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    Stories

    7 Day Hunt

    7 Day Hunt

    By Hunt To Eat Ambassador Katie DeLorenzo, @newmexicohuntress
    13 minute read

     

    Day 1

     

    We got to the mountain late Friday night threw our stuff out of the truck at camp and started hunting. Within the first hour of hiking ridge tops a quick locater bugle was answered with a scream. We made our way into the next bowl and a bull was on the opposite slope looking our way. My hunting partner was a ways ahead of me and our first attempt to communicate using hand signals was a bit clumsy.

     

    He wanted me to stalk down and up the slope but, considering he was ahead of me and at a much better elevation to stay out of sight, I retreated behind the hill we had just come from to watch. He made the stalk and as he was headed up the hill a big bull came out of nowhere from the next bowl. He walked along the ridge and after some grazing & beating up a juniper he bedded. I thought my friend had surely heard the bull right above him but the slope made it impossible to see his giant body and rack bedded just above. The smaller bull he originally went after grazed up the slope, clueless. By the time the bull was in his view he had spooked and stood up but there was no time to range and shoot.

     

    He barked and with a few swift strides he was gone. We hiked back to the truck in the dark. My friend abruptly stopped and I followed suit. He had heard a rattle and then seen a banded rock rattlesnake. I was unsettled but had seen pictures of this small venomous snake before and found them intriguing.

     

    When we were almost back to the truck we spotted two more bulls. One of them was a monster with a behemoth body and rack, so we dubbed him Goliath. With only minutes left of shooting light we crouched in the grass and tried to entice him to come closer, but he refused. Having seen multiple bulls and Goliath in just one evening we ended the day full of optimism and excitement for the adventure to come. We headed back to setup camp, make dinner and strategize for day 2.

     

    Day 2

     

    The morning started off with chasing a bugle above our camp to no avail. Glassing a bowl I spotted a white object lying in the grass. Sure enough, I finally picked up a nice elk shed, my biggest yet. We switched gears for the evening hunt, hiking deep into the timbered forest. It was almost too thick to see but with the bulls shut up, locating through glass was our only option.

     

    Eventually a spotting session paid off with finding two bulls bedded on the opposite ridge. It was getting close to dark but we had time to make the stalk. We dropped in and setup but the bulls didn’t talk back and didn’t come in. We made our way up the hill hoping to maybe jump them, but they slipped away in silence. We started the long hike back to camp.

     

    Day 3

     

    We were on a ridge at first light. As shapes came into view and the sky filled with color we made out two bulls grazing a high meadow. They grazed while we covered ground below, darting from tree to tree. One of the pair was a hog but even when he bedded on the steep vegetated slope it was nearly impossible to pin him down. I stared into a tiny gap in the trees watching for for glimpses of antlers as he adjusted his giant head.

     

    Before we could plan a stalk thermals kicked in and wafted up the canyon. The bulls dumped over the next ridge and easily disappeared. We hydrated and refueled then hiked even deeper into the forest. We spotted two nice bulls another ridge away and started making our way to them, always mindful of where we could down a bull and retrieve the meat with no spoilage. With highs in the 80’s and lows in the 50’s getting out a bull elk with just my friend and I would be grueling. On our approach we jumped two young bulls. Once again my friend was about 10 yards ahead of me down the slope. We crouched and while he started cow calling I knocked an arrow. He told me to stand, the bull was coming.

     

    Right before I knew I’d be within view I drew back. I had practiced 1 minute holds but it’s different with an elk in your sight. I fought the instinct to settle my pin and release, keeping my elbow at an angle for leverage and calming my breath as he took one slow step after another. I held for what seemed like an eternity as he made his way to us looking for cows. He was a younger bull and lucky for him he walked up right behind a downed tree. Even though he was quartered to me he was close and I felt confident I could hit lungs and kill him quickly. I adjusted my sight to line up with vitals and let an arrow fly. It slammed into a branch and deflected.

     

    The scared bull ran down the slope and stopped broadside. My friend shot but the steep slope threw off his range. The arrow fly over the bull’s back. Little did we know this was the first of two solid opportunities that were blessings in disguise. I learned a lot from this first shot situation and was grateful for a clean miss.

