Pass It Along! - with Ben Van Devender
As a hunter, we often enjoy the seclusion that hunting brings us. The disconnect from the modern world that provides a rest to something simple and primitive is often as rewarding as obtaining the quarry we seek. However, I find it imperative to pass along the tradition and skills that hunting encompasses. Afterall, hunter numbers have been at all-time lows for the last several years, and with low hunter numbers our sport has never been in more jeopardy. It seems simple, but the truth is for many of us giving up our already valuable time to teach new hunters seems like a chore. Remember the greatest gift of all for hunters new and old is knowledge, and while you don’t need to spoon feed a new hunter encouragement, tips, and wisdom from experienced hunters is often all they need to keep their head high and continue to make strides toward success.
Seek out new hunters on the plethora of hunting boards and websites we use daily. You can even simply be a mentor to one of the many fatherless boys and girls who often have no way to be exposed to hunting much less the great outdoors. Church organizations are often full of willing people wanting to assist in getting kids and young adults exposed to outdoor activities. A simple day taking these new hunters squirrel hunting can provide the exposure that drives their longing for learning more. Teaching them about tracks, trees, and simply how local nature and ecosystems work is a wonderful way to pay it forward. My point is it often does not take much effort on our part. I have set aside several half days to assist and have found a plethora of young adult males who have an interest but have never had the means to obtain the information to pursue their outdoor interests. As experienced hunters, the ball is in our court and we can change that.
As a father to a wonderful daughter, I have had the pleasure of learning the nuances of exposing girls to hunting. Luckily, my daughter took to hunting, and we have made many great memories just sitting in the woods, and as the old saying goes, back then that’s all she thought we were doing. My wife however was never interested in hunting, but she loved to fish. 17 years of being together, she finally decided she would go. Now, when you take someone and mentor them, you have to acknowledge and respect their limitations. Remember the slow turtle wins the race. So, some new hunters are terrified of the walk in the dark, others have a disdain for waking up before 5am, and others have a preconceived notion that we are just out there killing to kill. When you take someone regardless of who they are, you are breaking their preconceived notions, by respecting their boundaries. If they cannot shoot the deer, do not let it bother you, some just don’t have it them to harvest an animal. This was the notion I had in my head regarding my wife. I did not think she would have it in her to go from hunter, to harvester. She was not a morning person either, so I took that into account. This day was about her not me, so I planned to get setup in the stand within 5 minutes of daylight. I did my homework and knew a buck frequented this stand within 15-30 minutes of first light and would make a nice quick hunt if he decided to follow his pattern. So, with the morning light rising, we made are way into the stand. I soon found out she was not keen on heights, but she endured the climb and got situated. By this time, it is 705am. Let me be honest and say the complaining commenced, so I respectfully let her know that we were only going to sit till 8am max as no deer usually came by after 8am at this location. 710 comes and goes, then 720 and no deer to my dismay. Then I hear her say, “I saw something.” I peered around and could see a deer coming down the wood line. Sure, enough her comes the one-sided 2point buck I had been getting on camera. I turned to talk to her and saw she was already in position with her crossbow on the shooting rail. I told her to make sure he was broadside before shooting, she acknowledged. The deer began to mill around and gave us the perfect opportunity. Before I could tell her that, she had already let one fly. I heard the impact, and the buck took off, buckling and then stopping about 20yds away. She looked at me and said, “why did he run?’’ to which I replied its normal just wait. After about 5 seconds of just standing in place the buck fell over. She was shaking, and ecstatic. A huge hug, and then she looked at me and said it’s not big. To which I replied success in hunting is never truly measured by number of points or inches, this was your first deer and be proud for the bounty that has been provided. It will be a day I will never forget and is as cherished as any animal I have ever taken.
All it takes is time, and all of us can help embed and protect our tradition and sport. Just as our sport needs game to hunt, we need hunters that provide conservation fees, and voices to protect our privileges and rights.