We’ve talked before about the 3Rs and why they are so important. I want to talk a bit more about the recruitment aspect of hunting. Hunting is currently suffering from a lack of participation. As we’ve discussed previously, conservation is paid for by sales of hunting equipment, hunting licenses, and ammunition. As participation in hunting decreases the funding goes down. So what can you do to help? Here are some ideas to help get a new hunter started:
- Figure out what they want to hunt. Not everyone is going to be ready to hunt a charismatic megafauna like a deer for their first time. However, turkey can be a great animal for new hunters to chase. We are culturally used to eating them and they are not particularly cute. Also, they are a blast to hunt and can get you out into the woods before all the deer hunters head out. Small game is also a great option for a new hunter.
- Go over the regulations. Many states like Michigan have an apprentice program where an experienced hunter can take someone hunting with little or no experience. The new hunter is not even required to take hunter safety at this point. This means that you are responsible for teaching them the basics when it comes to rules, regulations, and being an ethical outdoorsman. Be a positive role model.
- Take them out target shooting. Whether or not they have prior shooting experience will determine how you should start. If they have no weapons experience start with a 22 rifle and then work up to the round they will be hunting with. Archery hunting is also a viable option for a new hunter, but they may be better served using a crossbow their first few times out. Make sure the new hunter can hit the target accurately enough at a designated range (50 yards for example). Cover the basics such as safe weapon handling, trigger control, and patience.
- Take them out to hunt. Once you feel that they grasp the basics and can handle their crossbow or firearm safely take them out on a real hunt. Hunt out of a ground blind. Help them spot the animal you are hunting. Make sure they are comfortable with the range and encourage them to take the shot when appropriate. If they are unsuccessful be encouraging and let them know that its called hunting for a reason. At this point, rather than focusing on bagging an animal, focus on enjoying the outdoors.
- If they get an animal, help walk them through the process of field dressing and or butchering. Not everyone is going to be up to the task of dressing an animal on their first hunting trip, but don’t discourage them and help them get through the process. A lot of people have gotten turned off hunting when it comes time to get the knife out. Make it a positive experience and even if they can’t do it the first time, they may come around.
- Stay in touch. You don’t have to take them out every time you go hunting, but be a resource that they can call or text for advice. Offer to help track a wounded animal if they lose one. Check-in and see how their season is going. Encourage them to try hunting a new species.
Beginning to hunt can be an intimidating process for someone who wasn’t exposed to it growing up. The more we can tout the benefits and positive aspects of hunting, the more likely the new hunter is to make it a lifelong pursuit. Be a positive steward of the outdoors and help mentor a new hunter.