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A Profile of a New Hunter
Curt Ward is not unlike the other average 40-year-old males from Alabama. He grew up in the small town of Wetumpka, played baseball and enjoyed riding bikes with his friends. Although he spent a little time target shooting with his father, no one in his immediate family hunted or spent much time in the outdoors. He never knew what he was missing. He finished high school and went off to college, got married, and started a family. Along the way, Curt met people who would talk about storied weekends, of cooking delicious wild game meals and joking with friends and family at the hunting camps. Some of these people became friends and many of these people he realized had traits he really admired. These hunters tended to prioritize friends and family, and many of the highlights from their stories involved a friend or family member that was there to share the hunting experience. Many of these hunters really seemed to care about the environment and about making the outdoors part of a healthy lifestyle. After a series of life events led several of his close friends to move away, Curt found himself with time on his hands and a desire to learn. He jokingly told his wife that some of the best, most genuine people he knew were hunters, so he was going to learn how to hunt. Shortly thereafter, a conversation at work led a coworker to recommend the newly established Adult Mentored Hunting program (AMH). Curt followed up on the recommendation and applied and was selected for the very first 3-day mentored deer hunt.
Fast forward three seasons following his participation in the program and Curt finds himself hunting multiple states for multiple species. The proverbial “take the ball and run with it” adage is an understatement. With this new hobby also came new friendships, the component he attributes as most important for his continued involvement with hunting. The comradery, the food, the jokes, that’s his favorite part. The quality time with friends and family remains as his primary motivator.
Flashing back to his experience on the 3-day mentored deer hunt, Curt was overwhelmed by how nice it was. When the AMH program began, participants could bring a guest to accompany them on their experience. Curt asked a friend that was already an experienced hunter to tag along with him and Curt was worried his friend might not learn anything. Both he and Curt said they were blown away with the quality of the experience and described it as “top notch, and something people would pay big money to do. We both learned so much that weekend that we drove home exhausted. I wrote down as much as possible and still go back to look at those notes from time to time in order to process the experience. Besides the presentations about conservation, habitat management, and wildlife biology, the time spent talking to the biologists, that serve as hunting mentors, one on one was so valuable. You just learn so much.”
Curt was particularly impressed with the wildlife management and conservation presentation conducted by Director Chuck Sykes. “The way conservation, habitat management, and hunting are tied together was so eye opening to me.” Curt now utilizes that knowledge to implement management practices on some family land in Northwest Georgia. He enjoys taking his two daughters with him on “scouting” trips to set up their trail cameras, set up blinds, and spend time in the woods. After having deployed the trail cameras for only a month, over 3,000 pictures filled his memory card to reveal the property was teeming with wildlife. Prior to placing the camera, his mother, the owner of the property, had no idea how much wildlife was using her land. It was eye opening for everyone and has been a constant hub of interest and shared experiences for the family.
Along with knowledge about conservation and habitat management, Curt also learned about how to spot and identify game from his time with his mentor. “The process of seeing movement and then narrowing down on that location and then properly identifying the animal was big for me. It’s something that I’ve practiced every year since then and I’ve gotten much better.” He’s been using that game eye to spot deer, ducks, and doves on a combination of land that he’s leased, private land that he’s been granted access to hunt, and some public land.
A motivated learner, Curt has attended multiple workshops conducted by the AMH program and continues to learn valuable information each time he attends an event. A small game workshop at a local Wildlife Management Area provided an opportunity to spend one on one time with a shooting instructor. “I went from being able to barely hit the broad side of a barn to consistently breaking clays. I can now hold my own when I shoot sporting clays with my dad.” A quick glance at his social media pages will tell you he has applied those shooting skills to some recent waterfowl and dove hunts with a high degree of success.
When asked about what advice he would give a new hunter, Curt responded by saying, “Keep going, make the time. Go. Even if you wake up late or it doesn’t seem to be an ideal time to be outside, get out there because you will always learn something. This day and age, our schedules are pulled in so many ways with almost everything vying for attention, you must make a real effort to carve out time. Make it a priority and get outside.”
If you are new to hunting and interested in learning more about the AMH program, please visit our website, www.OutdoorAlabama.com/mentored. There, you’ll find a list of workshops around the state taking place during the Fall. Find one near you and sign up to begin your new learning experience. After attending a workshop, you will have a solid foundation of fundamental skills and be eligible to attend mentored hunts that will take place during the winter and spring. Use the opportunity to learn new skills, meet other new hunters, and enjoy the great outdoors!
For the accomplished hunters, please consider inviting new people with you and take the time to mentor a new hunter. Consider family members, friends, and coworkers. You will find the experience to be extremely rewarding and well worth your time. Help us ensure a bright future for conservation!