Each spring I greet spring gobbler season with a hunting vest filled with every imaginable piece of equipment that might spell success in the turkey woods. Throughout the season some items find a permanent home in the vest while others end up back on my workbench. Occasionally, with an unfilled tag remaining at the end of a long spring gobbler season, I find myself heading out with only my shotgun and single call.
Narrowing my selection down to a single call is not based on guesswork or random choice. By the end of a long spring gobbler season one call has proven its value in the turkey woods and gained my confidence.
As State Chapter President, I am fortunate to see the wide variety of activities more than 80 local chapters use to accomplish our Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt mission. And like my turkey hunting gear, some of these activities rise to the top and provide proven value and gain our confidence in meeting the mission.
One proven winner is mentored hunts and other activities associated with mentoring. Based on information from national research and studies done right here at home by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, mentoring is the most effective way to reach many of our Save the Hunt goals.
When many of us think of mentoring, we think of taking a young hunter out for a first time hunting experience. But statewide, local chapters are finding new and exciting ways to make mentoring effective for a wide variety of hunters at a wide variety of ages.
An important part of the NWTF’s Save the Hunt mission focuses on the R3 efforts of Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. And thanks to Pennsylvania’s local chapters there are excellent mentor hunting examples to fit each of the 3Rs.
Recruitment- When we think of mentoring, taking young hunters on a small game, turkey or deer hunt comes to mind. But, there are many other ways to recruit a young hunter, including trips to camp, sighting in rifles, patterning shotguns, cutting firewood or just sitting around camp with a group of hunters telling stories.
Retention- Mentoring can be an effective way to retain a hunter considering giving up the sport. According to many studies, one of the most common reasons hunters leave the sport is lack of a place to hunt. An invitation to hunt a new area can provide the mentoring experience necessary to retain another hunter.
Several years ago, I accepted an invitation from Susquehanna Chapter members, Reed Johnson and Howard Meyers, to hunt State Game Lands in Clearfield County. The invitation came at a time when I was struggling to find a new hunting area. The offer could not have come at a better time, making a significant change in my enjoyment of hunting. That initial invitation was an example of mentoring at its best.
Reactivation- Getting hunters back in the game may be the easiest type of mentoring. Hunters leave the sport for a wide variety of reasons, with the most common having to do with age and health. Often just the idea of having someone else to share the hunting experience is enough to get them back in the field.
As hunters age, mobility problems become a major concern. A mentor can help these hunters by scouting locations with easy access and offering the safety of a nearby companion.
Knowing that many of my best friends and hunting partners are getting older, a recently purchased a side-by-side offers an opportunity to extend their time in the field.
As we approach another spring gobbler season, now is the time to plan some valuable mentoring opportunities to help recruit, retain or reactivate hunters that will play an important part in the future of our sport.
- Ralph Martone