“People should hunt to connect with nature.”
-Justin Grider, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
With more than 1.3 million acres of public hunting land, Alabama is known for its diverse species of wildlife and hunting heritage. The pride of this long-standing tradition in the state is rooted in a posture of stewardship.
SoulGrown Founder and passionate outdoorsman, Ellis Terry, spoke with Outdoor Alabama about why Alabama is a great place for beginners to learn how to hunt. “Alabama is a great place to learn how to hunt. Not only because of its diverse wildlife like white tail deer, dove, duck, turkey, and so much more, but because of the geographic accessibility. Even the bigger cities are close enough to the country.”
While it may be assumed born and raised Alabamians are all avid hunters, population increase in the state is on the rise, seeing more growth in 2022 than in any year previous since 2004. As the state has grown, so have first-time hunters. Newcomers with an affinity for experiencing Alabama’s beautiful outdoors can learn to hunt in a low-pressure, judgement-free environment through The Adult Mentored Hunting Program.
In 2016, the Adult Mentored Hunting Program began under the direction of Grider and the Department of Conservation. This effort has since seen thousands of participants who have turned their curiosity into a lifelong passion. While the learning curve may be intimidating, learning to hunt is actually easier than ever. In other words, no experience necessary.
“Thousands of folks have gone through the program and a lot of them have harvested animals, learning to clean and prepare them for the table,” says Grider.
Creating confidence in the outdoors is a priority of the program. While being matched with a veteran hunter, beginners from all kinds of backgrounds will learn:
- Firearms/Archery Skills
- Wild Game Processing and Preparation
- License Requirements
- Outdoor Skills
- Hunting Techniques
- Prey Behavior
- Where to Hunt
- Taking an Ethical Shot
- State Hunter Education
The impact of hunting is deeper than providing one’s own protein and enjoying nature. It is a valued life skill that contributes to the overall wellness of people for generations.
Grider reflected on his time since the inception of the program. “We are empowering folks, teaching them something they can reproduce on their own and share with friends and loved ones. People who love to hunt love the outdoors and animals more than anyone else.”
Matching new adult hunters with experienced hunters is a formal process taken seriously by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Interested mentors are required to submit a thorough application, go through background and reference checks, formal training and shadowing before leading within the mentor program.
Jennifer Hearle, of Vance, Alabama, spoke about her experience as a mentee, “I love the judgement-free environment. I never felt uncomfortable. I felt at ease the whole time, and my confidence in hunting has increased tremendously. This program has changed my life, and I would not have found this passion, rekindled my relationship with my brother, or gotten closer to my husband if it was not for the Adult Mentored Hunting Program.”
Dianna Valdez, another female participant from Huntsville, Alabama said “My favorite aspect of the Adult Mentored Hunting Program was coming in as a stranger/geek/nerd and being treated with equality and respect.”
Grider and his team have designed the adult mentored hunting program to be inclusive to all adults. They are passionate about sharing the benefits of hunting with people from all backgrounds who are eager to learn something new. Before getting involved, New Hunter Resources are available online and share in-depth courses and videos on regulations, basic equipment, gear essentials, and so much more.
Whether it be because of an interest in the outdoors, reviving family tradition, or to simply put wild game on the dinner table, learning to hunt provides individuals with skills for a lifetime.