     

    Day 4

     

    Having seen 7 bulls the day before we returned to the same spot. We found an old cabin and some gorgeous meadows but only one bull during our long 12 hour day. Once again, we made our way to his canyon and setup but he never responded to calling. It seemed like we had worked the elk too hard the day before and they pushed off to the west and south. Not to mention the large herd of wild donkeys whose presence was maddening. Intermittently throughout the day we’d hear the stomp of hooves followed by the most obnoxious hee-hawing sound in the world.

     

    They disrupt the wildlife and simply don’t belong on the landscape in the numbers we observed. The next day we either needed to switch spots or go even deeper. The thought of going even deeper with only two of us just didn’t seem doable. The problem wasn’t getting in, but getting out with an entire elk and only two packers. I had been training all year but at 5 foot 4 and 117 lbs., I can only haul so much elk at once. We had to be realistic. Although I had dreamed of killing my first elk for months, recovering our animals and their meat was by far our top priority. The day wasn’t lost.

     

    My friend glassed up a monster hard white, bigger than mine and with amazing mass on the main beam. He strapped the heavy antler on his pack and we worked through canyon after canyon, desperately listening for a bugle or any sign of the many animals we found the day before. By now this route was familiar, making navigation simpler, but the mental grind a bit tougher. We kept moving and listening, knowing that perseverance and grit was the only hope we had to harvest in this tough public unit with hardly any road access.

     

     Day 5 

     

    After hours of glassing I spotted a cow on a far away slope. Four bulls then dropped into the same canyon and we moved to cut them off. I had gone one way, my partner another. I couldn’t find them and moved had already moved back up the hill to glass when they ran right by my previous position. Another chance blown. I was dejected and we decided to either stay together or make lone stalks. Little did I know I’d soon have the best stalk opportunity of our 9 day trip. But I felt like a terrible hunter. Of course I should have been more patient, should have glassed harder, should have stayed in position.

     

    Minutes later he spotted a solid 6x bedded under a rocky outcropping. He prepped me as I dropped my pack. I ran behind the backside of the peak bow in hand, careful to avoid cactus and clanking shale. I reached the saddle and took off my shoes to start a slow descent. Afternoon thermals pushed the wind up the slope and provided some sound cover. I panned over to my friend with my binos for the occasional thumbs up that the bull was unaware. I picked each step carefully, placing my feet on rocks and avoiding crunchy bunch grass.

     

    Finally. I made it to the bluff and ranged the ledge below to get my bearings. It was all within my range of 50 yards max. He may have heard my feet settle on the steep rocky slope because he stood up. I saw antlers and knew he’d cross my lane but when I tried to draw back I failed, either from bull fever or trying to draw more subtly. He started leaving. I drew back swiftly the second time and cow called. He stopped broadside. I released an arrow that flew over his back, misjudging because of a steep angle. Tears flowed as I was sure this was my perfect chance. I blew it. Although I didn’t seal the deal I got within 25 yards of a big bull, and that was a win. We spent the afternoon calling a herd bull but never got close enough to make him come fight. That was the start of a very long night.

     

     day 5

     

     Focused on bulls we lost track of time. Before we know it dusk was approaching and our water supply was running low. I had worn my trail runners because my boots had rubbed my ankle raw. As we stared our trek back we walked through a deep arroyo split by a large shrub pile. My partner went right and thought he heard a rattle. I started to go left and upon my first step a long black snake slithered into the pile. My heart stopped. I told him it was only a garter snake and we should keep moving, more aware than ever of my poor footwear (Great for bow hunting, not for rattlesnake infested rock piles).

     

    I made it around the shrub pile and not 20 seconds later as we climbed up the bank an aggressive rattle sounded off from the rock pile below our feet. My friend located the source and we cautiously moved past it. I froze, fear in my eyes and afraid to go on. It seemed like they were everywhere and we had many miles of hiking in the dark to climb out of the canyon and reach the safety and relief of the truck. He told me to take a deep breath and keep moving. They always warn you, he said. I did.

