When you walk into your physician’s office you immediately look at the diploma on the wall and assess the credentials of your doctor. If you are wanting to be in the Ivy League of guide schools, you go to Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School. Located in Mesa, Colorado, and operating for almost 25 years, the organization is one of the foremost hunting guide education firms in the nation, helping to usher in a new generation of trackers and tacticians. Offering elite, white-glove hunting services for the upscale hunting crowd, Jeff Miner, the company’s Director of Education, is especially excited these days: Whitetail season is now upon us, and their signature two-week whitetail course is leading the herd.
The school offers various courses of concentration, and the Whitetail course is the first and only of its kind in the country. A formidable effort that teaches budding guidesmen how to take advantage of the season’s offerings, students become well-equipped to lead a comprehensive hunting experience in the field. The detailed curriculum focuses on whitetail deer as well as other seasonal fauna such as rocky mountain elk, black bear, turkey, gamebirds and waterfowl. Students learn the intricacies of food plots (planted areas cultivated with deer-friendly greens) and scoring deer by size and age as they hone their skills in herd management, nutrition and conservation.
To that end, the academy’s lessons are not just about the hunt. “In the whitetail course,” explains Miner, “we focus on herd management, aging deer, scoring deer and making sure the animal is in the right age classification to reach its genetic potential.” There are three factors to raising good deer: genetics, nutrition and age. Herders learn how to naturally allow deer to reach their potential – an age range between 5 and 7 – so that herd members are not quite yet fully grown. This allows for prime antler count, skeletal and muscular composition. Staying at the forefront of an industry that is becoming increasingly scientifically-centric, Miner says, “we talk breeding structure of deer, which is becoming big in the southern states: artificial insemination and embryo transferring.”
“We have whitetail students from all over the country, from New York, Ohio, Georgia, the Carolinas, Nebraska, Texas, and all the way to Alaska.”
The school trains trackers in eastern Colorado for whitetail bucks, but it’s not just locals who are seeking out the school. “We have whitetail students from all over the country, from New York, Ohio, Georgia, the Carolinas, Nebraska, Texas, and all the way to Alaska.”
Most of the school’s educational offerings are two weeks in length, allowing for intensive and depth-study for participants. Two of their most popular courses, aside from the whitetail engagement, are the “basic” and “pro” directives, designed as industry introductions for those wanting a well-rounded approach to guiding. Prospective students can choose between general, well-rounded basic and pro intensities, or, along with the whitetail-centric curriculum, can choose to specialize in various topics depending on the time of year, including fly fishing and horsemanship in the spring and summer. Other courses focus on winter game and their newest offering, safari and exotic game.
With up to 12 students per class, participants receive strong hands-on experience. Additionally, the school accepts ages 18 and up. They have also had an increased interest within the veteran community, something that Miner attributes to the special relationship between members of the military and the outdoors. “As a veteran myself,” he says, “it’s especially rewarding as an educator to see our veteran community not only benefit but thrive. To see what the outdoors can do for those with PTSD and anxiety issues, we are proud to be able to offer this opportunity for them, and the 9/11 GI Bill can pay for educational expenses.” The school is VA approved and Vocational Rehabilitation funds are accepted. Miner hopes to increase awareness of the school among veterans and the opportunities available to them.
Ensuring an education catered to the high-end clientele that is typically attracted to the field and stream recreation, the school teaches their students the art of hospitality and entertainment. This includes cooking fine meals, in-field-style, for a memorable experience; dinners cooked via open campfires, smokers, Dutch ovens and the like, from steak and turkey to rack of lamb and ham replete with all the trimmings. And the final exam brings everything learned full-circle with students interacting with clients, putting into practice all they have learned.
The work doesn’t stop after the class is over. Far from it: The school works closely with outfitters across the country to aid in their students’ employment placements and Miner is proud to note that some outfitters choose to work with the school exclusively. The school has helped place students in hunting and fishing guide positions, at wildlife and ski resorts, ranches and camps.
“At the end of our courses,” explains Miner, “our students will be proficient in every aspect of the season, being able to offer their guests a comprehensive experience from superb hunting and scouting techniques in the field to providing an upscale evening entertainment concierge including dinner and drink that sends their clients away having a truly unique experience from start to finish.”
Ready to enroll? Check out the school’s website at www.guideschool.com for class options and details or call (970) 268-5205. The school is located 45 minutes from the Grand Junction airport, where you’ll be met by the school’s concierge. All meals are included and served family-style in the main dining room.