TWS Working Group launches hunting/shooting mentor program

University of Montana TWS student chapter member Ada Smith always wanted to learn how to hunt, but she wanted to shadow an experienced hunter before she ventured out on her own. Luckily for her, through a recently launched hunting and target shooter mentor program, Smith was able to follow experienced hunter and TWS member Mateen Hassemi, who developed a student-led hunting mentorship program at the university.

While the two were scanning up a hillside with their binoculars, a young mule deer buck came crashing out of the brush about 70 yards away. Mateen took a shot, but the bullet flew right past the deer. Ada was not disappointed at all; instead, she was curious as to what went wrong and thankful that it was a clean miss.

TWS member Mateen Hessami mentoring Ada Smith. ©TWS HTCWG

While Hassemi launched his own program through a partnership with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the University of Montana’s Student Chapter of TWS, more mentorship experiences like this are possible after the Hunting, Trapping, and Conservation Working Group of TWS launched its first hunting and target shooting mentor program last winter.

Another of the Working Group’s favorite mentorship stories comes from TWS member Samantha Pedder. For Pedder, last year’s hunting season became a time for personal growth. Her idea of a mentor relationship evolved from a one-on-one perspective to one of a hunting mentor-mentee network.

TWS member Samantha Pedder with fellow hunter Sara Mueller. ©TWS HTCWG

She spent a week during Pennsylvania’s rifle season hunting with hunters of all levels of experience. At first, she was worried that her mentoring capability couldn’t be adjusted to meet the needs of many people instead of just one. However, as the week progressed, she came to realize that the responsibility of teaching and learning fell on all hunters’ shoulders. The thought of a tribe/network/cohort/or group of people all pursuing different hunting opportunities together was a newfound concept to her and became something that she believes will continue to evolve as the next generation of hunters steps into the field. Last year’s Pennsylvania whitetail season left a humbling and exciting impression on her time in the field. Pedder looks forward to recruiting not one, but a group of new hunters in the coming years so that her tribe may grow and continue to learn from one another.

TWS members that are interested in becoming a mentor can sign up online through the working group’s website and are encouraged to return to the website again after mentoring a hunter or target shooter in the field. Each mentor has the opportunity to provide a photo and a short story describing their mentoring experience, and a few lucky mentors will have their stories featured in The Wildlife Professional!

The Hunting, Trapping, and Conservation Working Group would like to thank all those who have passed on important heritage and cultural values through mentored hunts and target shooting excursions. By enrolling as a hunting and target shooting mentor, you are exposing more people to hunting and target shooting heritage as well as supporting future land and habitat conservation. All mentors help preserve hunting and target shooting and support environmental conservation for years to come.

TWS members may join the Hunting, Trapping, and Conservation Working Group today for just $5! Visit the Working Group’s website to learn more about their mission, meet their officers, and more.

Header Image: Two men, a young girl and a dog hunt pheasant together in West Virginia. ©Brett Billings, USFWS