Getting outdoors has serious benefits for all of us, but hunting is truly something special. Hiking, camping, kayaking, etc. are rewarding activities, but all share one downfall, they are merely passive observation of nature. Hunting is a unique activity that allows us to be active participants in the natural world and the cycle of life.
With its many benefits recreationally and the satisfaction of putting high-quality protein on our tables, we sometimes forget that hunting is also the backbone of wildlife conservation in the United States. Hunting license sales determine not only the amount of federal funds Georgia receives, but they also generate revenue which goes directly back into conservation. Our hunting heritage and wildlife conservation are currently facing an uncertain fate as national hunting participation has trended downwards since the 1980s and dropped by 16 percent just in the past five years.
There are plenty of organizations conducting programs aimed at recruiting new hunters, but when it comes down to it, the real impact will come from hunters like you guiding people through the process. Think about it, how did you learn how to hunt? More often than not we had a mentor to help us along our path of progression whether it be a family member, neighbor or coworker. Hunting is an extremely intimidating activity to those who do not grow up in a hunting family, and the required skills development for safe, effective hunting is significant.
So obviously we have a bit of a problem, and it seems one of the best solutions is encouraging existing hunters to serve as a mentor for someone new. We are not just talking about youth either. There are a large number of adults out there who would love to get into hunting but just do not know where to start. This led us to the creation of the Georgia Mentor Competition to bring awareness to the importance of mentorship and reward those who selflessly pay it forward to our community by taking new hunters afield with them each season.
We just concluded the first year of the Georgia Mentor Competition, which was a partnership between GON, Georgia Wildlife Federation, GADNR, Quality Deer Management Association and National Wild Turkey Federation. There were three categories: Deer, Small Game and Turkey, where our Mentors of the Year won a gun specific to that category and the eligible mentees won a Georgia Lifetime Sportsman’s License.
Deer Mentor of the Year
Mentor: David Kidd
Location: Oglethorpe County
Mentee: Edwin Pierre Louis
David did not start hunting until he was in his early 30s, learning through trial and error. He fully understands how difficult it can be to learn how to hunt on your own and makes it a point to take first-time hunters with him on his property in Oglethorpe County. David has been a very active member of the Quality Deer Management Association for years and saw an opportunity to get involved with a program called Field to Fork in Athens this past year to teach adults who have a passion for natural food how to hunt. Through this experience, he met Edwin, who he mentored during the course.
Edwin is a PhD student at UGA and always had an interest in hunting but just didn’t know how to get started. He and David formed a bond in the Field to Fork program, and they continued hunting together afterward. David let Edwin come hunt on his property throughout the season, and eventually Edwin was able to harvest his first deer with a crossbow. Since then, he has bought a rifle and killed several more, taken his friends/colleagues and shared venison. All of this was in his first year of hunting and would not have been possible without David’s mentorship.
When we asked David why mentoring is important to him, he said, “As a lifetime hunter, I enjoyed seeing other people get to experience nature in the outdoors. I think it is important to expose people who have little knowledge about the meaning and importance of hunting to training programs and resources. I also think this will help in guiding them not only to become independent hunters themselves but future mentors of other novice hunters. That way, I hope this will continue to increase the number of hunters/wildlife conservationists. While I didn’t even harvest a deer myself this year, I had the best deer season ever!”
We were honored to present David with a Bergara B-14 Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor sponsored by the Quality Deer Management Association and Edwin with a Georgia Lifetime Sportsman’s License sponsored by the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation.
Small Game Mentor of the Year
Mentor: Krisha Faw
Mentee: Colleen Piper
Krisha is an ecologist with a passion for the outdoors professionally and recreationally. She grew up fishing with her dad and spent more time in the woods than anywhere else but did not start hunting until her late 20s. Colleen is student at UGA majoring in wildlife biology. She became interested in trying hunting through wildlife and considers herself a locavore with a desire to only consume meat that is sustainably harvested.
Krisha met Colleen through The Wildlife Society, and they have been friends for a few years. Colleen just started hunting deer and squirrel in 2017 but had not been duck hunting until Krisha offered to take her on the Altamaha WMA quota hunt. After a brief review of the quota system, duck identification and a five-hour drive, they arrived at their hunting location and made a makeshift blind out of palm fronds. They were not able to harvest any waterfowl that weekend, but they did get to see a bald eagle hunting right in front of them. They hope to make attending waterfowl quota hunts an annual tradition.