     

    I reclaimed my composure and was on high alert as we ascended the canyon, walking over rocky slopes perfect for the banded rock rattlers that live here. We went over many more rock piles and climbed cliff bands in the dark with one hand gripping my bow and another grasping for the next sure hold. We finally summited and a wave of relief swept over me. Then, he spotted two pairs of large glowing eyes in a tree on the canyon’s edge.

     

    He told me to jump the fence while he made sure they winded us to know we weren’t prey. We couldn’t be sure if they were bobcats or mountain lions but they were cats. One set of eyes leaping from the tree to crouch in the high grass. We hurried to put distance between us, glancing back to make sure we weren’t being followed. When we finally reached the truck I was exhausted. I had never experienced such intense uneasiness for an extended period of time. That night I had to dig deep to take the next step and focus on my senses to stay safe. I later read a saying that rings true when I think about this experience “The only way past fear is through it.”

     

     Day 6

     

    We hunted hard the first 5 days, as in dawn til dusk hiking and glassing 10 - 15 miles a day, hard. My legs were spent and my heels completely raw. I had already missed two shots and doubt filled my mind. Am I strong enough to keep going? Can I keep up with my hunting partner and beat the the physical exhaustion and the rattlesnakes? He spotted a large group of bedded elk. We got within range to bugle and “steal” his cows and three bulls roared to life. This is what we came for. I stood under a tree with an arrow knocked. I had eyes on two of the bulls but only heard the third. He was coming in hot and I knew he might surprise us. Before I could turn 180 to face the other lane I heard hooves and he was broadside at 30 yards. I turned to shoot but he spooked and ran off. That was close.

     

    My hunting partner was frustrated. So was I. I know animals are unpredictable and this was just like turkey hunting, but with a 500 pound giant. How in the world did I mess that up? I told my friend to hunt alone. I wasn’t executing and wanted to quit, or at least that’s what I said. It was his turn and it would be easier with me out of the way.

     

     Day 6

     

     

    Within a few emotional minutes we had talked it out and relocated the herd a canyon away. The bigger bull descended into the plains with his harem, screaming at the smaller bull who was on our slope to stay the hell away. We crept through the grass when we spotted his cows only 40 yards away. The wind swirled and with a few alert glances our direction the cows sensed predators and started leaving. My friend cow called to calm them then bugled. The curious bull came to see his opponent. We both knocked arrows as the bull’s antlers came into view. Another bugle brought him closer. His head and neck rising above the tall grass. I tried to draw and couldn’t. My wrist sling was too tight making it impossible to anchor and draw back. I told my friend to shoot.

    As he drew back I removed my hand from the wrist sling, gripped my bow and drew back. I settled my pin at 40, eyeballing the range and waiting for my partner’s shot. When after a few seconds he didn’t shoot I released my arrow. The bull ran. At first I thought I sent another arrow into the abyss, missing my target, but my friend promptly said “You got him.” The lethal frontal shot hit a main artery and lungs. I watched the bull intently, praying for a quick death and smooth recovery.

    Once the bull was down my worry and reverence turned to disbelief. I couldn’t believe it and warm happy tears streamed down my face. Grateful for the harvest and for the unforgettable moment. My mouth gaped as we approached the bull’s massive body. I took a few minutes to admire him and soak in the moment before we started breaking him down. We placed the meat in game bags and nestled them in a juniper until we could return in the morning for the second load. With as much meat as we could carry we clicked our headlamps on and started the 2.5 mile hike back to the truck. We didn’t think it could get any better, but then again, we didn’t know how good the next day would be.

     

     Day 7

     

    We were back at my kill site at dawn. My legs ached from the previous 6 days but I found new energy in carrying out my first elk. The meat kept well cooling in the canyon air overnight, but we needed to get it on ice. I struggled to stand but welcomed the simple, singular task. My rapid-fire brain cleared completely and for the next few hours all that mattered was the next step. Staying high on ridges and dodging verticals we made it 1.5 miles before the morning heat forced a break. He dropped the tagged head from his cumbersome load so we could finish the last leg of the trip more quickly. We delivered the meat for hanging and were back on the same mountain by late afternoon.

