Pay it Forward: Reach out to a Non-Traditional Hunter
By Kate Graham
I started hunting much older than most — late middle age! When I moved to a rural area in the Finger Lakes, hunting seemed to be a natural fit since I love being outdoors in all seasons and there are loads of deer in our area. I also liked the idea of knowing where my family’s meat came from. But no one in my family hunted and it was too intimidating to go to a gun club. But when I turned 55, although it seemed daunting, I decided it was time to find a way to learn to hunt. Thankfully, opportunities slowly fell into place to make it happen.
After completing the hunter safety course, I was able to participate in several of DEC’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) programs. BOW provided me with hands-on instruction about firearms and field dressing and cooking game, and meeting other like-minded women was very inspiring. But even with these experiences, I knew I was still a long way away from getting out into the field.
A year later, I signed up for the “Field to Fork” program run by the Greater Rochester Southern Tier Branch of the National Deer Association. To be a participant, you had to be new to hunting. For several months prior to rifle season, our small group was in the classroom or on the gun range learning and preparing for the upcoming season. Once the season started, we were paired with a mentor. Moira Tidball, my mentor, guided me every step of the way and I was fortunate to harvest a 10-point buck during the first week of hunting. Being in the field was better than I imagined and I was hooked!
With the knowledge I gained with Field to Fork I now feel comfortable asking experienced hunters if I could continue my learning with them. I have spent many hours in tree stands over the past two seasons and was fortunate to harvest a second big buck.
I am very grateful to the many people who were so generous with their time and expertise to help me realize a long-sought goal. I hope my story is an inspiration to other non-traditional hunters that with perseverance and seeking every opportunity, it is possible to learn to hunt. I also hope it might encourage experienced hunters to reach out to a non-traditional beginner.