By Derek Stoner, Hunting Program Coordinator
Pennsylvania is blessed to have a rich hunting tradition, with hundreds of thousands of Commonwealth residents enjoying the opportunity to head afield in pursuit of a wide array of game animals.
Not everyone, however, is fortunate to grow up in a family who hunts, has friends who hunt, or knows a good place to go hunting near where they live.
For these type of people, the common barrier keeping them from starting hunting is access to a mentor.
A mentor can be defined as a coach, guide, supporter, and educator. A hunter mentor is someone who is dedicated to introducing new participants to hunting, through a variety of approaches. The traditional mentoring model is meeting up with the person and taking them scouting, shooting, or hunting. The modern mentoring model is connecting through digital means and providing “tech support” to the new hunter who is full of questions.
There is recent surge in interest in hunting and the trend of first-time adult hunters from non-hunting backgrounds continues to gain momentum. Popular outdoor media channels like MeatEater and the myriad of social media pages documenting the exploits of hunters afield help to stoke the interest of new participants.
The need for mentors in the outdoors is greater than ever and the reason is simple: an experienced and knowledgeable mentor adds value for the new participant that cannot be measured. As a new hunter, you can read all the online articles and watch all the how-to videos possible on YouTube. But you can never replicate the return on investment of tagging along with a mentor who can show you the proverbial ropes and help you lessen the learning curve.
We all know that getting started in hunting can be expensive both in times of the equipment needed and the great commitment of time to become confident pursuing game animals. A well-versed mentor can literally outfit you with the gear you need (on loan, of course), help you find a place to hunt, and make sure that your hunt outings are safe and successful. A mentor can help you make sense of complex regulations, take the mystery out of animal behavior, and start you on the path of being an accomplished hunter on your own.
Pennsylvania is a very deer-focused state when it comes to hunting and yet the appeal of hunting reaches well beyond the ubiquitous whitetail. The social aspect of upland bird hunting and waterfowling makes both types of pursuits quite popular among beginners. Many new hunters enjoy the thrill of following well-trained hunting dogs as they pursue pheasants, grouse, woodcock, and waterfowl. A mentor with an energetic hunting dog can help provide hours of entertainment for the new hunters on an upland hunt.
The Mentored Hunting Permits offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission make it easy for a new hunter to get started, without having to take a designated Hunter Education course. Just link up with a licensed hunter and have them take you afield under their regular hunting license that is the ticket to being an official mentor. Mentors can get prepared by taking the free Hunter Mentor course online, to become better versed in working with people from different backgrounds who are new to hunting.
Hunting season offers many opportunities to get afield, especially in pursuit of small game with its seasons lasting until the end of February. If you want to add value to your hunting experience, take someone new afield. Become a mentor, and add value to your own hunting experience.
If you are an experienced hunter who is passionate about helping new hunters and interested in serving as a mentor in your area, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that includes your county of residence and the game species that you are willing to help someone else learn how to hunt. Thank you for your commitment to helping new hunters.