Having success in the area of hunter recruitment, retention and reactivation is exhilarating news. Discovering your Learn to Hunt program is producing new hunters, as well as excited, quality mentors, is the icing on the proverbial cake.
That is just what Kelly and Arthur Gnodtke found when they reviewed their Learn to Hunt program in Wisconsin. As the chapter volunteers continued to learn more about R3 — particularly how important it is to invest in those in their early 20s — they began to evaluate their program and the new hunter numbers within the program.
The late Mike Keefe started the Learn to Hunt program, and the Gnodtkes have led it for the past four years. The program has been growing each year in positive ways.
“We have observed an increase in young adults and women hunters (in the program),” Kelly Gnodtke said. “We believe that those numbers are a reflection of the Learn to Hunt program coming full circle, as we now have eight young mentors in our organization that were once Learn to Hunt hunters. The Learn to Hunt program made such an impact on their life that they believe it is important for them to mentor as well.”
Kelly said they have found their new mentors enjoy taking out youth hunters in general, but they also find value in taking out friends and older family members who may not have been exposed to hunting at a young age.
“By mentoring friends, not only do they get the Learn to Hunt experience, but they also may have a future hunting partner for years to come,” she said of the program’s young mentors.
Those mentors know the value of the Learn to Hunt program and are ready to help others learn.
Tyler Grisar, 20, came through the chapter’s Learn to Hunt program and feels the program has a lot to offer new hunters. So much so, that he is now a mentor in the program.
“It provides a way to join in on a lifestyle that is hard to do if you were not born into it,” Grisar said. “It really helps having an experienced person teaching you the tricks of the trade rather than going in blind. Hunting is a passion of mine that has opened up doors to new friends and an extremely healthy lifestyle. I have taken both my 12-year-old sister and my friend’s 60-year-old dad out on hunts, and they both showed the same excitement and pride when they were able to harvest their birds.”
Mentor Mitchell Schmit, 23, echoed the same.
“Since I was fortunate enough to have uncles as mentors, I wanted to follow in their footsteps and begin to mentor others as well,” he said. “It’s to the point where I get more excited seeing a new hunter have success than when I do myself.
“I think it (this Learn to Hunt program) gives an opportunity to new hunters to hunt with some of the best mentors in the state. Not only do they have a good chance at getting a bird, but we teach them as we go. It’s not an experience you can find for free very often.”