The Maiden Hunt Series: Gretchen and Henry

by BRIAN PEARSON Contributing Writer
| September 22, 2020 1:00 AM

Mentoring is woven in the fabric of hunting. For millennia the tradition has been passed down through generations and shared with friends. For the tradition to continue, the each generation of hunters are tasked with passing the torch to the next.

Fish and Game's Maiden Hunt Series explores how rewarding it can be for hunters to pass on their passion for the outdoors, and shares the stories of new hunters, from completing their hunter education and seeking out a mentor to experiencing their first hunt. Each hunter comes to hunting with a different perspective, background, concerns, and interests. From balancing a love of nature with the emotional experience of harvesting an animal, to following in family footsteps, these short films explore the realities of becoming a hunter and illustrate how hunting is so much more than the harvest.

The first video of this three-part series follows the journey of a mother and son, Gretchen and Henry, as they take on their first deer hunt. Led by mentor Ted Koch, these beginners learn what hunting is all about in hopes of carrying the tradition forward.

A year later, Fish and Game staff followed up with Gretchen and Henry to learn more about their experience, and their plans for their future as hunters. Here's what they had to say:

Q: Are you planning on hunting again this year, and if so, how has your mentored hunt helped you prepare for this season?

H: I am. My mom and I are thinking about going on an elk hunt. We don’t know many details about it, but it’s definitely on the list, and something I want to do again. I feel pretty confident about hunting now. Going out with my mentor helped me realize that it’s something I can do, and that it’s not out of my ability range. It helped me prove to myself that I could do it.

G: I think that the mentored hunt really gave us a good idea of how to identify some good locations to find animals . Also, how to find the publicly available information that is provided by Fish and Game to understand what is available, and work through the process of selecting a unit or the type of hunt we want to do. Everything was new to us, so it got us a little bit more familiar with the resources available. Prior to the mentored hunt last year, we went to a Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seminar that directed us to a lot of those resources, but doing it with our mentor, actually working through the process, has been really helpful. We’re going through that process with Ted again this year, and we’re planning to hunt together again this fall. Will, the videographer for the Maiden Hunt series, is going to try to join us, too.

Q: What were some of the most valuable things you learned from your first hunt?

H: It really taught me how value the life of whatever animal I’m taking, and also gave me an understanding of the animal and my role as a hunter.

G: That you really have to get up really early and be there when the sun comes up. Getting there a little bit late is not the best idea! Also, the idea between hiking and hunting — sometimes, we would hike and go really fast, and sometimes, in certain locations, Ted would tell us it was time to start hunting, to slow it down and get really quiet, and look for these certain things. Really, keying in on landscape position, and where animals might be found, and kind of changing the way you’re moving and what you’re looking for at those specific times.

Q: Looking back, what do you wish you understood better before your first hunt?

H: I was surprised by how long the day was. I wasn’t expecting an 11-hour hike in and out. Other than that, it wasn’t too bad. The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers class prepared me for almost everything I needed.

G: I think the things that the things I wish I would have understood better before on the mentored hunt are probably the things I still wish I understood better now, like really digging into the resources that are available to plan the hunt and the location. A better understanding of how to use those resources to plan hunts is something that we're still wanting to understand better, and something that our mentor is continuing to help us with.

Q: Much of the hunting tradition is rooted in family. How did being a mother/son team affect your hunting experience?

H: It was amazing having my mom there. It made the experience that much closer to home. Last year, everything was foreign to me, because I’d never been hunting, and my mom was there to settle me down and go through the process with me. We’re the only hunters in the family. My dad and sister are outdoorsy, but they’ve never tried hunting, and I don’t have any grandparents, aunts or uncles that I’m aware of who are hunters either.

G: It was really cool. I was super proud of Henry and his ability to learn from our mentor, and have a successful hunt. We don’t have any hunters in our family, so this was a whole brand new experience, and I was just really proud of both of us for trying something new that we were both interested in, and putting all of the pieces into place so that we could learn about it and give it a try. Being with Henry out there was awesome. It made me feel a lot more connected or confident just being together. It was just really my pleasure to see him be so successful and share that experience with him

Q: After harvesting a deer on your first hunt, can you share some stories about preparing and eating wild game?

H: I’ve had jerky and wild game birds before, but never venison or anything that I had personally harvested. It was a completely different experience, knowing that I had harvested that meat. The first meal we made was heart fajitas. It was delicious, it was amazing, and I loved it. We ate all of the meat that deer provided us, and it’s been gone for a while.

G: I've had wild game before, elk and venison that people had shared with us, but it was a totally different experience – it didn't feel the same as knowing that Henry had harvested that animal, and the meat that we were eating was something he directly harvested. If someone shares wild game meat with you, that's a wonderful thing, but having the person in your family harvest that animal, and to be there when the animal is harvested, you really appreciate it. We consumed all of it. It was delicious, and we were so mindful about how we prepared and processed it. It really illuminated how valuable that meat product is when you harvest it.

Q: Having a year to reflect on your first hunt and preparing for your next hunt, what has surprised you most about becoming a hunter?

H: The hunter community. I have friends that hunt, and every time I mentioned to them that I went on my first hunting trip, they were super supportive and interested in it. People I’ve met within the larger community of hunters are super understanding of the first hunt, and how important it is to someone.

G: I think that what surprised me the most is probably the community of people that helped us along the way – the volunteers that showed up at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers educational seminar to show us how to butcher and process an animal, all the people that we've met like Ted and other hunters we've met. There is a community of people who are very interested in supporting, and really stoked to meet people like Henry and me who are just novices, and are very welcoming.

To watch the video, go online to https://youtu.be/PbcB734vWu8.

Brian Pearson is a conservation public information specialist for Idaho Department of Fish & Game.