We owe tremendous thanks to our partners who made these workshops possible: Timber to Table, G&H Decoys, Boss Shotshells, OnX Maps, Teller Wildlife Refuge, Arizona Wildlife Federation, and Southern Arizona Quail Forever.
In case you missed it, BHA hosted three brand new Hunting for Sustainability workshops through our college clubs this spring. This fall, we continued our efforts in Colorado, Montana, and Arizona. In total, 34 students and adult-onset hunters participated in our workshops and we sent each one home with an annual BHA membership to continue immersing them in our community and advocacy efforts.
Motivations for learning were as diverse as the backgrounds of those who attended. From sculptors to Ph.D. students studying law, many have long wanted to learn how to hunt, but have lacked the community and resources needed to do so.
"I have been interested in learning how to hunt for some time. As a doctoral student in anthropology/archaeology, I have developed a deep respect for hunting and subsistence and would like to participate and learn more about it. However, I have not been able to find resources to help adults begin to learn.
With the help of partner organizations and BHA chapters, these workshops aim to address barriers to entry and the missing link of community. Workshops are all-inclusive and include sessions on hunting ethics, regulations, public land access, field dressing, butchering, cooking, and advocacy.
In Colorado, Timber to Table hosted a workshop focused on western big game hunting for 12 participants. This workshop featured a unique focus on field dressing and butchering from Timber to Table's Ana Kampe. Ana got her master’s degree in sustainable farming and food systems before starting Timber to Table with Adam Gall so she was able to emphasize the important connection between hunting and local, sustainable food systems.
In Montana, participants learned how to hunt waterfowl at the Teller Wildlife Refuge with special guest, G&H Decoys CEO Ray Penny. Rather than talk about waterfowl habitat, biology, and access in a classroom, this workshop immersed attendees in the pristine habitat right out the back door. Ray taught participants how to set up natural blinds and decoy spreads and U.S. Fish & Wildlife officer Mike Koole demonstrated how to mindfully handle an interaction with a warden. The highlight of the workshop was a cooking demo led by volunteer Brett Finneran where attendees got to cook their own duck breast (donated by the mentors) to perfection. Sunday morning's mentored hunt brought frigid weather, but it also brought the opportunity for every single participant to harvest their very first duck with ammo donated from Boss Shotshells! As a parting gift, G&H Decoys graciously sent each participant home with their very own set of 6 decoys to get them started.
In Arizona, a campsite replaced the classroom while participants learned how to pursue quail, rabbits, and dove through the thorny deserts north of Tucson. With help from the Arizona chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Arizona Wildlife Federation, and Southern Arizona Quail Forever, participants experienced a combination of fireside educational sessions and mentored hunts.
Participants shuffled mentors and hunting partners for three separate mentored hunts througout the weekend. The camaraderie was palpable the last night around the campfire as everyone exchanged phone numbers and shared in a meal of quail and dove cooked by Arizona chapter leader and Northern Arizona University club advisor, Wolf Gumerman.
When asked to look beyond the awareness they may have gained regarding "hunting skills" during the program, and share some of the insights they learned about the broader context of hunting, a single theme emerged.
"It was interesting to hear how wildlife agencies are mostly funded by the sale of licenses and a tax and guns and other gear. All of the laws and ethical principles of hunting I was unaware of as well."
"I had no idea how much of conservation was directly funded by hunters and outdoorsmen(women)"
The goal of Hunting for Sustainability has always been to make hunting supporters and conservation advocates. While we will continue to provide avenues, opportunities, and communities for these new hunters to get afield, our biggest achievement is teaching people to see hunting through a conservation lens.
"I never really looked into hunting before and any previous thoughts leaned towards the negative side. This was my first opportunity to learn about the sport and it was a great first impression."
However, we are stoked when hunting hits a chord with participants and lights a spark to get people out on their public lands, for the only way to advocate effectively for something is to experience it for yourself.