John's Journal...

The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School with Willie Webb, Jr.

What You’ll Learn at the Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School

Greg MillerEditor’s Note: The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School (COAGS), of Cripple Creek Colorado, is a unique learning environment which includes indoor classroom instruction and outdoor, hands-on activities that provide the students with the groundwork needed to attain success in the outdoor-recreation industry. Although most of the students aspire to become employed in the outdoors, COAGS welcomes any outdoors enthusiast who wants to become more comfortable in the wilds to participate in any or all of the courses.

The Basic Program is the foundation for all students wanting to better their outdoor skills or those pursuing a career in the great outdoors. The subjects taught in this basic program are a prerequisite to the three advanced classes: Pro Guide and Outfitter, Advanced Backcountry Horseman and Pro Fly Fishing. In late January 2006, COAGS inaugurated a new course, the Whitetail Pro Guide and Management School. All COAGS courses are two weeks in length consisting of 120 hours of instruction with classes held Monday through Friday with weekends free for students to sight-see. The Basic Program curriculum covers a variety of subjects and opportunities for the students, including land navigation, wilderness survival, conservation and standard first aid and CPR. The horsemanship, fly-fishing, photography, videography, writing and camp-cooking courses open doors to career opportunities never previously considered by some students. Land navigation covers map, compass and global positioning system (GPS) skills, preparing the student with the abilities needed to turn a survival situation into just an uncomfortable experience. COAGS feels strongly that conservation and “Leave No Trace” should be a common part of any outdoor person’s vocabulary. Students use the history and the practices learned at the school to teach others the importance of the human roles in the destruction, the rebuilding and the preservation of Mother Nature and her bounty. Too, we all know that accidents happen in outdoor activities, and being certified in first aid and CPR can save someone’s life.

Greg MillerCamp cooking instruction begins every morning with a different team helping out in the kitchen. Instruction begins with cooking basics and advances to cooking with emphasis on high-altitude preparations and adjustments. At the end of the basic instruction, students spend all day learning to cook over camp fires and coals and with Dutch ovens. The students divide into different groups and cook different stages of a meal. The horsemanship classes in the Basic Program explain fundamentals used throughout the advanced courses. Students learn differences between mules, horses and other members of the equine family. They’re instructed in COAGS’s system of catching, grooming, saddling, controlling an animal in the round pen and trail riding and dismounting in the mountains. A basic knowledge of equine nutrition, health issues and psychology is also emphasized.

For two subjects, fly fishing and outdoor writing, photography and videography, COAGS’s brings in outside or guest speakers. The fly-fishing speaker, Ed Engle, has guided all over North America and speaks at fly-fishing venues across the United States during the winter months. He teaches casting, knots, studying hatches and other aspects of the art of fly fishing. The outdoor writing, photography and videography portion of the Basic Program is presented by Rocky Mountain Television’s Kathy Matoon and Andy Lightbody. Students use digital cameras to learn the proper ways to take pictures for their clients and personal uses, and they’re taught ways to use the pictures and possibly writing to enhance their personal careers.

The three advanced classes are all two-week programs and have a common first-week class – Pack Week. During this week, students learn to plan a pack trip, man-tie loads and lead pack animals. Packing is becoming a lost art, and COAGS takes tremendous pride in teaching students how to pack on Decker saddles, sawbucks and riding saddles. They also learn how to tie five different hitches to secure their packs to the stock. Students actually pack to the tent camp and spend several nights living in a tent-camp setting, which gives students hands-on experience of the work and preparation required to camp in the backcountry. While at tent camp, students are the guides, cooks and packers, while the instructors become their clients. Students rotate duties each day they’re in camp so they all have the opportunity to try the different jobs western outfitters may ask of an employee. Classes are taught on ways to secure stock in the backcountry, more tent construction, packing for feed and water and other functions of a tent camp.

Greg MillerThe second week of the Pro Guide and Outfitter class focuses on hunting. Students are taught guide/client and guide/outfitter responsibilities. The staff teaches the proper ways of scoring, field judging, field dressing and game care of all North American big-game species. Students spend more time in the saddle with a ride to an amazing view of Pikes National Forest and then another ride there in the dark early morning in time to see game at sunrise. Most of the hunting and scouting lectures are on these rides or as students hike around the outdoor campus. The staff points out elk, mule deer, bear, turkey and other big-game signs seen during these outings. Other North American species are covered in class room lectures. The final week, emphasis is placed on advanced leadership, people skills and starting your own business. The students learn firearm safety and learn to fire Thompson/Center Arms muzzleloaders. On their final day of class, students have a shooting competition and a field-judging practical, followed by their final exam and graduation.

The students in the Advanced Backcountry Horseman course also participate in Pack Week. The equine-oriented students spend most of that week in the saddle or in direct contact with the stock. Students are also instructed on outfitter, guide and client responsibilities. Students learn round-pen reasoning, advanced trail riding, how to maneuver over and around obstacles and opening and closing gates and gaps while mounted. COAGS teaches loading and unloading stock into and out of a trailer and hauling. Students administer shots and learn more about equine nutrition and health concerns. They ride in the cover of darkness both before and after sunset and leaving the herd. Advanced leadership and starting your own business are also topics taught in this class. On their last day, students have a practical and written exam with graduation following.

Greg MillerProfessional Fly Fishing is the final advanced class, and again, students participate in Pack Week. They’re also instructed in advanced leadership and starting their own businesses. The fly fishermen’s second weeks are mostly spent around water. They cover guide/client duties and a fly-fishing basics refresher course. They study river, small streams and lakes/reservoirs basics. River basics include reading water, aquatic entomology, wet and dry flies, streamers, and matching hatches and tactics. Small-stream basics consist of special casting, different tactics, reading water, attractor flies, hopper and dropper fishing and terrestrials. Lakes and reservoir basics focus on reading the lake and its entomology and the types of structures to look for while fly-fishing. Students learn how to use sinking and sink-tip fly lines, suspension fishing and fishing from a float tube. Aspiring fly-fishing guides learn to cast accurately and analyze and correct basic casting mistakes. Their final exam has two parts: a written exam and guiding scenario and practical.

The Whitetail Pro Guide and Management School is an infant course to COAGS. In this course, students learn many of the same basic outdoors’ skills as the Basic Program; however, this class focuses mainly on the whitetail industry. Students learn the proper ways of scoring antlers using the Boone & Crockett system and aging on-the-hoof.  Whitetail outfitters spend much time field judging bucks, so students receive instruction on the correct ways to score accurately on-the-hoof. The staff also learns about food plots, herd and quality deer management.

The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School’s staff is always ready to answer any questions, so you can call at 1-800-714-4864 or go to COAGS’s website The website has the new 2007 classes and contains graduate testimonials, pictures and much more. Remember, if you have dreams of a career in the outdoors or want to have more confidence in your wilderness skills, join the Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School where we bring possibility to dreams.

Tomorrow: The COAGS Experience

Check back each day this week for more about "The Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School with Willie Webb, Jr."

Day 1: Whitetails and Dreams
Day 2: What You’ll Learn at the Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School
Day 3: The COAGS Experience
Day 4: What is COAGS?
Day 5: COAGS’ Graduates and Their Futures


Entry 375, Day 2