Tag Archives: mentorship

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!

More on Latino Conservation Week — reflections from The Wildlife Society field course by Laura Lagunez

In celebration of Latino Conservation Week (July 11th – 19th), we’re acknowledging the Latino community’s strong support for protecting natural resources.

Today we’re acknowledging the efforts of our experienced and knowledgeable staff, who annually mentor a lucky group of participants at the Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society field course. Every spring, a group of undergraduate and graduate students arrive the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Kehoe Conservation Center for an intensive, 2-week immersion in wildlife field skills.  The course has traditionally been taught by volunteer wildlife professionals in both the private and public sectors, who provide guidance and instruction in common wildlife field methodology and natural history of the Northeastern forest communities.


The Wildlife Society Northeast Section Field Course — Class of 2015 with co-instructors John McDonald and Bill Healy

Students start with map and compass skills and expand on to common tree and shrub identification, early morning bird surveys, mammal trapping, habitat sampling, reptile and amphibian sampling, and hunter education training.

Wildlife telemetry field methods

Class of 2015 participating in a wildlife telemetry exercise.


Volunteer instructor and wildlife professional, Mitch Hartley, demonstrates songbird banding on a blue jay. Students also practice sampling common bird by sight and sound in early morning bird surveys.

Averaging more than 10 hours a day in practical instruction, students also get a wide range of perspective on careers in the wildlife field from volunteer instructors. Career discussions often shed light on how unpredictable career paths can be in the wildlife field. After two weeks of intensive training and mentorship, this is what field course participant Laura Lagunez had to say about her experience:

lauralagunezphoto (1)

Laura holds a Red Spotted Newt in eft stage. Newts metamorphose through three distinct developmental life stages: aquatic larva, terrestrial juvenile (called an eft), and adult.

“…My work and internship experiences have solely focused on opportunities associated with veterinary medicine.  The TWS East Section field course has opened my eyes to consider other options related to the wildlife conservation profession. I was extremely interested in the tree and plant species  identification and would have loved it even more if that part of the course extended to ethnobotany and medicinal plant knowledge. As a Mexican and Navajo woman, I have a deep passion for looking at social and environmental issues concerning Indigenous people across the globe. There is a dire need of building a greater acceptance and confidence between Western researchers and the social science methods used in traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). My hope is that I will be able to bridge this gap by applying what I have learned from this course such as habitat mapping, radio telemetry, and GPS techniques to empower indigenous communities to participate in their own community based resource management and conservation programs.”

All posted pictures were procured from 2015 participants of the Northeast Section of The Wildlife Society field course — namely published by Bennett Gould.