By Colby Kerber
Days spent in the office can often be a grind, sorting through emails and juggling a virtual meeting schedule. But on this late summer day it was different. On my desk was a stack of hundreds of submissions from the previous year’s Hunter Mentor Pledge, in which dedicated outdoorsmen and women from across the country took action by mentoring new hunters of all ages and then submitting their stories. As I began to scan through the inspiring narratives, my mindset quickly gave way to gratitude and reflection.
Family members, co-workers, neighbors, veterans, chapter volunteers, and even complete strangers embarked on a journey to help “save our outdoor lifestyle” by introducing somebody new to our hunting community.
A beaming smile from Ashley as she snapped a selfie with her mom in the treestand. A priceless North Dakota sunrise over the prairie for new upland hunter Mike and his coworker Brett. A snapshot of the new friendship Marty and Miguel built while small-game hunting in the snowy Midwest. These are just a few examples of the many participants who decided to share an outdoor experience with someone new.
Most sportsmen and women realize the importance of our outdoor lifestyle, and many hunters have a desire to give new individuals the opportunity to experience it. There is such enjoyment and a sense of accomplishment when mentors share their wealth of knowledge and experiences with someone. Some of the submitted stories had my heart racing, as I could sense the passion and emotion from just the photos and script.
“This past December, my son and I shared the mentoring duties of introducing his wife (my daughter-in-law) to pheasant hunting and the upland way of life,”
shared Robert. “In early September, they added a new Brittany pup, ‘Red’ to their family. Sophie has assisted in the training and working of her pup along with our older dogs since that time.”
“As we moved through the field in search of pheasants, we could not have scripted the hunt any better as Red locked in on his first point in front of Sophie. A very strong-flying rooster came up out of the cover cackling loud and bold as the sunshine radiated off his coat of many colors. To be able to witness this and be a part of the learning process that went into this hunt was very rewarding and special. From the look on Sophie's face when she was admiring her first bird, this old hunter has a strong hunch that there will be more bird hunting trips in the future for this family.”
Stories like Robert’s are the reason why Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are doubling down on our R3 efforts and are pleased to announce a second year of the Mentor Pledge with ALPS OutdoorZ. Last month Philip from Utah and his mentee Patrick, were selected at random from those who participated in the 2020/21 pledge, and they will be heading to Harpole’s Heartland Lodge on a guided hunt! We also drew hunting gear and firearm winners from Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia to reward people for their efforts inspiring the next generation of hunters.
If you were one of the many people who took the pledge, THANK YOU! If not, hunting season is just around the corner, and again we will be incentivizing mentorship with giveaways including a guided hunt provided by South Dakota Tourism. Remember, you can mentor someone in any form of legal hunting. In fact, last year we had individuals from age 6 to 60 harvest their first deer, pheasant, quail, woodcock, duck, goose, dove, turkey, wild hog, rabbit, chucker, and even elk!
“It is the friendships and family bonds created through outdoor experiences that build lasting memories and strengthen our communities,” says Adam Brune of ALPS OutdoorZ. “Hunting supports habitat conservation and recreational access. I encourage all hunters to share their love of the outdoors with someone new, to keep our hunting heritage strong for years to come. We look forward to making this year’s Mentor Pledge even more impactful, as we have a responsibility to take care of wild places.”
The continued recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunter-conservationists requires all hands on deck. The Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever R3 vision is a vibrant base of outdoor enthusiasts actively supporting conservation through participation in upland hunting, to provide sustainable communities that achieve the cultural, social, and economic benefits of pheasant & quail country. This is the time for coordinated and widespread action not just by conservation organizations, but industry partners, wildlife agencies, and the hunting community, too.
There are many ways to get people to care about conservation, however there's no substitute for personal experience. Directly connecting individuals to the natural world through hands-on hunting experience is tough to beat. Sharing the importance of how healthy ecosystems provide clean air, food, and water might be the most powerful way there is to create an active hunting advocate.
Whether it be kids or novice adults who want to experience the traditions we love and cherish, we should provide them with experiences that will leave a lasting, positive impact on their lives. At the end of the day, a successful hunt isn’t measured by the harvest but the humility of the experience itself.
Simply put, when you have the opportunity to create a Path to the Uplands for someone new…do it. The time is right now. Don’t let it pass! Take ownership, take action, take the Mentor Pledge.
Colby Kerber is Hunting Heritage Program Manager for PF and QF
For more information on the Hunter Mentor Pledge, click here.