    We would hunt this area until we hiked out at dusk with my elk’s rack. The elk were blown out of where we had seen them so we covered new ground, making a long climb to the highest slope. He reached into his bino case and realized it was empty. He was so tired he had left them on the last ridge. We backtracked and found his glass, deciding we should get to camp early tonight and rest. Tomorrow was the last day of the hunt and the last chance to kill his first elk. When we reached my elk rack he let out a meager cow call into the empty air, expecting silence in return.

    Out of nowhere, a bull roared back within 100 yards. Our eyes widened with disbelief. He saw some cows and told me to lay down slowly. With good wind he made his way to some tree cover, intermittently screaming back at the hot bull to cut him off. The bull grew furious, thrashing a small tree and giving perfect sight and sound cover. When the bull finally stilled and stood broadside my friend sent a perfectly placed arrow through both lungs. I couldn’t see the shot but heard the thwack. Triumphant, he raised his bow in the air and a muffled celebration followed. We had filled two tags in the same area, back-to-back days.

    Placing our final load of racks in the truck we popped open a couple cheap, cold beers, reveling in the highs and lows of the hunt and cherishing the opportunity to overcome. We had both found a new level of grit and determination and knew we’d leave that mountain better hunters and better humans.



     

    Consumers of Meat

    Consumers of Meat

    By Hunt To Eat Ambassador, Colt Tupen
    4 Minute Read
    

    “Woah!” They start. “What do you even do with it?” With a puzzled look on his face he responds, “It’s Meat Sir.”

    This is an excerpt from an interview I heard on the radio months ago where the Host was interviewing John Mayer. John had mentioned eating Elk that his friend had shot in Montana and was met with a flabbergasted reaction. This hit home with me and was reminiscent of any time that I have ever cooked, or even talked about cooking wild game, with someone unfamiliar with it. The truth is, wild game carries a sort of mystique.

    Colt and Son.

    Over the years, Man has lost its connection with the natural world. In the now, food is literally available at the press of the button. You are never more than a block or two away from a meal. While this is great in terms of having food available for all, the convenience has caused us as humans to underappreciate our food. I’d venture to say the majority of people eat their food without even so much as a passing thought to the backstory. The reality is, the burger or chicken breast you are eating came from an animal, and one that you will likely never know how it was treated, raised or handled.

    Herein lies the problem.

    As consumers of meat, we are complicit in the treatment of that animal in which we have eaten, whether we choose to think about it or not. When we choose to consume that product, we make the choice to join the chain.

    When you hunt for your food, you are making a conscious decision to break free from this chain. You are making the decision to enter into the wild, the animal's home field, to attempt to outsmart a truly wild creature (a creature that has spent its life free to roam wherever it pleases), in hopes of completing a swift and painless kill. I can assure you that if you are lucky enough to have success, you will never have more gratitude for that animal than in that moment. You’ll be compelled to use every part of that animal and take pride every time you serve it. And plus, you will be eating some of the finest table fare you will ever lay your hands on, and much healthier, too. A 3-ounce piece of venison contains ½ the number of calories, more protein, and about an eighth the amount of fat when compared to a piece of beef of the same proportion.

     

    Additionally, The Department of Agriculture predicted for 2018 that Americans would eat a record amount of meat and poultry. 222.2 pounds per person, on average.

    The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in their 2016 report found there were 39.6 million active hunters and / or anglers in the U.S.

    That’s a lot of meat consumption, the majority of which is not being hunted.  

    But don’t fret, I have great news. Hunting opportunities abound in this country and I think you will find the hunting community is an incredibly welcoming community, and is more than willing to introduce you to their world. As a hunter, you are not only responsibly seeking your next meal, but you are contributing huge money towards conservation in the process. All the money spent on Licenses, Tags etc., goes directly back into conserving habitat and wildlife. You are making a difference!

