Just this week, I was asked the question “So how do you learn about those beautiful places you go?” The question caught me off guard, but I realized how much I take for granted the outdoors lifestyle I was brought up in. The specific places I’ve found in Montana were not shown to me, but the general knowledge of where and how to look for animals was taught to me many years ago. Without the mentorship of my father and grandfather, Montana might have felt inaccessible to me. Now, I recognize the opportunity to give that to someone else.
Having a mentor for the outdoors is valuable in countless ways. It gives a brand new outdoorsman access to generations of knowledge but more importantly, a mentor can guide a new outdoorsman towards comfortability in the outdoors, so they are empowered to do it on their own.
Under the umbrella of Identical Draw's New Hunter program, I took on the role of mentor at a Spring turkey camp in Nebraska a few weeks ago. The first day was filled with opportunities to teach skills like how to set decoys, interacting with private landowners, using the lay of the land to stay out of your prey's sight, navigating onX Maps, and countless more. Ultimately, the first day ended with our mentee, Matt, tagging his first ever animal. It was during this special moment that I realized how important mentorship is, allowing him to experience the joy of harvesting his own animal. As Matt has children of his own, he will likely step into the mentorship role down the line, raising kids that value time spent outdoors and accomplishing the task of feeding their families with their hard work.
The following day was filled with fewer birds, but equal amounts of learning opportunities. I was hunting with a father son duo and introduced to just how much patience and luck hunting often requires. Watching how the dad kept his son's spirits up, pointed out the small beauties around, and knew at what point to call it a day because his son was exhausted is something I’ll have to remember for my own future children was quite possibly the most valuable lesson for me to witness.
Knowledge is the most valuable asset an experienced outdoorsman has and the most important a new hunter needs. You may not even know you hold it. What I discovered is that a single day sharing what now comes as second nature to me could give someone new the confidence needed to begin taking steps into the woods and forming their own quiet learning experiences. The technical pieces of the outdoor activity you engage in can be learned through classes and experiences, but simply time spent outdoors with a voice you can trust is invaluable. If you are looking to become a mentor or would like to find a mentor of your own, check out the New Hunter platform and get into the backcountry together.