Tag Archives: hunting

Hunting & Fishing Courses at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge

“I’ve always been interested in learning to hunt, but never found the time due to many other interests,” says Stephen DeFlorio. Luckily, the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Massachusetts, has partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife to offer year-round introductory classes to novice hunters and anglers. Inspired by his son who participates in hunting, DeFlorio thought the basic education course would be a great opportunity to learn tools and techniques from seasoned outdoorsmen and women.

Last summer, in addition to hunter education courses, novice anglers had the opportunity to pick up a rod and reel for the first time. Participants learned how to bait a hook, cast and reel, and how to remove a fish from the hook during the children’s fishing clinic for youth under 18, and through the introduction to fishing course for adults. “Seeing the excitement that fishing brings to new anglers every year is what I enjoy most about teaching these classes,” says Jim Lagacy, MassWildlife Angler Education Program Coordinator.

Later in the year, participants in the winter beginner fly tying course were hoping to enhance their skills and become more independent in learning how to tie their own flies, like husband and wife team Van and Krista Berube who were preparing for a fly-fishing trip to Montana. Fishing since she was a young adult, Krista finds fishing to be a fun and relaxing wildlife-dependent activity, but felt she never had the time to learn new angling skills. With course length ranging from afternoon clinics to multi-day classes, there is opportunity for everyone to learn new angling skills.

These classes also foster an appreciation for the natural world and national wildlife refuges. “The more people that are involved in any outside activity, the more likely they are to support efforts to preserve the space and resources needed to continue their outdoor activities, like fishing,” says Van Berube. MassWildlife’s Jim Lagacy adds, “if you enjoy fishing, you’ll learn to respect the resource…and appreciate the outdoors.”

“Partnering with MassWildlife on programs related to fishing and hunter education makes perfect sense, since they have long-established programs and the dedicated resources to implement them,” says Refuge Manager Tom Eagle. “By offering the Refuge as a location to hold these classes, we can educate participants about the Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the many outdoor recreational opportunities that we offer on the refuges in their neighborhoods.” Hunting and fishing are only two of the refuge’s “Big Six” wildlife dependent recreational opportunities, the other four being wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and environmental interpretation.

For more information on beginner hunting and angling courses offered at Assabet River NWR, click here for hunting and here for fishing.

For more information on the “Big Six” at Assabet River NWR, click here.

Mentoring New Hunters in Vermont

Today guest blogger Wendy Grice Butler, shares her story of how mentoring one new hunter can influence many new conservationists in return. 

A few years ago, a worried colleague approached me, expressing concern around her son’s intense interest in hunting. Being self-described left-leaning hippies, Sheila and her husband could not understand what was driving their son, Angus’, interest to take up hunting.  I recommended a week of Conservation Camp for Angus where he would participate in Hunters Education followed by finding Angus a mentor.

Sheila and Angus

Eventually, I became Angus’ mentor. Am I a duck hunter? Not really, but you bet I scouted ducks that fall and in the early morning hours of duck season, I dragged a kayak loaded with decoys through a cornfield to be a mentor, guide and retriever to Angus. His mom, Sheila, would drop him off early in the morning, we would hunt ducks for a couple of hours and then she would deliver him to his private school, complete with camo paint on his face. As a family, Angus and his parents prepared the game he brought home and they grew to understand the importance of conservation through hunting. Sheila and husband, Bill, eventually took my Hunters Ed Course themselves.

Hunter Education, 2018

As it turned out, one of his classmate’s father happened to be a chef, restaurant owner and more importantly, landowner on Lake Champlain. “Not a duck hunter”, Angus explained to me, but he would take Angus hunting. Very quickly, the “non-hunting, lake-front owning, chef” took up duck hunting, which makes perfect sense, really, and wild duck was on the menu for the next staff dinner. Remarkably, this very French restaurant now hosts an annual game dinner, attended by hunters and non-hunters alike. In this case, mentoring just one person introduced many people to hunting as a means of conservation. It also allowed a new hunter to bring at least one more hunter into the field.

Wendy Butler and Granddaughter Isabelle

When youth turkey season rolled around the next spring, I took Angus to my very best hunting spot. The place I prefer to hunt myself. I plan for the highest success rate possible for every brand new hunter I work with. Angus was not the first new hunter to take advantage of my favorite turkey hunting location, nor was he the last. Abby Copeland contacted me for turkey hunting tips and I invited her to join me on a hunt. She bagged her first turkey that morning and one or two springs later, I had an excited email from her, describing an exciting hunt where she had been the mentor for a college student friend.

I teach Hunters Education at a local college for students, faculty, staff and adults from the community, who, like Angus and Abby, are interested in becoming hunters. The challenge for these new hunters without the benefit of growing up in a hunting tradition is where exactly to begin after their certification. My point in this is to say, in times when hunting license sales are declining and food culture is changing, we as a hunting community must invest our time in mentoring new hunters. Mentoring truly is not a sacrifice, it is an investment and maybe, even more thrilling than hunting for myself. At least its close!

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.”