The topic that we always need to keep coming back to as hunters and outdoorsmen is getting more people involved in hunting. The number of hunters declines every year as the older generation gets to a point where they can no longer hunt. How can we pass this way of life on to future hunters if they’re not taking up hunting? We have reached a point now, where some people who are interested or open to the idea of hunting have no idea where to start. If their parents weren’t hunters and they grew up in the city it can be daunting to try and figure out how to begin hunting. Finding a good mentor can be really difficult. Let’s talk about some ways to mentor someone new and get them started the right way.
It Starts With Food
I have found almost without exception, that the best way to approach a nonhunter is by sharing some of the wild game I have with them. Even people who can’t picture ever going hunting or killing an animal can get excited about some delicious wild protein. Ask around to find out which of your non-hunting, meat-eating friends is interested in trying some of the delicious venison, turkey, or fish you have. I like to go through my deep freezer once a year and offer up a few extra pounds of meat to people I think could be interested in hunting. Don’t just give them the meat, but rather share the story of why you hunt, how hard you worked to find the animal you’re sharing with them, and your favorite way to prepare it. This is a great way to get people excited about wild game. Our secret weapon as hunters is that the meat we harvest is some of the best in the world. I would confidently place venison backstraps up against any Kobe beef filet mignon.
Focus On The Regulations
The next step in the process is to focus on the rules and regulations that make up modern hunting. Explain the history of the North American conservation model. This can quickly dispel the myth that hunters are bloodthirsty murderers who only care about racking up trophies. Of course, we know this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most hunters care deeply about the animals they hunt, those they don’t, and the natural world as a whole. However, this is something we need to verbalize—especially to potential new hunters. Give them a copy of the hunting regulations from your state for that year. Finally, encourage them to take a hunter safety class as soon as possible. Far from just teaching not to shoot your eye out, hunter safety classes feature a ton of good information from staying safe to processing game.
Hit The Range
The next step in the process is to meet up with the potential hunter at a shooting range. Start with a 22 rifle or crossbow. Both of these feature low recoil and are relatively easy to operate. Before any live ammo is fired walk them through the basics. Start with the 4 rules of firearm safety, explain and demonstrate how the firearm or bow works, and have them watch you shoot a few times. This will alleviate any surprises when they are ready to pull the trigger. Whatever you do, don’t push them into anything they’re not comfortable with. If they want to try a shotgun or centerfire rifle, help them out. Forcing them to shoot something they’re not ready for can ingrain bad shooting habits and even turn them off shooting altogether.
Go Over The Plan
Before you hit the woods, talk through a blueprint of how the day will go. Look at a map and discuss how you’re going to hunt. Using a blind can be a great way for a new hunter to start as it provides a lot of concealment which can cover up some noises/movements that would spook game in a treestand. Make sure and describe where to aim on the animal you’re hunting. Emphasis should be on making an ethical shot and causing no unnecessary suffering.
Point out things like checking the wind, looking for animal tracks/sign in the woods, and how the animal you’re hunting uses the landscape. Make sure and set reasonable expectations from the get-go. Focus on enjoying the experience and the time in the woods. If you see the animal you’re chasing that’s a big win. They shouldn’t expect to be successful the first time out. It’s possible and will put a big exclamation point on the day, but great hunters go weeks without finding deer sometimes. If your hunter gets an animal congratulate them and help walk them through the cleaning and butchering process.
Many new hunters go out once but never go hunting again. One of the main reasons cited is that it’s too hard to find a place to hunt. Check back in with the new hunter periodically and ensure that they understand how to ask for permission on private land and scout on public. Offer to be available from time to time to answer questions and point them in the right direction. When I started hunting, it was a big boost of confidence to have some people I could call for help with strategy questions or to come out and track a deer with me.
Pay It Forward
Mentoring a new hunter can be a very rewarding experience. We have a duty to the hunting community to help recruit the next generation. Proper population control and hunter based game management depends on having enough hunters to do so. As an added benefit, you will find that teaching someone else to hunt will make you a better hunter. It’s one thing to be able to execute a concept, but explaining it to someone else can cement your understanding.
If you do a good job as a hunting mentor, you will be ensuring that the way of life we value will continue. You may also find a great new hunting buddy for life. The learning comes full circle when they mentor a new hunter of their own someday. Find someone this fall who’s interested in learning to hunt and get them started the right way!