Taking a first-time hunter into the field comes with challenges. Kathryn Boswell of Wyoming Game and Fish offers these tips to help mentors.
Encourage new hunters to take a hunter education class. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1966, needs hunter education to hunt in Wyoming. If there isn’t time before this year’s hunt, you can enroll in the hunter mentor program.
Plan to be as comfortable as possible. Pack snacks, dress in layers and use hand warmers and foot warmers. Later on, being cold and hungry might make for a good story, but in the moment a new hunter could be miserable enough to quit.
Prioritize and support safety skills. A new hunter might not know how to belly crawl or cross a fence comfortably with a firearm. Take time to teach your field skills safely.
Focus on the experience, not just the harvest. Point out the beauty that surrounds you — blue skies, open spaces, trees and other wildlife. While we enjoy the harvest, the experience of the hunt lasts forever, too.
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Be supportive. Hunting — and especially a first harvest — can be emotional. It’s been referred to as a “melancholic joy.” Taking an animal can evoke many emotions, and they might not match your own. Listen or observe, and be thoughtful and understanding.
Keep it relaxed. If a new hunter is frustrated or tired, it is OK to take a break. Make plans to head out that evening or the next day.
If your new hunter does harvest, the mentorship doesn’t end there. Show new hunters how to field dress, process and cook their game to reap all the benefits of hunting you enjoy. If appropriate, help them meet other hunters, share books, social media accounts or podcasts you enjoy and make plans for future hunts.
Learning to hunt can be complicated with so many different skills, but mentoring someone along their process can be just as meaningful for you as it is for them.