Introducing a nonhunter to hunting is one of the most important things any conservationist can do to further the efforts of protecting our country’s natural resources and wild spaces. Conservationists hunt not only because it is the primary means of funding conservation efforts throughout the country, but also because it is a scientifically-sound and effective way to manage natural resources and just a great way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
Hunting, however, can be intimidating for those just beginning their journey in the outdoors. Luckily though, the outdoors community is full of dedicated individuals to help guide those just starting out, from how to shoulder a gun to how to cook a backstrap properly (DO NOT OVERCOOK IT).
If you’re relatively new to hunting, you probably aren’t ready to be a mentor yet, and, similarly, just because you’ve been hunting for years, doesn’t mean you’re mentor material, either.
“Being a mentor is not only the knowledge of how to hunt,” said Travis Sumner, NWTF Hunting Heritage Center and habitat manager. “Most mentors have years of hunting knowledge but also know how to manage the habitat of the animals they pursue and have the ethics and sportsmanship that comes with hunting.”
If you’re taking someone hunting and you’re still itching to shoot something, you are not ready to be a mentor. A clear sign that you’re ready to start mentoring is when you are more concerned with your mentee’s harvest and experience than your own pursuits.
“Most mentors will tell you that they have hunted and harvested plenty of game,” Sumner said. “The excitement of harvesting the animal is now in the excitement and thrill of watching a new hunter take their first animal.”
While knowing how to handle a firearm safely and hunt and process an animal properly are not the only traits needed to be a mentor, they are essential ones. Knowing the following skills and being able to articulate them to a new hunter are definite qualities if you want to be a mentor:
- How to safely handle and operate a firearm and/or a bow
- Know all laws and regulations around the specific type of hunting you are doing
- How to make an effective and ethical kill shot
- How to sanitarily field dress wild game
- Where and how to transport the animal
- Dedicated hunting experience, whether that be one year or several
- Being able to show your mentee how to cook his or her game is a plus, too
Habitat Conservation and Ethics
The ability to explain to your mentee that hunting and natural resource conservation go hand-in-hand can be advantageous in steering their ethical compass. Allowing your mentee to see themselves as part of a larger picture for the greater good and as part of a tradition that is fundamentally American can inspire them and add another level of purpose to their hunt other than recreation and sustenance.
While there is no exact moment that will let you know, “I can mentor now,” you are more than likely ready if you meet most of the guidelines listed above. But, acting on becoming a mentor truly comes down to when you feel comfortable sharing your passion for the hunt with others.
“For me, it is all about giving back to the resources and the heritage,” Sumner said. “To share the outdoors with someone who may not have ever experienced the morning sunrise, the woods waking up in the morning, the sound of wind whistling through the wings of ducks coming in, the first gobble of the morning, watching a deer appearing out of nowhere into view or watching someone smile after they shoot their first dove, to me, is what it is all about.
“Sharing these experiences with a new hunter gives me satisfaction each time. Many of our NWTF mentors will tell you they are not worried about filling tags anymore; they would rather take someone new and watch them fill their first tag.”