Introducing new hunters to the sport

Marisa Futral (L) encourages everyone to introduce a newcomer to the outdoors.

You may not have thought about it lately, but dove and small game season is just over three months away. Marisa Futral, Hunter Education Coordinator with our Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, says to introduce someone to hunting, fishing , and the outdoors. She, like many of us, has noticed the trend toward people becoming more indoor oriented, rather than outdoor oriented. She says that's not surprising, given our technology-driven society. Big screen TVs, video games, movie channels, and all the rest. Hunting and fishing related businesses and wildlife professionals are doing their part to encourage more interest in outdoor activities, but the bottom line is that hunters, shooters, and anglers themselves can play a big part in introducing a newcomer to the outdoors.

Our woods and waters are magic places, full of sights, sounds, and smells that one simply cannot experience at home. No two trips afield are ever the same. Just about the time you think you have those deer, turkeys, or big bass hangout figured out, nature will show you something different and you will learn from it. You have noticed that the woods have a certain smell on a cold, damp day, very different from a warm, dry day. Or that you can actually smell the fish when bream a bedding. And that unmistakable sucking sound your boots make as you trudge through and around a duck swamp. Beggar lice and cockle burrs go hand-in-hand when hunting quail with English setters.

All of those things may be commonplace to you, but remember that maybe someone else would like to experience them. You'll never know until you invite someone to accompany you. But as Futral cautions, don't limit your invitations to just family members. "Take a co-worker or neighbor with you," she says. "As with anything new, people who have never been hunting, fishing, or shooting are not sure if they will like it and may not take the time to find out unless invited by someone who is experienced." Futural always reminds people that they shouldn't wait to be asked if they want to take a trip afield. "Make the first move, and ask someone to take you. Most of your friends or relatives who hunt or fish would be happy to take you. They probably just didn't know that you would like to go," she advises.

Marisa Futral is a certified wildlife biologist, firearms instructor, sporting clays instructor, 4-H shotgun instructor, and archery specialist for the National Archery in the Schools Program. She is a member of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, National Sporting Clays Association, the Wildlife Society, Bow Hunters of Alabama, Alabama Wildlife Federation, National Field Archery Association, and the Archery Shooters Association. So give it some thought. You probably have someone in mind right now who would love to experience what you have. Invite them!