hills to find what appeared to be a herd of about 100 head. Bingham lined up his shot on a cow elk lying down. This time, he hit her dead on.

As the elk heard the bang, they were off and running. What had seemed to be 100 head among the sage brush turned out to be what Arbaney guessed was closer to 1,000.

“I didn’t really have much choice (on which animal to shoot),” Bingham said. “I just took the easiest shot pretty much.”

The men located the cow and gutted it before returning to the truck and calling in their kill. Other guides brought a four-wheeler to pick up the elk and take it back to Trail’s truck at the office.

Trail said he and Bingham hunted during the second season on their own. This is Bingham’s third year as a hunter. They typically take two animals and enjoy the meat for the whole year.

Bingham didn’t get an animal earlier this year, and Trail thought the program would be a good experience for his stepson.

“You always learn something different each time you go hunting, and you always learn something from these guys that hunt day in and day out,” Trail said.

“I always learn something new every day I go out, too,” Arbaney added.

He said Elkhorn put on the youth program each weekend for the past six weeks as a way to give back to the Craig community. The outfitter also has programs for female hunters.

The youngsters use extra tags that the Division of Wildlife issued because of the overabundance of animals, Arbaney said. The guides give the youths some one-on-one instruction.

“It’s just a fun experience,” Trail said.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031 or

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