    It won’t be easy. There will be times of failure. There will be defeat. There will be times that are downright grueling. But out of these experiences will come something so great, so fulfilling, the result will be beyond worth it. Memories that are irreplaceable and freezers that are full. If you are on the fence about hunting, I urge you to take the leap. Regain your connection to your wild side that lies within. You won’t regret it!

    Give Thanks.

    Give Thanks.

    By Hunt To Eat Ambassador, Michael Stepp
    3 minute read

    Give Thanks.

    It has almost become a trivial phrase, one that glazes the mind over and evokes inconsiderable responses. In today’s world of commerce and broadcast and popularity, we become programmed in how to be thankful.

    It is ironic that the moments we try so hard to be appreciative, to be humble, to be thankful, are so often fleeting moments of empty movements. Sometimes our genuine sentiments are defied by the spectacle that is created for others to see; in these moments authentic gratitude can be lost. True humility strikes us when no one is watching. We thank the heavens above for health and beautiful children, and for the world we’ve each been given.

    We give raw thanks when no one is around to see.

    Stepp Family

    Pick up that phone. Try to capture the feeling. You cannot. Thankfulness is a mysterious sentiment that will vaporize like a foggy morning fading to a sunny day. You cannot see it leave, you cannot harness the moment. You can only enjoy it until it is gone.

    The best we can do is cherish those moments. Give thanks then and there. Grip those moments with every knuckle; wring those moments for every drop until it fleets. When it is gone, acknowledge where it came from. Truly give thanks, and then hope like hell you get more of it.

    Every single day is bestowed upon us. Gifts of this life and of this earth lay before us each and every day. Some days those gifts are unmistakable, like a slap in the face from above. Other days, they are subtle, requiring scrutiny, even from the most observant of souls.

    The perfect sunrise…an untimely diaper.

    A silent cup of tea…kiddos barking about supper.

    A table full of loved ones…a list of nagging to-do’s.

    You see, there is something to be thankful for in each moment. Life gives us gifts, and it gives us opportunities. The key to success, the perfection to strive for, is finding the opportunity in the most trying of times.

    Pray for patience? I’ll bet you will not magically be granted a renowned sense of patience; rather, I would wager you will be given opportunities to practice patience.  It is up to you to recognize those as opportunities.

    When we step away from our own perception of need, we can begin to relish in what we already have.

    Practice giving thanks this season. It is an art that can never be perfected.



    The Lost Art of Canning Wild Meat

    The Lost Art of Canning Wild Meat

    By Hunt To Eat Ambassador Todd Waldron

    4 minute read

    It’s a late-autumn sound that’s greeted in our kitchen with fever-pitch anticipation and a mild dose of relief. A short symphony of vacuum-sealing ‘pops’ as several quart-size mason jar lids do their magic. This annual ritual has secured another batch of healthy, free-ranging, organic wild meat for our winter pantry shelf.  

    It’s one of the primary reasons I choose to be a hunter.  

    My grandmother did it out of necessity. Her and my grandfather raised seven kids, including my mom, on their hardscrabble farm in the Adirondack Mountains. They didn’t have electricity, let alone a freezer. Like many other families in rural America at that time, they had a deep, hands-on connection to their food. Hunting, farming and living off the land was a routine way of life. She canned tomatoes, beans, corn – and meat. Beef, chicken, pork, and venison.

    The art of processing and storing wild meat in wide-mouthed mason jars was lost on our family until the early 1990s. One fall, after a successful Northern Zone hunting season, my dad and stepmother broke out the pressure cooker. They cleaned jars & simmered lids. They measured out canning salt and paved the way for my intense interest in all things canned-venison. I quickly became the only twenty-something in town whose favorite piece of hunting gear was a Mirro 22-quart pressure cooker. Hook, line and sinker.

    Why go through the process of canning wild game when it’s easier and more conventional to just wrap it up and put it in the freezer?

    It tastes damn good, it’s convenient to re-heat and it's versatile from a recipe standpoint. Think of that fork tender, barbeque pulled-pork sandwich you love, only better. Grilled canned venison burritos with a good mole sauce are hard to beat. It’s also my idiosyncratic version of risk management for our most important food ‘asset’ – wild game. There’s no need to worry when the electricity goes out after a big Nor’easter and the freezer isn’t working. Portfolio diversification works for wild meat too, even if your financial advisor never thinks to mention it.

