Hunting & Heritage  |  02/26/2024

Learn To Hunt Event Brings Experience, Community to New Group of Hunters


Hosted by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Modern Carnivore, and Minority Outdoor Alliance, this mentored event introduced 11 hunters to grouse hunting

Text and photos by Dave Schwarz, Quail Forever's Minnesota Outreach Coordinator

Samiya Ali smiled as she made her way along a hunter walking trail as golden aspen leaves twirled gently to the ground around her.

It was the Minneapolis resident’s first time hunting.

“My big goal was to walk in the woods with a gun and hunt, so already we have a success,” Ali said with a grin.

She was part of a group of 11 hunters that took part in an adult Learn to Hunt Grouse Camp weekend at YMCA Camp Olson near Longville, Minnesota. The mentored event was hosted by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Modern Carnivore, and Minority Outdoor Alliance.

Fartun Nur gets ready to walk a trail for Ruffed Grouse near Longville, Minn., during a Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Learn To Hunt grouse camp event.

Most participants came looking for information and to experience grouse hunting. What they also found was a network of support.

“One of the biggest hurdles for people entering into hunting is a lack of community and all the things that community can provide,” said Ashley Chance, Hunting Heritage Program Manager. “These weekend experiences really bring people together. You share meals, there’s joking and comradery and that’s where connections are formed. Those connections are what new hunters are going to rely on when they inevitably encounter barriers in their path.”

“There was just an energy that comes from a shared focus on getting out there and being successful and celebrating that success of a few people. Even if you were somebody who didn’t shoot a bird, you get to share in that. Cultures have done that for millennia. You celebrate the harvest and share the stories and then share the food, that’s really a universal experience that’s pretty special,” Modern Carnivore founder Mark Norquist said.

In addition to grouse and woodcock, the weekend’s menu featured goose, duck, foraged wild mushrooms, venison and hand-harvested wild rice from a lake in the nearby area.

“The aspect of sharing a meal together is a universal experience that everybody can participate in. There’s something about sharing a meal and talking about food that crosses boundaries and builds relationships very quickly,” Norquist said.

As the campfire crackled following the successful day’s hunt, mentors demonstrated ways to dress game birds and how to prepare them for the table. Laughter echoed through the woods as hunters shared tales from the afternoon hunt.

Minority Outdoor Alliance founder Durrell Smith led participants through a workshop focused on the history of the North American conservation model, ethical hunting, safety, and etiquette when hunting private or public lands. After a session on the clay target range, hunters left with their mentors for an afternoon on the grouse trails.

Funding for the camp came through a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. It is one in a series of six Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Learn To Hunt events nationwide, including pheasant hunts in Colorado and Wisconsin and bobwhite quail hunt experiences in Texas, Alabama, and South Carolina.

“The future of hunting, and by extension wildlife management and conservation, hinges on our ability to expand the hunting community to new demographics, or to help bring people back into the sport,” Chance said. “It’s all about creating an environment where people not only feel welcome but feel like they belong, and those are two very different things.”