The following post comes to us from Barbara Baird, a regular contributor to NSSF.org’s “Hunting and Shooting Opportunities” section. This article and others like it — as well as information about hunting and shooting opportunities in every state — can be found at nssf.org/events.
10 Ways to Find a Hunting Mentor
Programs that provide guidance to budding sportsmen and women
The trend reflecting hunting participation climbs upward. According to preliminary figures released in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife-associated recreation, 9 percent more people older than the age of 16 hunted in 2011 than in 2006. Thirteen percent more youth between the ages of 6 and 15 went hunting. Spurred by state wildlife agencies incorporating mentored hunting programs, along with national sportsmen’s organizations’ efforts, hunting numbers continue to increase in all age groups.
For many adults, going hunting with mentor is an opportunity to relive a reprogrammed childhood, as they absorb knowledge, techniques and ethics crucial for safe and responsible hunting.
Here are 10 ways to find a mentored hunting program:
- Check locally. One of the best ways to find youth-only mentored hunts in your state is to visit your state’s natural resources or wildlife agency’s website to see the dates for youth hunting seasons. Often, a search for “youth hunts” yields mentored hunt opportunities. Furthermore, these hunts are beneficial not only for the youngsters. Most events require parents or guardians to accompany their children and what better way to learn than to sit beside your child in a classroom and walk beside him on a bird hunt, or sit with her in a blind?
- Find out if the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is holding a JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship) event in your area. Quite often, JAKES or Xtreme JAKES events include a weekend of training and then, hunting. Learn more about JAKES.
- Pheasants Forever has offered more than 60,000 youth an opportunity to experience mentored hunts in the past 15 years. Volunteer hunters from Pheasants Forever teach firearm safety, wildlife habitat and hunting techniques. The best way to find a mentored hunt is to locate a Pheasants Forever chapter near you and contact it.
- Ducks Unlimited Youth Waterfowl Days offer opportunities for “Greenwings” to learn how to identify and hunt waterfowl. Learn more about Ducks Unlimited’s opportunities for you.
- Delta Waterfowl also offers youth mentored hunting events. Youth who send Delta Waterfowl the stories of their first duck hunt receive First Duck Pins. Learn more about Delta Waterfowl’s Mentored Hunts.
- Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) offers membership in its newly formed Rack Pack outreach program. This program provides inexperienced hunters with skills needed to hunt whitetails, with its free online curriculum and associated activities and acclaimed National Youth Hunt, held annually in the fall on selected properties. Find out more about upcoming events for Rack Pack members.
- The Mule Deer Foundation teamed with Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, a national organization. With its new M.U.L.E.Y. (Mindful, Understanding, Legal and Ethical Youth) program, the organization will offer mentored hunting opportunities.
- For women who prefer learning to hunt in the company of other women, the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program offers a variety of hunting opportunities, often partnering with state agencies and national organizations. Or, check out the Women in the Outdoors program offered by the NWTF, or the Women on Target hunts, sponsored by the National Rifle Association.
- Veterans’ mentored events offer one-on-one experiences. Pennsylvania’s Game Commission decided to extend archery season this year for veterans, to Mon., Nov. 12. By partnering with state chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, it invited the public to take a veteran hunting on Veteran’s Day. Those who offered to mentor a veteran were entered in a drawing for one of six framed fine-art wildlife prints. While Pennsylvania serves as a shining example of what a state can do to promote hunting for veterans, national organizations such as Wounded Warriors in Action and HAVA (Honored American Veterans Afield) also provide mentor-based hunting outings.
- The aforementioned Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors, Inc., grew from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks’ efforts into a nonprofit organization that mentors youth hunts in Alabama, Alaska, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Learn more about Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors.
NSSF has partnered in an education and outreach program that creates and supports hunting opportunities for youth and families. Called Families Afield, the program is a partnership initiated by the NSSF, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and National Wild Turkey Federation and supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and National Rifle Association. Helpful links at the site include recommendations to get involved with hunting mentorships and hunting research and a map that shows age limits for youth hunters.