    What cuts or parts of the deer are most suitable for canning?

    Anything you might normally put in the charcuterie, stew meat or grinding pile. My experience is that with a mature northeastern whitetail, you can get enough ‘canning meat’ from one deer to do a full batch of seven-quart jars or up to sixteen pint-sized jars.

    What do I need for equipment?

    • Pressure cooker – there are several good brands out there, pick one that fits your budget and needs.
    • Quart or pint-sized mason jars with lids – wide mouth preferred. It makes it easier to pack the meat. You can pick these up at most grocery stores.
    • Canning salt – follow directions for amounts, one teaspoon per quart jar in my case.
    • Wild game – mule deer, moose, elk, whitetail, black bear, pronghorn.

    How does it work?

  • First and foremost, follow the instructions of whatever pressure cooker you choose to use.
  • Cut or cube your wild game into stew-meat sized one or two-inch chunks or a little larger. They don’t have to be trimmed perfectly – just do the best you can.
  • Brown the meat in a large pan and then let it cool prior to packing into clean jars.
  • Hand-pack meat into jars to approximately one inch below the rim.
  • Add the canning salt.
  • Wipe the rim clean, hand-tighten the warm-simmered lids, and place in pressure cooker with manufacturer’s recommended amount of water in the bottom of the canner.
  • Apply heat and bring pressure cooker up to the necessary pressure.
  • Once it has processed for the necessary amount of time, be sure to allow the pressure cooker to cool off before removing the lid – this takes a long time. There’s a lot of pressure and steam in there. Don’t get impatient and burn yourself. You have all winter to enjoy this meat.
  • Remove jars from the inside of the canner safely by using a canning jar ‘handle’ or similar apparatus.
  • Place jars on a cooling rack and wait for the vacuum-sealing ‘pop.’ If the lids don’t seal for some reason, refrigerate it and eat at your earliest convenience.
  •  

    How long will canned-wild game last in your pantry?

    Urban legends claim it can last for years, but we’ve never let it sit around long enough to find out.

    Recommended resources or books for canning wild food?

    Canning Meat, Fish, Poultry and Wild Game: Canning for Beginners. Kindle Version available on Amazon – by Mary-Beth Stenson

    Canning Guide for Beginners – How to Guide with Recipes: How to can Vegetables, Fruits, Pickles, Salsa, Meat, Fish, Poultry, Wild Game. Kindle Version available on Amazon – by Ben Moore.

    5 Tips for Guiding Youth

    5 Tips for Guiding Youth

    7 Minute Read
    By Hunt To Eat Ambassador Katie DeLorenzo

    Many of us will have the privilege of passing on the hunting tradition by guiding a youth hunter. During these formative years the experiences they have afield can either mean they’re hooked for life or they never want to hunt again.

    In order to give them the best experience possible, I’ve outlined five tips for you to keep in mind while guiding youth.

     

    1. Know their Shooting Ability

    When guiding a youth hunter (or any hunter for that matter) a critical first step is understanding how to set them up for a clean, ethical kill and positive experience. Some simple questions can help you understand where they’re at with weapon proficiency and what kind of shot situation will be within their wheelhouse.

    Ask what their ideal range is as well as their max range. You should also ask what their setup has been while sighting in and practicing. Most hunters neglect situational training where they shoot in various positions and instead practice on a bench, often with the aid of a sled or other stabilizer. While this is great way to get comfortable with the rifle it removes nearly all of the variables that will be present while taking a shot in the field. If your hunter has only practiced on the bench, be sure to review the various shooting positions with them and see what they are most comfortable with.

    For newbies, I prefer a seated position with knees up. It’s easy to get situated quickly and very stable. A trick my sister taught me is to insert your arm into the sling from the outside in, so it’s is wrapped around your arm and grip the stock. In a seated or standing position the sling provides added stability. It also works great when shooting off sticks as you can grip the stock and top of the sticks simultaneously for a rock-solid hold. On hunts where shooting from a seated position is impossible due to high vegetation or terrain, or you have a very young hunter, a field pod like this one from Cabela’s gives the stability of a shooting bench but is transportable and fairly light-weight.

