Outdoor Guide Training for Veterans: Hunting, Fishing, Horseback Riding in Colorado
Do you love the outdoors? Or pack trips on horseback, snagging fish in a stream, and the camaraderie of like-minded people as you sit around a campfire? The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School (COAGS) is just the ticket for you! Whether just returning from deployment or looking to work on your personal skills, this school is veteran approved and fully paid for by the Post 9-11 GI Bill. (Yes, really!)
Six year US Army Veteran Jeff Miner owns COAGS. From just a small operation just outside of Colorado Springs to what is now the New Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School, it has grown to be one of the largest outdoor training schools in the nation.
Located about 25 miles east of Grand Junction, Colorado, it has access to 600,000 acres, 300 fishable lakes, the Powderhorn Ski area, and magnificent landscapes in one of the most beautiful areas in the West.
After his service out of Fort Jackson, SC, Jeff moved to Colorado from Wisconsin in 1990, and became General Manager of large outfitter company. He has seen many veterans’ lives changed by the program.
“My perspective is that when you come home, life isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter, not an ending.” Jeff Miner
Often when veterans come home, they are at “loose ends.” They no longer have the camaraderie of their brothers in arms. When they talk about life they always talk about what was, not what is ahead. Miner teaches them that they can have some of the same feelings they had in the military with being an outdoor guide, it’s just something new.
“We want to help them, to see if our program fits them.”
Miner’s goal is to place at least one new hire at a time at guest ranches, Outdoor Guide services, and others. They actively work with the graduates to find jobs.
From Basic Courses to Professional Guide Courses
The Basic Guide course is required before entry into the Professional course. Both the Basic and Professional programs are two weeks long.
In the Basic students will have 120 hours of training that gives them overviews of everything from leadership development to horsemanship, how to read compasses and GPS, and survival techniques…even cooking.
The Professional Guide program is also 120 hours long and teaches specifics in the industry, such as land and water resources, setting up camps for clients, how to administer equine medications, leading a pack string, hunting guide techniques of game such as Elk, White-tailed Deer, Bear, Bighorn Sheep and several other big game. That’s just a smattering of the courses for the Professional Guide training. There are numerous others.
They take a 4 day pack trip to the back country, where students learn how to handle clients.
They even have an Africa Professional Hunter Certification for the really adventurous that is issued by South Africa.
Their “signature programs” were designed for hunting and fishing, but have grown to include a Winter program that encompasses survival skills, ski patrol, instruction in downhill, cross-country, and other winter activities. The program was requested by the State of Colorado because they saw a need for it.
Miner says his goal is to get the veterans hired in the outdoor industry.
“Most of our veterans have some form of PTSD or on a medical discharge. People tend to be afraid to hire them, thinking that they are unpredictable. So there is a frustration level for them. But we’ve seen them bond with the horses and mules, spend time outdoors and find a whole new purpose – and it changes their whole life.” Jeff Miner