When we asked Krisha about why mentoring is important to her, she said, “I went to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College right out of high school and had many friends who hunted and would share their harvest. I wanted to learn to hunt but always felt too intimidated to ask and didn’t have the gear or knowledge of where to even start. At the time, I didn’t know any other women who hunted. All of my hunting mentors have been (and still are) men who grew up around guns and in hunting camps. I’m forever grateful for them because they took me out for shooting practice, lent me mix-matched camo along with their shotguns and rifles, let me sit in their ‘lucky spots’ and spent their time teaching me. I can’t think of a better way to pay them back for their kindness and patience other than to pay it forward with mentoring a new hunter.
“I’ve been a member of the National Wild Turkey Federation Women in the Outdoors program and have attended several of their events. I have met some amazing women who have conveyed the importance of women mentoring other women hunters. I knew when I felt confident enough in my own abilities, that I would do just that. I work in the natural resources field and have informal and formal mentees that I encourage both personally and professionally. Being able to take those young women hunting is just another tool to educate them on sound conservation practices and teach them about the land ethic. My hope is that I can create opportunities and positive experiences like I’ve had and continue to be a part of the driving force in increasing women in hunting and shooting sports.”
We were honored to present Krisha with a Ruger 10/22 Takedown sponsored by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and Colleen with a Georgia Lifetime Sportsman’s License sponsored by the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation.
Turkey Mentor of the Year
Mentor: Hunter Galloway
Mentee: Kalie Tidwell
Hunter has been hunting with his father since he was 8 years old. He was hooked for life after his first few harvests and has a special place in his heart for public land since that’s where he hunts most. He is thankful for the mentorship he received growing up and enjoys returning the favor every chance he gets.
Kalie has been deer hunting for a few years with her father but never had the opportunity to chase turkeys until Hunter offered to take her. They were able to get out for the Special Opportunity Season in March. That Saturday morning Hunter worked a big gobbler into range, and Kalie missed. She was eager to get back out there and attempt to try again the next morning. Within the first hour of daylight, Hunter was able to coax another longbeard within range, and this time Kalie connected.
When we asked Hunter about why mentoring is important to him, he said, “My dad introduced me into hunting years ago and took time out of his personal hunting time just to teach me about the outdoors. I will always be thankful for that. When it comes to hunting and the outdoors, I think every kid needs a mentor or role model to teach them important stuff.
“The way I looked at it when I asked to take Kalie turkey hunting was that I wanted someone to teach me about hunting when I was younger. I just wanted that opportunity, and thankfully, I got it from my dad. I wanted to pass this chance down and take a kid hunting to teach them new things. Hunting is something that needs to be passed down, and I am doing my part at the age of 19. I learn new things every time I go hunting, but I still go to my dad with many questions. A kid or unexperienced person just needs that individual in their life to teach them. With everything going on in the world today, hunting or the outdoors may save a kid and help them stay out of trouble. I will keep doing my part for the rest of my life being a mentor.”
We were honored to present Hunter with a Mossberg 500 Turkey in 12 gauge sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation and appreciate Kalie’s father taking the initiative to purchase her a Georgia Lifetime Sportsman’s License when she was younger.
Be A Mentor
With the staggering declines in hunting participation across the country, conserving hunters may be our most important duty as sportsmen and women. As hunters, we understand hunting’s many values. Everyday we cross paths with people interested in hunting who don’t know where to get started. The rewards of mentorship are obvious in each of these mentor and mentee stories, and we hope these stories inspire you to take some time to mentor a new hunter this coming season.
Be on the lookout for the announcement of this year’s competition in August for your chance to enter to be recognized as a 2019 Mentor of the Year and win great prizes!
For more information, mentor stories and photos visit www.gon.com/mentor.
About the Authors: Charles Evans is employed by the Georgia Wildlife Federation as the Georgia R3 Coordinator and works to increase hunting participation in Georgia. Hank Forester is the Hunting Heritage Programs Manager for the Quality Deer Management Association and serves as the Chair of the Georgia Mentor Committee that created this competition.