Hunter mentoring doesn't have to be generational
By Keng Yang
Traditionally, mentoring has been a relationship between parent and child. This form of mentoring can be very effective in creating and retaining a hunter, however, that does not mean other forms of mentoring cannot be as effective. So, what does it take to be an effective mentor? This article is for current or prospective mentors targeting adult-onset hunters. I believe there are three key actions associated with being an effective mentor. Similarly, mentees should seek these actions from their mentor for a more wholistic experience in the field.
The first action to being an effective mentor is to build trust. I get it, it’s tough to trust someone that you have just met. Hence why the parent-child relationship is so effective. That trust is already there. When mentoring someone you don’t know, you should be building that trust. Trust creates a clear communication path and eliminates competition with each other. Mentees already feel pressure and competition from the hunting community, but by developing trust with each other, it will give them the confidence to continue learning.
The second key action is selflessness. You must put their needs and wishes before your own. What is the one thing that every new hunter wants? To bring home game. While it is not expected of a mentor to guarantee a filled bag, it is an important benchmark of “success” – especially for new hunters – and mentors should realize this. The best way to do that is to be selfless with productive spots. Now, I’m not saying you need to give up your honey hole or all your secret spots, but your wealth of knowledge can point them in the right direction. Everyone remembers their first bird or harvest. It is engrained in our memory. Ensuring success will create an experience with your mentee that will ignite their passion for the outdoors and hunting.
In combination with tactics listed previously, you must remember that your mentee has not yet developed their own perspective on ethics. Jim Posewitz wrote, “The most important measure of hunting success is how you feel about yourself- how you feel when you think about and plan your hunting trip, when you are hunting, when you kill, when you tell about it, and when you remember each experience.” Sometimes, new hunters can force a mentor to challenge some of their own ethics. Let me explain. I think we can all agree that the bottom line to being an ethical hunter is to follow the rules and regulations, ensure a quick dispatch, and give your best effort to retrieve downed game. Aside from that, some aspects of ethics can get a little blurry so as a mentor, you must uphold every mentee to the bottom line of being ethical and allow them to hunt as they wish.
Here's an example: Let’s say it’s just the two of you walking a forest trail with no dogs present and a single grouse appears ahead. Your mentee then asks to shoot the bird on the ground. You should take the time to explain your own ethical reasons on why they should not shoot it off the ground. Yet, still give them the option to do so if they choose. Each of us has our own definition of being ethical. This definition is constantly changing based on our own experiences in the field. As mentors, we must let our mentees make these ethical decisions for themselves.
Building trust, being selfless, and challenging your own ethics makes you the most effective mentor. In combination, it fosters a welcoming community to those who haven’t started hunting yet. Some are reluctant to start because they are afraid of failure, afraid of asking the wrong questions, or being judged based on their actions.
I applaud every individual who sacrifices time and effort to mentor others! I’m sharing my opinions not to pass judgement, but to push for deeper thinking and to build a stronger and better hunting community overall.
Keng Yang is an adult-onset hunter, mentor, Pheasants Forever member, and diehard upland bird hunter. Follow him on TikTok @minnesotahunter and on Instagram @kengyang1.
As part of our mission, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever work hard to recruit, retain, and reactivate (R3) new hunters that will become tomorrow’s conservationists. But getting started in upland bird hunting presents a unique set of questions and challenges. Our Path to the Uplands initiatives and Hunter Mentor Pledge create educational and hands-on opportunities for both mentors and mentees to share our beloved outdoors lifestyle and learn about our conservation ethic.
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