    2. Know Your Prey

    Although most youth hunters won’t be after a trophy, it’s still important to talk through what’s a shooter and what isn’t. Both to make sure you’re on the same page and meet any legal requirements. You may need to consider the animal’s sex or even the size of the antlers or horns so it’s imperative you review the traits you are looking for before the hunt begins.

    Talk to your hunter right away to gauge their level of comfort with identifying animals. Telling a buck and a doe antelope apart might seem easy for the seasoned sportsman or woman but a youth hunter likely has much less experience identifying game, especially under pressure. If you can, watch the game you are after before the hunter has a shot opportunity take a few minutes to review identification. If possible, I’d recommend bringing an extra pair of binos for your hunter so they can participate in glassing, spotting and identifying.

    Remember that shooting situations are stressful for anyone, let alone kids that are being forcefully told what to do by one or more adults. Make sure they know their prey and understand they are ultimately responsible for what happens when they pull the trigger. The bottom line is if they don’t feel comfortable in identifying their target they do NOT have to shoot.

    3. Give Them Ownership

    Give your ego a rest and, when possible, let your youth hunter in on the decision making. I’m not saying throw your knowledge of the animals and hunt area out the window, but there are often overlooked opportunities to engage your hunter in the process. I believe hunting is more about the process and resulting personal development than the moment you kill. If all you’re doing is giving directives, you’re robbing your hunter of the full experience. Allowing them to take part in even small decisions can really get their wheels turning. If there’s a choice to hunt spot A or B with fair chances of finding an animal at either, discuss the options and let them choose.

    4. Honor the Harvest

    What happens after an animal is down is nearly as important as the hunt itself. Teaching the next generation to honor the animal is paramount in my mind. The animal should be handled in a respectful way and the meat should be properly cared for to ensure you can use as much of the animal as possible.

    In addition, how your young hunters represent their hunt with stories and imagery is increasingly important in today’s emotion-driven world of social media. Perception is reality and images with excessive blood, tongues hanging out, unsafe muzzle control, or hunters sitting on top of the animal do not portray hunters in a good light. When possible, I prefer to position my animals in an upright position on the side with the least amount of blood. I tuck in the legs and tongue and sit behind the animal with my weapon pointed in a safe direction. Beyond the traditional grip and grin photos that show the hunter admiring their harvest are among my favorites.

    5. Make it Fun

    Many kids today are growing up in a world of both gamification and immediate gratification. If they aren’t excelling at one activity or game or get bored, they simply move on to something else. As adults with a passion for the outdoors and all that comes with it, we can easily forget that hunting is hard. It can be physically uncomfortable, mentally challenging and often requires superhuman levels of grit and persistence.

    For the new hunter one of the best things you can do to help them stick with it is to make it fun. Youth hunters are often accompanied by a guardian. This might be mom and dad, grandpa and aunt or uncle or family friend. Chances are this person is going to be very excited for the possibility of a harvest and might even be a little overzealous. If that’s the case your role is to be knowledgeable, calm and encouraging.

    After coaching competitive youth soccer for 12 years I can tell you that parents yelling at the players to shoot when they’re right in front of a wide-open goal does not help. Trust me, in the heat of the moment your hunter would rather hear an urgent but calm voice saying “Take the shot,” instead of someone whisper-yelling at them and sending them into a buck fever frenzy. And, if they don’t take a shot, you can use that missed opportunity as a teaching moment, rather than getting angry.

    Lastly, pay attention to what they show interest in during your time outdoors and encourage them to find out more. If they like reading sign, then show them some tracks and scat. If they are interested in anatomy, then spend some extra time looking at muscle bundles and organs when you dress the animal. Whatever you do, remember their experience includes so much more than just notching a tag. Regardless of your hunting know-how, do your best to focus on them.

    You can follow Katie on Facebook and Instagram @newmexicohuntress or email her at newmexicohuntress@gmail.com