Saturday, November 1, 2008

Introducing Hunting to a Nonhunter

I’m looking for some advice. I have the privilege of introducing a friend into the wonderful world of hunting and wonder the best strategy to do so. This person became a friend of mine about five years ago when we moved into the tiny country community where we now live. Their family, my hunting partner’s family and mine are all very close.

Our families hang out together at least once a week; everything from BBQs to fishing to camping. The Friend is a great guy, but was never introduced to the outdoors as a kid. He was raised on the beaches of New Jersey so his orientation to the outdoors only revolves around that context.

Every year as hunting season rolls around and our families continue spending time together, The Hunting Partner and I almost always end up talking about, well, hunting. The Wife typically nudges me in an effort to make sure that The Friend isn’t left out of the conversation, which, unfortunately he usually is because he doesn’t hunt and hasn’t expressed an interest in learning.

Until now.

About three weeks, I was at The Hunting Partner’s house placing the final touches on the boat blind when my cell phone rang. It was The Friend and the first words out of his mouth were, “Is a Remington 870 a good gun for duck hunting?”

I think my reaction was something like, “Huh?”

He proceeded to explain to me that he was at the sporting goods store, had already picked up some waders and wanted to know if this was the ‘right’ gun before he bought it.

“Uh, sure! It would be a great starter gun!”

We hung up, and the look on my face must have been priceless. The Hunting Partner immediately asked what was up, and I proceeded to tell him the gist of the brief conversation.

What I realized upon reflection was that those five years of stories, excited talk of great hunts, and photos afield that The Hunting Partner and I shared in front of The Friend had slowly imprinted in his mind and built his interest. My next thought was, “Oh dear God, I hope we didn’t screw him up…”

I’ve continued to talk with The Friend and counsel him on rounding out his basic gear - a jacket, gloves and hat, but told him not to go too crazy. Just the essentials for now. He and I also talked about ‘what comes next’ in him becoming a hunter. I gave him a hunter safety book and he is planning to take the test next week.

We’re also going to shoot some sporting clays tomorrow, which will be a good chance to introduce him to the gun. That’s right, he’s never shot a shotgun. He has fired a rifle and handgun, but never a shotgun. I’ve been rehearsing tomorrow’s conversation with him in my mind. My idea is that we take a good amount of time sitting and simply talking about the essentials of safety and how the gun works. I don’t want to insult is intelligence, but I’m also rabid about safety so I figure it’s worth the risk.

With those basics out of the way, I am at a bit of a loss on what to do next? With my own boy or other youths I’ve introduced to hunting, it seems much more natural because they are impressionable, highly teachable, and in The Boy’s case, it is part of the legacy I am instilling in him. But with my 40-something year old Friend I don’t know how to proceed.

Should I just start taking him on easy, late afternoon hunts on warm weather days (like I would The Boy) so that he gets plenty of positive experiences? Or should we just tell him that he’s a grown man and to saddle up and bring him on our usual hunts like this one or this one?

I’d love to hear from those of you who have either introduced an adult to hunting or have been introduced to hunting yourself. What worked, what didn’t? I take this rare opportunity as a privilege, and for gosh sakes, I don’t want to screw it up.


crestonejake said...

I think it is really a great testimony to the way you and your other hunting partner have conducted yourselves in the presense of the non hunter that he has a idea that hunting can be so much fun (and hard work). The important thing for your friend to understand is the basic fundamentals of gun safety and you will have to be extremely vigilant when he has a weapon in his hands. I might get some static from the following statement but here goes anyway, a person fourty something may be more dangerous than a 10 year old and should be treated as such. A 10 year old is going to be more responsive because he is at a more impressionable age and possibly more attentive. This was what I experienced whenever I introduced a friend or my two sons to the sport of hunting. Nevertheless, because of your fine qualities and understanding of people in general, I am sure everything will work out just great using the same philosophy with the adult as you would with a son. Start slowly, introduction at a pace that will only enhance enthusium and perhaps when he enjoys the experience so well he might even suggest traveling to a place like Canada to hunt ducks and geese and many of us know what an awesome experience that can be. Good luck with your new hunting partner and Godspeed.

Glenn Bartley said...

Only you know your friend and can have a clue about how to start him out. As for me, I would start him on a full fledged hunt, but I would first ask which way he would prefer. After all he is an adult.

Best regards,
Glenn B

Terry Scoville said...

I am in full agreement Jon that you can't be too safety oriented. I suggest setting up a stationary target first and you shoot the first several shots and have your friend watch. Ear plugs are good and just have him snuggle in to the stock and hold firmly. Otherwise he may get a very sore cheek or jaw. Do some dry runs with gun fit and shouldering his gun. Otherwise I am sure you are on the right track. Maybe ease him into a not so challenging hunt and progress as you his enthusiasm allows. Have fun and keep us posted.

