Steve Kinney was thrilled to harvest an eight-point buck in December when he hunted for the first time in his 59 years during a three-day Adult Mentored Hunt sponsored for new hunters by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. His wife got a mature doe.
Kinney, a Hoover-based architect with CMH Architects, says he’s grateful to have had the opportunity to hunt guided by a wildlife biologist mentor at the Portland Landing Special Opportunity Area near Selma. “My father hunted and I had always wanted to learn how, but had just never had the chance,” Kinney says. “My wife, Kathy, found out about the program from the Outdoor Alabama website and told me about it, so we both signed up. It was the perfect opportunity to help us get started hunting.”
In addition to working on their wildlife scouting, firearm safety and shooting skills during the long weekend, the couple and eight other new hunters learned how to skin and butcher deer for meat to take home and share. Saturday’s grilled venison hamburgers for lunch were another hands-on preparation experience for the new hunters, who were fed all manner of deer recipes during the weekend, including deer chili, pizza and stew.
“Venison is delicious when properly prepared and we definitely developed a ‘deer tooth’ over the weekend,” Kinney says. “We roasted my buck’s neck in our oven at home after the event, and it was like roast beef but even better.”
The couple first qualified for a chance at the program by completing a one-day Learn How to Hunt Deer workshop October 31 at the Cahaba National Wildlife Area. The department’s Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries hosts several one-day workshops across the state each year for new and experienced hunters. The goal is to encourage hunting in general and specifically to find new hunters interested in being selected for an Adult Mentored Hunt, says Justin Grider, the division’s R3 Coordinator. “A number of adults in Alabama, like Steve and Kathy, are hungry to go hunting but they just don’t know how to start,” Grider says. “This program teaches them the basics of becoming ethical and law-abiding hunters.”
Grider was hired to bring the adult mentored hunting education programs online about four years ago, he says, because national research has shown that youth programs are not enough to reverse a decline in hunting participation and purchase of hunting licenses.
Proceeds from hunting and fishing licenses provide a 25% match, bringing in federal funds generated by sales of firearms and other hunting and fishing equipment, to support the department, which oversees the state’s marine resources, state lands, state parks and other natural resources. For every $25 in licenses, $100 goes to fund the department. “Everyone who lives in Alabama and is interested in our natural resources benefits from hunting and hunting licenses because they fund not only our land acquisition and conservation efforts but staffing as well,” Grider says. “Hunting also helps keep game animal populations healthy, as well as boosting tourism.”
Grider encourages new and veteran hunters to take family, friends and colleagues out to the wilds and to help share information on ethical and sustainable hunting with both hunters and non-hunters. “If hunters want to continue to hunt, we need to educate others so we will have healthy habitats for hunting,” he says. “It’s also important at the ballot box to help preserve our hunting rights.”
There’s still time to register for this season’s final one-day hunting workshop, Learn to Hunt Turkey, slated for February 27, at the Cahaba WMA. Completing the workshop gives participants a chance to be chosen for a future three-day Adult Mentored Hunt. Dates for deer and turkey workshops to be held next fall and winter will be announced late next summer. To register or for more information, visit outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program.