About 30 of us gathered in the social area at Dismal River Club near Mullen, Nebraska. The conversation was deep, but flowing, as we discussed a solemn topic: the loss of hunters across the country.
Representatives that spanned the hunting-media spectrum —television, social media, publications, etc. — were there. Hunting gear manufacturers and retailers, as well as a state wildlife agency, joined the discussion. The group was diverse because the problem affects every segment of the outdoor industry, conservation and the future of our way of life.
We hunted together, we socialized and we delved into this worrisome topic on more than one occasion. It was a forum, conceived by Eric Dinger with Powderhook, made possible by numerous sponsors who understood the need to get us all in the room together.
The hunting was great for some and difficult for others. My hunting partner, Dennis Brune, owner of ALPS Brands, and I faced a difficult morning with little gobbling on the roost and topography challenges that nearly put this lowlander in the ground. Just when things were about to connect, turkeys do what turkeys do and surprised us by materializing where we didn’t expect them to and way too close for comfort. Following the chaos that ensued, we had a confirmed double. Yep, we both missed.
With heads hung low, we rode back to the club for a lunch and much-needed nap before heading to another spot for the afternoon. Birds were already in the area we planned to hunt, and with some stealthy maneuvering, we set up against big cedar on the edge of a culvert, through which a stream bubbled below.
Aggressive calling drew one strutter from a group of hens, jakes and toms that noisily milled about in an open meadow about 150 yards from our setup. When he reached the opening, Dennis flipped him. All of the other turkeys ran in to inspect, bully or maintain dominance. I picked off another tom from the group, leaving two on the ground, side by side. The double miss was balanced by a double kill — a grand adventure.
Back to the discussion. As we tossed around all of the reasons why folks drop out of hunting or don’t try it, we kept circling back to the same topic: mentors. Mentors are the key. Someone to invite a new person out, show them the ropes and provide the support they need to become comfortable hunting on their own. That’s how we’ll reverse the downward trend of hunting.
It must be a grassroots effort. Each of us must take it upon ourselves to introduce someone to hunting. No longer can we be selfish in our hunting pursuits. We have to sacrifice our own success to help someone else become successful.
More than likely, someone mentored you, just like someone mentored me. As Dinger said: “Honor your mentor by passing your passion on to someone else.” And don’t just focus on your family. Ask a coworker, church member, neighbor, anybody. Just invite someone, and you can help save our traditions and way of life.