Back in early December of 2017 Dalton Silverthorne (FLO Chairman) told me about a guide school he went through, completed and worked at for a stint of time. He told me about how the school accepted the GI Bill and/or Vocational Rehab for payment. Now in my experience with Military Benefits i felt it was hard to believe that my GI Bill would cover such a school. So I took it with a grain a salt and started my research. I found out that the school is not only state and nationally accredited but also VA (veteran affairs) approved. For anyone unfamiliar with this type of thing, it means that the benefits that an eligible veteran/active duty member have at their disposal are approving of this vocational school to include disabled veterans for vocational rehabilitation.
I contacted Jeff Miner at COAGS and with in the 30 minutes of talking with him I had every bit of information needed to get started. Jeffs knowledge of not only how his school is ran but of VA and GI Bill surpassed my expectations of what I thought I could do with my GI Bill. I requested my letter of approval for school through my Ebenfits and when I contacted Jeff again to tell him i am sending the letter, he had already received it from the VA. So in a matter of a couple weeks (little slow on my part) my concerns of "how is the VA or GI Bill ever going to approve a school so awesome as this" were put to bed and I was ecstatic to start this outdoor adventure to better myself and Front Line Outdoors.
I arrived at the airport in Grand Junction, CO late on a Sunday and with out a hitch I was picked up and taken to the Ranch. Was dark so it was hard to get my bearing and was waiting to see signs and such to say we are at Colorado Outdoor Adventure Guide School but all i seen was a long driveway with a sign saying "Hill Top House", I would soon learn why. I was put up in a nice quaint 3 man cabin and I settled in quickly to get some rest before breakfast at 8am sharp. I was greeted by Jeff at the house along with the other 10 students I was about to spend the next 7 weeks with. The atmosphere was light and was a great environment to be able to easily talk and quickly get to know everyone, so again my mind was set at ease. I struggle with new places and new people but the home like atmosphere with Jeff and Theresa Minor was more than welcoming.
Jeff Minor went through introductions of what to expect and how he does things. He is a Veteran himself and although he did not spend a long time in the Army he is highly versed in veteran interactions and how the VA System works and how he can help Veterans find a new path in life. At first he will come off a bit blunt and brash but its something to admire and not chastise. He honors what our Vets have done for this country, past and present, and has a very effective way on how to help this sometimes struggling community, HARD HONEST WORK and giving a purpose. Jeff explained his motives and teaching abilities and how he isn't the "flashy type" commenting on how he doesn't really advertise with big signs and such. In my opinion he should have a sign or two up but thats his style and I would soon learn I'd admire that about him.
I don't want to give away too much of what each course involves, I feel like it takes away of some of the adventure. I will say the Basic is a great intro to the operations of what a guide should be. Getting with the horses and such. Pro Course is a great two weeks going deeper into all duties of what an Outfitter Operation will have and helps you be well versed in each area. I can say for me I learned a lot. I feel if you go into this school with a "i know everything" attitude you will not get out what you should be getting out of the courses. I loved the constant interaction with Jeff and other staff members, when question were asked it was answered to all its aspects. Discussions of different things, I loved. I asked a lot of questions and started a lot of heated discussion, the knowledge Jeff and his Staff have is incredible and that allowed us to have great outcomes of each discussion with both or all parties learning something new each time. Jeff is not only knowledgeable but is a constant sponge, ready and willing to learn new things. So even at the young age of........early 50s and doing this work for over 25 years he still has a deep passion to pass on his knowledge to new and willing people.
In conclusion, I can say I left COAGS with some incredible knowledge of the outfitting industry and a sense of purpose again. It opened my eyes to more of just what I have exposed myself to which was very limited. I gained some great new friends and new life experiences. The mountainous terrain is something I have never experienced and now I can't wait to see it again. I would like to mention that class is from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, well it was turkey season. I did not get to harvest my first Merriam Tom but I got to hunt some country that was insanely gorgeous and I got to be a part of some successful hunts as well. So when you look into going to this school, remember just because you are at a school doesn't mean you can't get out and experience your surroundings. I logged over 25 miles of mountainous hiking, caught over 100 trout on a fly rod (first time fly fishing), and was able to find my first ever Elk Shed.