In the Field: Engaging New Hunters

by Anna Mitterling, Wildlife Cooperative Coordinator, MUCC

This past Saturday I attended the Southeast Michigan QDMA Branch’s Habitat Day at Jim Brauker’s property. What made this event special for me is that my 20 year old brother came along with me. All I did was throw out an invite. Dan has been deer hunting a few times with my uncle, and has shot guns with my husband and I, but like myself, he didn’t grow up hunting. We did grow up camping, hiking, and traveling for a month every summer with my family in the pop-up camper. While Dan has been in a stand a few times, I don’t think he had ever thought much about what else could go into deer hunting. I wanted to share a few things he told me about on our car ride back home after the event.

First off, the event was great. Jake Ehlinger and Jim Brauker presented on habitat management and the value of cooperatives and neighborly trust. Kip Cotter and the Southeast Michigan QDMAers put on a great event.

From the event and the interactions at the event, two main things stuck out to my brother.

  1. Deer hunting is more than sitting in a tree stand – and that is exciting
  2. Deer hunters are really nice people

As I mentioned, Dan has been hunting a few times. He even got his first deer a couple years ago! The property he hunts with my uncle on is not theirs, and is a farmer’s property. Conversations about habitat improvement, or strategizing multiple stand locations, or looking at trail camera pictures has never been part of his personal hunting experience. Learning that you can modify the habitat to have more likely encounters, to provide food for your food source, and ultimately, to know the deer you are hunting, were all major appeals to Dan. Suddenly, he realized that there is more of a commitment and interaction that is possible when hunting deer, and wildlife in general.

Dan didn’t know much about my job. It’s not really an easy job to explain to people who have not been involved with a greater hunting community. But my favorite part of talking with him after the event was how awesome he thought my job was – because of you! He could tell that the individuals we spoke with cared about each other, cared about their deer, cared about their habitat, and overall cared about their environment and other wildlife too. The people we talked with were relational. We talked about turkey hunting stories, kid’s wrestling tournaments, pheasant hunting, deer hunting, anniversaries coming up, the benefit of having kids, caught up on other personal things friends talk about. He was able to see relationships that have been growing for a few months to several years. Dan realized that joining into a group of hunters, and becoming part of the hunting community got you into this club of passionate people who care about each other, and care about the vast resources they seek to protect and responsibly use.

So to the presenters, and those of you whom we talked with – way to represent! This 20 year old is exactly who we need to be recruiting into the community. All it took was an invitation. And Kip, thank you for letting him come with me!

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