In 2018, the New England Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers piloted its mentoring program for the first time. Over the course of the fall hunting and fishing seasons around 20 mentor-mentee pairs got together by email, phone and in the field to share tips, tactics and strategies for success in pursuits ranging from fly-fishing to traditional bow hunting. At the conclusion of the season a survey of participants indicated that mentors found fulfillment in sharing their knowledge and experience with up-and-coming hunters and anglers, and mentees felt that the guidance they received in the program was valuable in their growth as outdoorsmen and women. Ultimately the success of our program was not measured by the numbers of fish and game taken, but rather by gauging the intent of participants to participate in the program again in 2019, and whether they would recommend the program to their friends and family who might also be interested in taking up a hobby in the outdoors. The answer was overwhelmingly YES!
What has been captured in the New England Chapter’s Mentoring Program is a microcosm of the national “R3” movement – which aims to Recruit, Retain and Reactivate hunters and anglers in the United States. By creating a collaborative community of state and federal agencies, non-government organizations and industry
professionals, the R3 movement seeks to ensure our outdoor heritage and traditions by addressing declining numbers of active hunters and anglers, and by bringing new participants into our outdoor way of life.
Building on our momentum from 2018, New England BHA is currently recruiting new mentors and mentees for spring fishing and turkey hunting seasons. In addition, the chapter is partnering on workshops and other events with state R3 programs around New England.
When the New England Chapter was offered the opportunity to give a presentation on our mentoring program during the 2019 Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Conference, we were naturally thrilled to attend! Taking place in Groton, Connecticut, the conference is one of the largest gatherings of natural resource professionals and agencies in the northeast, with a territory covering 14 states and 6 Canadian provinces. There were many familiar faces at the workshop – some who have worked with the New England Chapter directly, and others who are working with other BHA chapters in their areas. New England Chapter board member Mike Woods gave a 30-minute presentation on how our Mentoring Program works, what we learned during the 2018 roll-out, where we saw the program going in 2019 and beyond, and some possible areas for collaboration and cooperation.
BHA’s commitment – to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing on public lands and waters – starts with making sure that we have a thriving community of hunters and anglers that values the opportunities we currently enjoy and works to protect and grow those opportunities moving forward. The New England Chapter looks forward to being an active participant in the R3 Community in our area, and to continuing to grow and evolve our Mentoring Program for years to come.
If you are interested in learning more and/or joining our Mentoring Program as a participant, send an email to David Larson at [email protected], and include “mentoring program” in the subject line.