By Bethany Erb
What is it that hooks us? When was your defining moment that you realized you loved to hunt and it was a part of you?
For many people it’s the early childhood experiences with a parent, cousin or grandpa. But what about the person that doesn’t start early? How do they begin? Many people don’t have the opportunity early in life because of certain factors such as not living in a rural area, lack of mentors etc. I wasn’t an early bloomer; I grew up around hunting, but preferred horses. I found hunting intimidating and for men…that was until my college roommate Amanda said let’s go hog hunting (northern CA). So we went and I was hooked!
I’m glad I started when I did, but wish I had gotten into the field a little sooner. This year I had the opportunity to take my daughter (Gracie who is 3.5) along to scout for elk. She has seen me go and knew exactly what to do. She grabbed an orange hat and camo vest and packed fruit snacks, Fruit Loops, peanut butter crackers and an orange juice in her tiny Hello Kitty bag. Gracie, the little fashionista, already knows Camo is the New Black!
After she dressed (checked herself out in the full-length mirror) and packed the appropriate 3-year-old munchies she asked, “Mamma, do elk like marshmallows”? “No”, I replied “but why”? “Because I’m going to bring my marshmallow gun and shoot them with marshmallows so they can have a yummy treat”!
Her reaction was pretty cute and made me very thankful she will have the opportunity to grow up as a hunter.
But back to my earlier question, what about the person that doesn’t start as early? I met to two people this fall that learned the ropes on their own. One friend taught himself how to gut a deer and how to hunt from reading online articles. Another woman I met just last weekend was a waitress where I had dinner. She was probably in her mid-20s and was so excited she had gone elk hunting for the first time and loved it! She also cleaned and packed out her own deer (which sounded like quite a feat!). She was very proud of herself- and should be! Their stories are inspiring, but for many people the prospect of learning to hunt on their own is non-starter.
youngsters about conservation, and hunters safety. MDF’s program MULEY (Mindful, Understanding, Legal, Ethical, Youth) focuses on getting urban and single-parent children in the outdoors as well as any kid that is interested. I believe it’s important to support those programs and all others that introduce kids to the outdoors. But we also have a chance later in life to bring a friend along for the ride. Most long-time hunters would be surprised how many adults are truly interested in hunting, but are just a little too intimidated to ask how. It’s not always easy to slow down and take a new hunter into the field, but we owe it to ourselves and or kids to bring more hunters into the field that will appreciate continue the tradition.
Next time a non-hunter asks you about hunting, invite them to ride along….they just might get hooked!
Bethany Erb is a hunter and angler born and raised in Montana. She advocates for the resource as a board member of the Mule Deer Foundation and volunteering with other sportsmen conservation organizations. This is Bethany’s second post (thanks Bethany!) – see her first post here!