Mentoring New Deer Hunters in Under-Represented Communities

According to a national survey that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts every five years, of the approximately 11.5 million licensed hunters in the U.S., 90% are male and 97% are Caucasian. There is a growing movement within the outdoor industry to provide equitable access to underrepresented communities and diversify hunting, so it more closely represents American demographics today.

Motivated by these disproportions, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), New York Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Hunters of Color, New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Deer Association (NDA) came together to host a “Field to Fork” mentored hunting event for aspiring hunters from the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community in November 2021. The event was hosted on TNC’s Hannacroix Preserve, roughly 30 minutes outside Albany. Participants ranged in age from 34 to 62 and were given the opportunity to go through New York Hunter Education, learn about deer biology and behavior through NDA’s Deer Hunting 101 online course, gain experience shooting, go on multiple hunts with an experienced mentor by their side, and enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie found in many New York deer camps each fall under a safe and welcoming environment. This video is a documentary of that hunt.

“Our ultimate goal is that [Field to Fork hunt participants] self-identify as a hunter, to say ‘I am a hunter, this is something can do and I’m gonna do it’,” said Hank Forester, NDA Director of Hunting. “But what creates that is the community, camaraderie and the social support that pushes them along in their journey as a hunter.”

Plans are underway for more events that will help lower barriers to women and minorities and increase deer hunting participation through representation.

Financial support for this video was provided by the NSSF® Hunting Heritage Trust Grant Program — A first-of-its-kind grant program that works directly to support NSSF’s mission of promoting, protecting and preserving hunting and the shooting sports. It is designed to distribute funds to organizations that focus on innovative ways to reach traditional as well as nontraditional audiences by improving access to and participation in hunting. Organizations welcoming those who want to get involved in the shooting sports are critical to the future of these pastimes. So far the grant program has distributed $300,000 in funding to 17+ outdoor organizations funding recruitment, retention and reactivation programs just like this “field to fork” hunting event.

Join the +ONE Movement

NSSF encourages all current hunters to take the +ONE Pledge. Reach out to someone new—someone outside your circle of friends and family who hunt—and teach them what you know about hunting, conservation and the deeply meaningful ability to put food on the dinner table that you harvested yourself. Talk with your local game wardens and state game agency professionals or reach out to NDA’s Field to Fork program and others like it and let them know you’d like to serve as a mentor. There are thousands of people out there who want to hunt for their own food and don’t know where to turn to get started. With +ONE and programs like Field to Fork, you’re the solution to that problem.

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