Through its Forever Wild Families program, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and program partners provide a safe environment and patient mentors for those with little to no previous hunting or fishing experience. Participants who desire to recreate outdoors learn skills to do so safely, ethically and (eventually) independently.
Forever Wild Families builds community relationships and partnerships that connect people, land, food and nature. Based on interest from several individuals outside of nuclear family groups, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department intends to expand its programmatic offerings to include other close-knit groups. Although outdoor opportunities for women and returning veterans exist, they are usually one-time events. Building on the Forever Wild Families approach of repeated opportunities to learn new outdoors skills in a safe environment, the department anticipates aligning affinity groups of women, military families, returning veterans, non-traditional hunter education graduates and new residents.
In its third year in Cody, Forever Wild Families has a full class for 2014-2015 and will continue to accept applications for the class of 2016-2017. Please contact Tara Hodges at email@example.com for more information about the Forever Wild Families program in the Cody area.
In its first year in Laramie, Forever Wild Families has a full class for 2014-2015 and will continue to accept applications for the class of 2016-2017. Please contact Robin Kepple at firstname.lastname@example.org more information about the Forever Wild Families program in the Laramie area.
In its fourth year in Lander, Forever Wild Families has a full class for 2015-2016. Please contact Rene Schell at email@example.com for more information about the Forever Wild Families program in the Lander area.
Please contact Tasha Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org for statewide information on the program including volunteer/mentor and partnership/sponsorship opportunities.
The Forever Wild Families program harnesses the power of family and community to develop new hunters and anglers. The program not only introduces people to angling and hunting, it creates lifelong anglers and hunters who understand and support the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s and our partner organization’s work.
Rather than focusing solely on youth (who may not have the support of their families), Wyoming links angling and hunting to adult motivations. Youth who participate have parent, mentor or guardian support. Among first-year program participants, 92 percent bought fishing and/or hunting licenses the following year.
Customized outings over the course of a year offer families multiple opportunities to experience various hunting- and fishing-related activities. In the program’s first four years, participants have had the opportunity to learn about: fly fishing, spin fishing, ice fishing, fish identification, ecology, fish stocking, hatchery operations, fly-tying and lure making, fisheries and wildlife research, survival, camping, backpacking, GPS, map and compass, wildlife identification and tracks, wildlife biology, wholistic and wellness aspects of hunting, hunting techniques and tactics, hunting on private and public land, applying for limited-draw licenses, field-dressing game, processing game, cooking game, recreating safely in areas with large carnivores, hunter education certification, shotgun, rifle and pistol shooting sports, upland game hunting, small game hunting (rabbits and squirrels), big game hunting (deer, elk, antelope), trapping, wild turkey hunting and waterfowl hunting. In their second year, participant families are paired with mentors who help them explore more thoroughly fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits.
During its growth, Game and Fish program managers realized participants are more comfortable (and ultimately more successful) when outfitted in appropriate equipment and clothing. Many of the participant families are new to hunting and fishing. They struggle to buy, in a single season, all the necessary clothing (camouflage, waterproof and wool, for example) and gear (such as binoculars, compasses and backpacks) to recreate outdoors. Because getting outfitted can be cost-prohibitive, Game and Fish has partnered with local chapters of conservation organizations to start a Camo Cache donation program for outdoor clothing and gear. As Forever Wild Families participants head into the field they will be properly outfitted, increasing the likelihood that they will feel comfortable and enjoy spending time outdoors, and, in turn, become lifelong hunters and anglers. Donated items become the property of participants upon successful completion of their first year in the Forever Wild Families program. As participants grow out of (or replace) donated items, they are encouraged to re-donate items (especially children’s clothing) to the Camo Cache.
The generosity of conservation organizations makes the difference between a family that gives up hunting or fishing because it’s “too expensive” and a family that passes on the hunting andf ishing traditions for generations.
If your organization would like to schedule a Forever Wild Families Camo Cache collection event to help outfit participants, please contact Tasha Sorensen at Tasha.Sorensen@wyo.gov.
Forever Wild Families would like to thank the following program partners:
North Platte Walleyes Unlimited, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Hornady Mfg., Sierra Trading Post, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, University of Wyoming Extension, Allwayz Manufacturing, Federal Ammunition, Wind River Mountain Outfitters, Wind River Outdoor Company, Wind River Troutfitters, Appaloosa Broadcasting, Pioneer Printing, Guns and Gear, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Rocky Mountain Discount Sports and Vortex Optics. Grants have been received from: Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Wyoming Wildlife-The Foundation: Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition; Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Weatherby Foundation and the National Wild Turkey Federation.