Blessed said...

I think you are fine to go overboard on the safety talk but since this is an adult you're talking to I would preface that talk with an "I'm a bit fanatical about this because..." and then if you have an example of a close call use it. That way your safety talk isn't "preachy" and doesn't turn him off right away. If you need some close calls let me know and I'll give you some :)

Also I'd ask what he would like best as far as getting out the first time - I love a morning hunt more than anything and usually when we go out it's for an all dayer which can get tedious and tiring - however, my husband, who introduced me to hunting, broke his routine and started by taking me out on morning hunts that ended around lunch time, then sometimes we would return for an afternoon hunt and that was perfect. It didn't take long until I was ready for full-day hunts!

Good luck on introducing The Friend to the great world of hunting. Fortunately he's interested in learning waterfowl hunting first - one of the easiest types of hunts for a newby to go on! You don't have to sit perfectly still for hours on end and when there is action there is usually a lot of it!

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you're introducing someone else to hunting. That's a wonderful thing.

I'd second the advice you've already been given. Preface your safety talk with some information about why you're going into such detail. I'd also stress that most hunters are fanatical about safety and discuss it frequently.

After that, ask him what sort of hunt he wants to go on. He may not be ready for an all day tough hunt right out of the box. On the other hand, he may want to experience exactly what he's heard you and The Hunting Partner discussing all these years. Give him a clear description of what the options are, and let him choose.

Can't wait to hear how this all turns out. Make sure you post after you take him on a hunt.

Tom Sorenson said...

Good question! I can't really shed any light on the subject, though. I reckon I'd just take him hunting regardless of weather or any other circumstances. But, then that's what I did with my wife, too - and she isn't too interested in hunting anymore...not against it, just not really thrilled about going anymore. So maybe you should bring him in gently - you know your buddy better than we do, though. Will be interested to hear how it turns out!

sportingdays said...

I think it's wonderful you have this opportunity.

I've had a ton of relatives and friends tell me they want to learn to hunt and go hunting with me. They are all fired up -- some even buying hundreds of dollars worth of gear -- up until they learn about the hunter safety class. Somehow, they just can't ever find the time to spend a day or two in a classroom to get their hunting certificate.

As others have said, you know your friend best. I would tailor the hunt around his personality.

Is he a gung-ho guy? Then I would do the early morning hunt and give him the full experience. In the blind, I would also let him shoot first so you can kind of coach him into the shots and reinforce the safety issues.

Is he a social guy? If so, I would celebrate the social aspects of the hunt. Pre-hunt breakfast with the guys at the duck club or a late-morning, post-hunt breakfast or lunch at a rural cafe frequented by duck hunters. Your families could plan a post-hunt dinner party to celebrate your day in the field and share your ducks together. In the marsh, I would point out all of the cool things we so often take for granted -- the sunrise, the other wildlife, the habitat, etc.

Depending on his personality, he might also get into cleaning his first bird or birds. It gives him a chance to really examine the ducks, see all their colors, etc. rather than dropping them off to be cleaned or you cleaning them for him. Certainly, you would teach a young hunter how to clean his or her own ducks in the beginning.

Good luck and keep us posted on how all this turns out.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Oooh, sorry it took so long to comment here - your blog isn't updating in my reader for some reason, so I didn't know you'd done this until Kristine posted about it.

Has your friend taken hunter safety yet? If not, GREAT. Take him out ona hunt NOW, without his gun, so he has a chance to watch how it works, and see how ethical and safe hunters act when he can focus on it, rather than when he's focusing on all those first-hunt issues. Just like a parent, you can explain everything. This is why we do this. This is why we're quiet now. This is where we point the gun when we're not shooting. This is how long we wait to stand up and shoot.

I think that's a super valuable experience!

Finspot said...

When I decide to take this foraging thing to the next level I'll be in touch!

The Downeast Duck Hunter said...

Great angle,
My brother-in-law talked duck hunting but I'm sure he never really did duck hunting... He did share some interest, but it was hard to get that good vibe... Finally I asked him if he would join my father and I on a hunt...

After some serious explanation and thorough discussion, we put him to good work and we left our firearms in the case. Once he started getting a feel for gunning eiders, we then started taking turns. The key factor for us was safety, then the finer points of effective sea ducking.

Now, my brother-in-law and I go out whenever he's down visiting with my sister. In addition, he's quietly "hooked" and it has improved our relationship even more than before. I'm thankful for hunting and how it became an avenue to build bridges.

I treat newbies like I'm a guide with clear ground rules, and it seems that you already had a great plan in motion and I appreciate the effort you have taken to begin a dialogue on your blog.

I have added you to my favorite links, but not figuring out the RSS feed thing.

Take Care,