Introducing new hunters into the outdoors and bringing lapsed hunters back into the fold is a crucial part of the NWTF mission. Many know, an excise tax on ammunition and firearms is distributed to states based on a state’s number of active hunters, land size and population size.
In short, hunters who buy hunting licenses, firearms and ammunition create more opportunities for conservation work between organizations like the NWTF and state natural resources agencies. The NWTF is, therefore, endlessly devoted to increasing the number of hunters nationally to bolster conservation efforts in every state.
Whether you’ve been introducing people to the outdoors for decades or are looking to start, mentoring new hunters is a great way to further the NWTF mission, preserve America’s hunting heritage and just have an overall rewarding experience. There are, however, certain criteria new hunters look for in a mentor that can increase their likelihood of getting outdoors.
A recent study produced by Wildlife Management Institute dispelled some misconceptions in the Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) community and highlighted specific examples of what most new or lapsed hunters look for from a mentor. It also reiterated that there is substantial opportunity to increase both mentoring efforts and hunting participation.
Here are seven quick tips for mentors and those looking to mentor:
Gender and Age are Nonessential
Despite what was previously thought on this subject, the larger majority of nonhunters said gender and age do not matter when it comes to their mentor. If you think you’re too old or too young, forget those notions; mentees are predominately seeking a mentor with experience. The primary barriers faced by those interested in hunting are not having a teacher and not having enough knowledge. If you can fill this void, that’s all that matters.
When it comes to learn-to-hunt programs, state natural resource agencies and national non-profits, like the NWTF, were the top ways nonhunters interested in hunting preferred to learn. Keep in mind, those who actively mentor new hunters represent a small portion of all licensed hunters in the country. If we increased the number of mentors, even just slightly, it could make a huge impact on R3 efforts. If you’ve been on the fence or just don’t know where to start, reach out to your local state natural resource agency or get in contact with your local NWTF chapter. You are needed and can make a difference.
Safety is Key
Firearms can be particularly intimidating to nonhunters. Keep in mind that someone’s first learn-to-hunt experience is often their first time handling a firearm too. If you can make them feel safe while familiarizing them with a firearm, they are more likely to revisit the experience.
Chances are, if you are a mentor, you already possess patience, but for those thinking of mentoring, being patient with someone as they learn a barrage of new information is important. Many learn-to-hunt programs pack a substantial amount of information into a few days. This can be a lot to absorb, especially for those with no hunting background. Whether it’s showing them for the fifth time how to sight in their scope or reiterating to point the muzzle in a safe direction, being patient is likely to make someone want to get back into the woods.
Teach Field Dressing
Considering one of the top reasons nonhunters want to learn to hunt is to supply themselves with meat, teaching proper field dressing can bring them one step closer to their goal. Cleaning an animal can be an intimidating process for someone who has never done or seen it before. Guiding them through this and explaining it in detail can provide a great learning experience and will provide the knowledge they need when they go afield alone.
Ask and Engage
Do not be afraid to ask someone if they want to learn to hunt, even if they show just the slightest inclination. Casually asking acquaintances could lead to the creation of a lifelong hunter. Whether it’s your co-worker, barber or neighbor, simply extending the offer to someone can go a long way.
Depending where in the country you are, finding quality hunting access is often hard enough for those who have been hunting their whole lives, let alone those just starting out. If you have access to quality hunting land, don’t be afraid to share. Often, where public land is less available, nonhunters attend a learn-to-hunt event but then have nowhere to hunt afterward.
Mentoring a new hunter is a rewarding experience for both the mentor and the mentee. For a mentee, it is meaningful that someone is willing to wake up at 4 a.m. to go sit out in the cold to teach you the fundamentals. Likewise, for the mentor, someone is entrusting you with teaching them a life skill.
Getting more hunters outdoors is important for conservation efforts as a whole and for preserving a way of life that is so purely American.
To find a local NWTF chapter, visit: https://www.nwtf.org/about/nation.