The outdoors has a way of pulling people in and making them want more. Sometimes that means finding the nearest city park to get a taste of nature, or perhaps it manifests as wanting your opinion heard by those who make decisions on behalf of local wildlife. For many, though, they’re not sure how or where to start on an adventure. Here are some tips for becoming a more involved outdoorsman, regardless of whether you’ve been one for decades or you’re just getting started.
Use available resources
Many state agencies have made user-friendly documents and websites to help you get started. Whether you are thinking of camping, fishing, or hunting, your state wildlife or parks agency is a good place to start. Some states even have their biologists’ research compiled into layers on maps for different species’ ranges if you’re feeling a bit nerdy. For hunters, this can be a veritable goldmine of free data. You can read management plans, see how hard a trophy species tag is to draw, what species are under protection, and much more.
You can also find where to take a hunter safety course. There is a persistent stigma about hunter education courses: Some think if you take one that means you need to hunt. That is simply not true. Taking the course does not force you to buy a license or to ever set foot in the field. Anyone interested in the outdoors should consider a hunter education course. The content covers wildlife conservation, how it is funded, history, laws, and more. It’s an enlightening course delivered by experienced outdoorsmen and conservation authorities.
Ask the ones who know
Check with your state wildlife agencies about their suggestions for getting started in the outdoors. Most are eager to get new hikers, campers, fishermen, and hunters into the woods, and they hold a variety of programs to facilitate this. These programs vary from fishing and camping clinics to full-on, all-inclusive hunts.
You can also seek out a hunting mentor: someone with hunting experience in your social circle who would be willing to take you under their wing. Many states make special accommodations for licensing to allow someone without a hunter’s safety certificate to hunt when accompanied by a qualified mentor. This could be an excellent way to try out hunting with someone who knows the ropes and can safely guide you to success.
You’re not alone
It’s easy to get discouraged when doing something different than what your friends are interested in. It can be frustrating to have a passion for going outside when your peers want to go out on the town, instead. But don’t worry: There are others who share your passion. Try joining an association. The less common outdoor sports such as archery, muzzleloading, and trapping are actively seeking to foster mentor-mentee relationships. Many members of these associations joined because they are concerned that their sport may otherwise become a thing of the past; they’ll be delighted to mentor you. Rifle associations and species-oriented associations are also great for meeting like-minded people. An additional upside of joining an association? Your dues go directly toward conserving what you love—the outdoors.
Make your voice heard
Most states have a commission made up of a number of appointed voters who are tasked with deciding and updating park regulations, bag limits, tag numbers, seasons, and numerous other wildlife-related topics. The meetings in which these decisions are made are open to the public. If you have a concern, you can bring it to the commission yourself. It is a good idea to at least keep up with the posted agendas of these meetings. Many times, there are little things being changed without public comment simply because no one bothered to show up. As a sportsman, you have a voice. As an experienced sportsman, you should be using it!