Wyoming Hunter Mentor Program

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When six-year-old Connor Etzelmiller of Rawlins took aim at a turkey this past November, it was one of the most exciting moments of his young life. He had a jake in his sights and when it was in range he fired one shot with his 20 gauge and the Etzelmillers had their Thanksgiving dinner.

Connor's hunt was made possible largely due to the new Wyoming hunter mentor law that allows hunters a one-year opportunity to go hunting with a qualifying mentor before completing a hunter education course. Hunter education is required in Wyoming of anyone born after 1965. In this instance, Connor's mentor was his dad, Rhen, who said Connor became interested in turkey hunting last June after talking with an older cousin who had bagged a turkey.

Connor didn't forget and told his dad in late August he wanted to go turkey hunting. The Hunter Mentor Program had became law in July and provided the avenue the Etzelmillers needed to plan their hunt. Connor, who is in the first grade at Highlands Hills Elementary in Rawlins, had previously shot BB guns and .22s and now had the opportunity of practicing with his 20 gauge. Mid-November found the Etzelmillers in their hunt area south of Douglas. According to his father, Connor was very excited to be going hunting and very proud to have his own license. "He even showed it to the clerk at a convenience store we stopped at," Rhen said.

"The Hunter Mentor Program is incredible for younger kids or those who want to try their hand at hunting,"" Rhen said. "It sure worked for us." Connor bagged his turkey at 23 yards. After the shot he ran and picked it up and commented that he had got their Thanksgiving turkey. "Connor had the distinction of bagging his first turkey before I did," Rhen said. "I got my first turkey a little later on the same hunt."

Since a person can only be enrolled in the Hunter Mentor program one year, the Etzelmillers are already making plans to take hunter safety. Connor is enrolled in a hunter education course that will start in January.

Information on the Hunter Mentor Program and hunter safety is available on the Game and Fish Web site, http://gf.state.wy.us/index.asp.