Preface: September 23-25 students from the UM BHA Club participated in an event called Hunting for Sustainability. This program was developed by Jim Giese in conjunction with Montana Wildlife Federation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and made possible through generous support from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone and Crockett Club, and the Phil Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment.
Five students with relatively little or no hunting experience spent the weekend at the Boone & Crockett Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front. The curriculum included the Land Ethic, the North American Conservation Model, hunting ethics, access, laws and regulations, hunt preparation, firearm safety and shootinginstruction, field dressing, butchering and meat care, and cooking.
This was an excellent start to what we hope to make a yearly event. Our aim is to give students the opportunity to get into hunting and provide them with a strong encompassing foundation so they have the confidence and knowledge to get out and enjoy all our public lands have to offer.
Hunting for Sustainability
The first afternoon on the ranch, we gathered around the dining table in the bunkhouse, making introductions and diving into our first seminar. We each were asked why we wanted to learn to hunt. We briefly described who we are and what brought us to the weekend hunting workshop.
Hunting to me was utilitarian, primal even. However, I was not yet aware that only three days later, I would have a much deeper understanding of hunting and what it means to be a hunter.
This September I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural “Hunting for Sustainability” workshop designed to introduce
college students to hunting, particularly students who had little or no hunting experience. This event, presented by The Phil
Tawney Hunters Conservation Endowment, was free for the seven of us University of Montana students who attended, thanks to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Montana Wildlife Federation, the Boone and Crockett Club, and Montana Fish,
Wildlife and Parks. The setting could not have been better for a hunting workshop, as the weekend was hosted at the Boone and Crockett Club’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch, located on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, an impressive and vast landscape where the great plains dramatically clash into the rugged mountains of Western Montana.
The three-day workshop was comprised of guest lectures and seminars led by a variety of wildlife professionals. We learned about everything from the history of conservation in the United States and the ethics of hunting to how to read maps and hunting regulations and what wildlife management practices are being used today. The weekend was not all pen and paper, though. On Saturday afternoon, the ranch graciously donated to us a freshly harvested white-tailed deer. This was our opportunity to learn how to gut and handle a big game animal after it is shot. We field-dressed the deer, then a local butcher showed us how to process the meat. We spent the next couple hours getting our hands dirty, as we saw the deer go from its arrowed spot in the field to packaged portions of venison – all of which we divided up and took home with us. The day ended with a fantastic dinner of freshly grilled venison burgers at the ranch house. To top off the weekend before driving back to Missoula on Sunday, we got to try our hand at skeet shooting and also were treated to a grizzly bear sighting!
This Hunting for Sustainability weekend was certainly a memorable experience for me. It broadened my perspective of hunting and taught me practical skills to use in the field. Above all else, I learned that I do not want to just go hunting. I want to be a hunter. Now I truly see that to be a hunter means not only to be part of nature and harvest your own food – but to also be a steward of the land and the wildlife that inhabits it.