November 01, 2021
By Darron McDougal
I was shaking so badly as the buck ran away that my wife looked me in the eyes and asked, “Are you going to be all right?” It’s funny because she’d released the arrow, not me. I’ve been blessed to take some nice animals in my bowhunting tenure, but none caused me to completely lose my composure like my wife’s first buck did.
Now, mentoring family or loved ones is one thing, but more important is getting on the frontlines and reaching those who don’t have opportunities to bowhunt apart from mentorship. One example is Ryland Holt. He never knew his father, and his mother was tragically killed by a drunk driver. But, mentors Scott Morris and Chris Rapier, through Kicking Bear Foundation, took Holt under their wings and taught him to bowhunt. In a sense, they became his father figures. Holt is now not only a bowhunter, but a skilled athlete with an undeniable work ethic. Mentorship changed his life.
I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring young and first-time hunters, and it is incredibly fulfilling to guide someone through what I’m so passionate about. Even if they don’t succeed, it changes them for good. And in a torn-up world, we need that change to repeat itself again and again.
Nearly any adult can become a mentor. If you’re anxious to do it, following are some steps that will help you to better understand the process.
We All Know Someone
To become a mentor, you can partner with an organization like Kicking Bear Foundation, or you can look in your circles for someone who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to hunt. Just about everyone has people who God has put in their lives that could use mentoring. Perhaps it’s a fatherless teenager. It could be a kid from the city who wants to hunt and fish but has no one to take him/her. Maybe it’s someone struggling financially. Or, it could be just the average kid across the street who likes to play video games.
In any case, hunting is an ideal mentorship tool. You’re not just teaching the individual to hunt. You’re teaching them how to make decisions, how to provide food for the table, how to overcome challenges and many others values that apply to everyday life. Identify someone who you think would enjoy trying bowhunting, and then roll up your sleeves. This is your chance to make a positive impact.
Have Genuine Care
Teaching someone how to shoot archery and eventually how to bowhunt is a powerful thing, but it doesn’t happen by accident. According to Ray Howell of Kicking Bear Foundation, it begins with care.
“The main thing with being a good mentor is genuinely caring for other people,” Howell said. “You must have the desire to teach them something that has brought joy into your life. That is how you can change someone’s life for the better. That is especially true when you introduce someone to bowhunting who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.
“For me,” he continued, “I want to get folks outdoors and on the right path. Then, I get the chance to share my story with them and how Jesus and the Gospel changed my life. I always let folks I mentor know that, no matter what their troubles are, God has a purpose for them. I do all of this because I care about people. Again, that is one of the most important attributes of a solid hunting mentor. You can’t be selfish. You must care for others.”
When you begin mentoring, patience goes a long way. If you’ve been bowhunting for a long time, it’s practically second nature to you. But, don’t forget where you came from. Remember that you knew very little when you started. This will help you to be patient and show grace when your mentee makes mistakes. Yes, address their mistakes and discuss ways to fix them, but don’t get disgusted and make unkind remarks. Be patient.
Obviously, bowhunting is very involved. In other words, you can’t just hand someone a bow and take them bowhunting. It takes time, acclimation and confidence to take the next leap from archery to bowhunting.
“Confidence is an important quality to develop in someone you’re mentoring,” Howell shared. “Shooting a bow and learning how to do it accurately builds self-esteem. You can take a kid who has nothing in the world and put a bow in his/her hands. When he/she starts increasing their accuracy, they’re achieving a lot. That can build not only their confidence to go bowhunting, but it can also give them the sense of being successful at something. And when achievements are made, congratulate and encourage them. They don’t have to be the best in the world, they just have to be persistent.”
Display Upstanding Character
Whenever you’re mentoring someone, it’s important to note that you’re being watched and probably looked up to. Everything you say and do makes a mark. Especially when you’re mentoring youths.
“Through Kicking Bear, we don’t allow mentors to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco or swear in the presence of any kids,” Howell said. “If a kid sees someone they look up to doing these things, he or she will most likely do it or try doing it, too. A person with integrity and good character looks out for the best interests of those he/she is mentoring. Keeping the experience free from addictive and negative influences will ensure that we teach hunting in the proper perspective. We don’t want folks to misconceive that cussing and drinking are part of hunting. We can show them a better time and a better way of life without those things.
“Hunting isn’t about drinking and leaving beer cans in the woods,” Howell continued. “It’s about getting out in God’s creation. It’s about relaxing, having a good time and letting stress go. A mentor who tells that story will provide a better experience. The goal with mentoring bowhunters is to show them what the outdoors are all about. We also want to teach them how to leave the woods better than they found them.”
Again, a hunter with integrity is positioned to provide the best possible experience for a new hunter, so conduct yourself in an upstanding way. Remember, someone is watching.
If you’re asking why we need more hunters when it seems like there are already so many, the answers are quite simple.
“Conservation is the main thing,” Howell explained. “It’s better to harvest an animal cleanly with an arrow than for them to be struck by a vehicle or to be afflicted with a deadly disease that takes weeks to produce mortality. Those are tragic ways for animals to die, and then the meat usually goes to waste, too. Hunting and harvesting animals keeps populations in check so that we can enjoy wild animals both in hunting and observing contexts.
“As hunters, we manage animals through harvest, and we put food on our tables at the same time,” Howell continued. “If you ask me, it’s the most efficient way to control animal populations and ensure healthy herds. God has blessed us with these animals, and in the Bible, He tells us that we’re supposed to watch over them. Hunting is the best way to do this.”