Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer G. Ford.
Lacking the access to, or knowledge of, hunting and fishing grounds is one of the biggest factors in new sportsman recruitment. It can also result in existing hunters and anglers losing track of sourcing their food from the wild. Current sportsmen may encounter a variety of occurrences that pose a risk to their continued success in the outdoors.
For example, the land you have always deer hunted has now been sold, and the new owners don’t want anyone hunting the property. Increased pressure on public land waterfowl hunting areas makes it a challenge to get on the birds. Your hunting buddy, who used to give you invites to the family farm, has now moved out of state. Well, I’m the hunting buddy who moved away. In August of 2015, I relocated from my home range of central North Carolina to coastal Georgia, to take a new job.
Back in NC, I had public lands figured out, family land was close by for hunting and fishing, and I had private-land permissions for waterfowl hunting. Upon moving to Georgia, I wanted to stay strong in my hunting and fishing lifestyle. I began to explore the Georgia DNR website for information on hunting seasons and public land near me. Luckily, there is a good deal of wildlife management area land within an hour’s drive of my new home. