For many hunters, there’s nothing quite like the great feeling that comes from introducing someone to hunting. Witnessing a new hunter on their first trip afield and all that goes with it – the sunrises and bird songs, the earthy smell of autumn, and glimpsing deer moving through the trees – is a reminder of how gratifying it is to share those experiences.
However, as much as we may want to introduce a new hunter, sometimes it’s hard to know the best way to do that.
Because there’s no better source of information about what new hunters need than new hunters, we’re offering perspectives from a young couple who recently went hunting for the first time.
Chris Gregory and Rianna Barbary attended a Deer Hunting 101 workshop in 2020, hosted by the University of Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
This free workshop, which was held at Austin Cary Forest in Gainesville, was designed for college-aged students with little or no hunting experience who were interested in learning how to deer hunt.
“The two-day workshop started with a classroom portion where we met local hunting experts that explained the different parts of hunting including biology, laws, and the different types of hunting. We learned the background of hunting and how, as hunters, we’re a part of wildlife conservation,” Rianna said. “The other sections included hands-on learning, such as how to set up treestands and properly hold and aim crossbows. It was enjoyable because it felt like we were joining a community of people that really had a passion for helping and teaching others, which in turn made us feel more comfortable to start hunting.”
After the workshop, Chris and Rianna used their new skills during actual hunts guided by volunteer mentors from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s Gator Gobblers Chapter. Chris and Rianna were able to harvest three deer over the course of two hunts. The opportunity to fill their freezer with healthy and delicious protein is one of the reasons they wanted to try hunting.
“Chris was already an avid fisherman and we have always enjoyed the outdoors,” Rianna said. “Once the pandemic caused food shortages in our area, we decided it would be good to know about hunting in addition to fishing to provide food for our family.”
Rianna said she and Chris hope to deer hunt again during the 2021-2022 season, and credit the workshop and mentored hunt for fostering their interest in hunting.
“The hunt was an enjoyable experience, which made us want to come back,” Rianna said. “The Gator Gobblers volunteers were welcoming and each guide provided us with even more information. We had never used crossbows before so, without the workshop, I doubt we would have been able to use a crossbow so early in our hunting journey.”
The next Deer Hunting 101 workshop is slated for Oct. 30. If you know of college aged students who want to learn new outdoor skills, let them know about the free Deer Hunting 101 workshop held Oct. 30, 2021, at Austin Cary Forest in Gainesville. Search for that event at MyFWC.com by clicking on “Things to Do” and then “Calendar of Events.”
While the Deer Hunting 101 workshop is an important gateway for introducing new hunters, it’s not the only way. If you know someone – a friend, family member, neighbor or coworker – who shows an interest in hunting, invite them on your next outing, even if you’re just scouting. Rianna shared that mentored scouting trips to a local wildlife management area would be beneficial and could address basic questions, such as when to scout and how to find good places to hunt.
“Hunting can seem overwhelming if someone has never been introduced to it. Not everyone comes from a hunting family. Therefore, I think when teaching adults how to hunt you must be someone that is professional, personable and patient,” Rianna said. “Hunting mentors need to know how important it is to explain from start to finish how hunting should go – from the time you wake up to the time you process your deer.”
Those with a passion for mentoring new hunters also might want to explore becoming a volunteer for the FWC’s Hunter Safety Program or its Youth Hunting in Florida Program.
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