Tag Archives: family traditions

Lottery hunt of a Lifetime at Patuxent Research Refuge

For Shelby Aguilar and her dad, Rob, the chilly morning in November will be one they remember for a long time to come. The pair had won the deer hunt lottery weeks prior, and both were excited at the opportunity to hunt at Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland.

Shelby took her hunter safety course at eight years old and began hunting with her dad when she was 12. Shelby’s grandfather even promised to mount her first big buck, an Aguilar family tradition.

“The best part about learning to hunt was just spending time outdoors and getting to bond with my dad. We always have a good time, even if we don’t see any wildlife.”

That morning flew by. The easily accessible trails made for a quick trip to their hunting zone as the sun began to rise. The father-daughter duo admitted they spent more time talking and laughing in the woods than sitting still and listening for deer.

“We made one grunt call and rattled two or three times and he came running!” Shelby said.

Now at just 16 years old, Shelby’s ten-point deer is the largest white-tail harvested from Patuxent Research Refuge, weighing in at 155 pounds dressed. She plans to share the deer with her family  hopes to pass on her love for hunting to future generations.

Shelby doesn’t let being a girl stop her from doing what she loves. She encourages all girls to “Go for it! Get out there an learn something new. It’s a great way to spend time in the outdoors and with your family.”

A non-hunter’s guide to hunting

You may be wondering how regulated hunting contributes to conservation, the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and if it’s a sustainable practice.

Let’s start with the mission of the Service: working with others to conserve, enhance, and protect fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. A key component enabling the Service to carry out their mission is conserving and enhancing habitat, managed under the National Wildlife Refuge System. The purchase of federal duck stamps, required by all waterfowl hunters, provides the funding needed to conserve new lands, enhancing opportunities for outdoor activities where people can connect with nature.

Outdoor opportunities, including regulated hunting, are among the benefits people enjoy through the work of federal and state partnerships. For many, hunting is a family activity that transcends generations. Many feel hunting not only teaches the value and importance of wildlife conservation, but teaches imperative life lessons such as patience, respect, solitude, and self-awareness. Scott Kahan, Regional Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, for example, feels hunting is an important way to reconnect with nature and spend quality time with his two sons. He writes, “I will cherish the opportunity to get out in the woods to hunt with my sons and reconnect with those things that are truly important to me.”

Scott Kahan and his son at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

So how do hunters contribute to the Service’s mission to conserve, enhance, and protect wildlife? First, biologists study and monitor the populations of wildlife species that are hunted to ensure populations are sustainable and healthy, while law enforcement officers ensure that regulations are being followed by hunters. In some areas, populations of game species can become overabundant, limiting the amount of suitable habitat available for other wildlife. In these situations, hunting contributes to the conservation, enhancement, and longevity of habitat for all wildlife through the regulated take of an overabundant species.

A meat processor participating in the Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program.

In addition to conservation benefits, hunting is a sustainable way to provide food for your family. Alternatively, if you enjoy hunting and have game meat to share, you can supply nutritious food for over 200 people by donating a single deer! Programs such as “Hunters Helping the Hungry” in New Jersey and “Hunters Sharing the Harvest” in Pennsylvania, allow hunters to donate their harvest to help feed those in need. Even if you are unsuccessful in harvesting a deer, you still had the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with family and friends, and participate in a wildlife-dependent activity!

Pennsylvania’s pheasant propagation program provides enhanced hunting opportunities for junior hunters. Photo by Hal Korber.

Are you interested in learning how to hunt? To obtain a hunting license, a prospective hunter must participate in and pass a hunter’s education course. These courses are funded by the Service through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program and are carried out by state agencies, and are designed to teach students to be safe, responsible, and conservation-minded hunters. Many programs are specifically designed for youth hunters, such as the Pennsylvania Junior Pheasant Hunt Program, where young hunters are guided by an experienced mentor throughout the hunt.

For experienced hunters who wish to expand their hunting knowledge, many states offer advanced hunting courses. For example, Vermont offers advanced hunting courses focusing on hunting Vermont black bears, white-tailed deer tracking and processing, and small game hunting with dogs.

Learn more about hunting on public lands here.

Click here to learn more about hunting on national wildlife refuges.

For links to state fish and wildlife agencies, click here.

Giving thanks in nature

photo 1

Today Scott Kahan, regional chief of national wildlife refuges in the Northeast, discusses his family traditions, what he’s thankful for and connecting with his family in nature.

It’s that time of year when we honor family traditions and give thanks for all of life’s blessings.

While they may be called traditions, some in my family have changed over time. For instance, hunting is something that my family didn’t do when I was growing up.  However, now that I have kids, hunting has become an important way to reconnect with nature and spend quality time with my family.  The other day I was looking through some old pictures of my sons when they were younger. It seems like we had all the time in the world together. During most weekends this time of year, we would spend time on Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in the grouse woods with the dogs.  I was thinking about this as my kids are older now and they have football, schoolwork and friends that demand more of their time, making the time we spend together in the woods even more precious to me.

photo 4

Hunting at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

During this time of year, when so many of us are giving thanks and reconnecting with others, I can reflect on what I’m thankful for. I will cherish the opportunity to get out in the woods to hunt with my sons and reconnect with those things that are truly important to me. I am also thankful for the opportunity to lead the management of our national wildlife refuges in the Northeast. These special places provide unmatched opportunities for us to connect with nature and spend time with the people and things we all care about. Finally,  I am thankful for a team of amazing people who put their passion and talent to work on these lands each and every day.

However you give thanks this season, have a safe and happy holiday. Maybe even make it a wild one at a national wildlife refuge!

photo 5