Greg Leifeld grew up with family members who hunted, but never took part himself. Now as an adult with kids of his own he’s decided to try deer hunting for himself, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is helping him out. They’re experimenting with a new program intended to introduce adults to the world of hunting. The program is referred to as “adult-onset hunting”, a term coined by Tovar Cerulli, author of the book The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance.
Introductory hunting courses have existed in different forms for years, but most have focused on getting youth more involved in outdoor pursuits, rather than video games. This has left adults with limited options for entering the hunting culture after their days of youth have passed.
Anyone new to outdoor pursuits, like hunting or fishing can be quickly overwhelmed when trying to read local hunting regulations, or heading to the nearest sporting goods store. The hunting industry has done a very good job of creating the new “must-have” products that promise to make your hunting outing more enjoyable, or more effective. While there are many great innovations, the reality is that many of these products aren’t necessary to have a great experience out in the woods.
Through classroom training, shooting range practice and pairing students with a mentor, the program attempts to effectively introduce adults to hunting in a manner that doesn’t overwhelm them, creates a comfortable learning environment and instills confidence.
The desire to start hunting as an adult originates from many different places. Some people see it as a way to connect with nature in a more meaningful way. Some have seen friends or relatives enjoying all that an outdoor lifestyle has to offer and want to be part of it, and yet others want to return to the days when we took responsibility for our food. Whether a singular reason, or a combination of these or others, it’s the desire of people to source their own meat that intrigues me.
The movement to “eat local” has been afoot for many years, as well as the organic and gluten-free trend. This has resulted in growth of CSAs (community support agriculture), grass-fed beef ranchers and a dizzying array of organic and gluten-free products, usually sold at a premium price on your grocers’ shelves. And so, a new focus on real life opportunities for adults to learn the art of hunting and fishing compliments and supports the sustainability/locavore movement.
Leifeld will head into the woods in a couple of weeks with his mentor during a special hunt established by the DNR commissioner as a result of recent legislative changes. He’ll try his hand at killing a Minnesota whitetail deer and I hope he’s successful. Even if he isn’t able to fill his freezer with venison he’ll enjoy the camaraderie of the other first-time hunters in their deer camp, and he will have started along the path to a fulfilling life-long pursuit.