Hunting season is right around the corner and for veterans of the pastime, it brings an almost uncontrollable feeling of excitement. But for those who would love to give hunting a try but have never awaited the arrived of that first flock of Canadas or held their breath as a buck walks out onto a field, the season brings one constant question: how can I do this?
The answer is a mentored hunt. It's true that hunting for the first time is not like giving golf a try. There are a few preparations that must be made -- namely, securing a Manitoba Hunter Education card. But once that's in place, going on that first hunt is close at hand.
The Manitoba Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Manitoba Conservation come together to offer hunts for youth and adults throughout the fall season. There are even hunts for women only. Waterfowl hunts are the most popular but there are also outings for upland birds as well as white-tailed deer (with a traditional muzzleloader).
Jamie Bisson of Pilot Mound went on her first mentored hunt in September 2010.
"I spent my summer taking my hunter safety courses and acquiring my firearms licence possession card," said the mom of two young daughters. "My husband was my mentor for that first hunt. It was breathtaking watching the sun come up over the marsh and seeing the birds come. I did not take down any birds but I was hooked that weekend."
Bisson admits that she's itching to get out into the marshes and fields again this season.
"I feel that the mentored hunts are what have made me the outdoors woman I am becoming today. Without the hunts and the knowledge and encouragement and confidence I gained from the two I attended, I would not be looking forward to hunting season at all. Sign up for a mentored hunt, you won't be disappointed!"
It was Rob Wyton's youngest son who first asked to be taken out hunting. That was 2007 and it sparked something special for the family. Wyton took his two sons out hunting for the first time that year.
"They enjoyed it more than I could have imagined and went on to enjoy many, many more hunts with myself and several of their friends. It opened another chance for us to spend many hours together enjoying the outdoors and each other's company. It has given us the opportunity to really stay in touch with each other.
"I had not done much hunting since my father had passed away in 2000. I was told about mentored hunts by a good friend but otherwise had never heard of them," said Wyton, who now volunteers for several mentored hunts around the province.
Wyton says it would be impossible to name his favourite part about being a hunting mentor.
"The whole experience is very satisfying. Having someone race over to you with their first bird, so excited they can't talk, is hard to describe. Having one of the youths you have mentored meet you on the street and call you by name and ask, "When can we go again?" is a special experience and lets us know we have had a positive influence on a young person's life. It is always a positive and rewarding experience for all of us."
The first mentored hunts begin Aug. 31. The complete schedule for all mentored hunts is listed on the Manitoba Wildlife Federation's website: http://www.mwf.mb.ca/
You'll also find information there about becoming a mentor. But as Wyton reminds us, "I have been mentoring with these organized hunts since 2007 but have always welcomed anyone who wanted to come out hunting or fishing for as long as I have hunted and fished. The friendships that have come with it have been some of the best I have had."
Shel Zolkewich writes about the outdoors, travel and food when she's not playing outside, traveling or eating. You can reach her with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org