Hunting & Heritage  |  12/28/2023

How a Hunter is Made


Introducing someone new to hunting is so much more than “one-and-done”

By Ashley Chance

Holding this journal in your hands means the odds are good that you would describe yourself as a hunter. Odds are even better that you became one thanks to the support of a family member. For me, it was my dad.

Hunting has shaped so many facets of my life: my career, my sense of place in the natural order of things, my diet, even the person I chose to marry. The impact that being a hunter can have on someone’s life, and in turn the places and animals they hunt, is enormous. 

This knowledge drives my work to make hunting available to everyone. I can quote data showing a decades-long decline in hunters and associated drop in funding for wildlife management. But those data are tired, and not terribly compelling to the individual. 

There are Learn to Hunt events happening all over the country all the time. A large part of my job is to organize these events and support their execution. 

But while events are wonderful at giving new hunters their first experience, they aren’t enough. How many times did you go out into the field with someone more experienced before you felt ready to hunt solo? For many of us that number can be measured across years. People that are getting started as hunters need what a family traditionally provides. 

A short list of what a new hunter needs look like this:

Knowledge. The components here are almost endless. When to hunt. How to identify legal game. Which ammunition to use for what you are hunting. Choosing a choke. What a plug is. How to decipher game laws. How to comport yourself in a group. What to do with a bird after you kill it. How to kill it if it’s not quite dead after you shoot it. And on and on.

Community. A sense of belonging and camaraderie.

Access. Places to hunt.

Gear. Just securing the right shotgun, clothes, boots and other tools of the hunt can be a challenge.

A Soft Entry Point. It takes many repetitions and experiential learning opportunities over time to make a new hunter.

Please consider passing your gifts on to someone who wasn’t as lucky as you. “Mentor” can be a scary word filled with expectation and a sense that if you aren’t a seasoned firearms safety instructor, with months of spare time and copious amounts of private land filled with birds to share, you aren’t qualified. 

Here is the truth. If you are a hunter that can pursue game in a safe and legal way, you are qualified to help someone else learn how to do the same. You do not need to be an expert, or even particularly skilled, at hunting.

For example, I am currently in one of the longest shooting slumps of my life and could still teach someone how to hit a clay effectively. You don’t need to dedicate an inordinate amount of time to someone, or be ready with a complete lesson plan and midterm exams. You simply need to bring someone with you. 

If you feel compelled to bring someone new along with you, or take someone who has been out of the field for a long time, take our Hunter Mentor Pledge. It is Quail Forever’s commitment to carrying on the hunting and conservation legacy. As an added bonus, when you take the pledge you are entered to win a guided upland hunt for two. 

We need much more Hunter Mentor Pledge representation from quail range. Don’t let quail hunting become a fireside story about what people used to do. Help us make sure that it’s still something “we do” in the decades to come.

Join your fellow hunters and take the pledge at

Ashley Chance is Hunting Heritage Program Manager for Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.

This story is from the 2024 Winter Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Quail Forever member today!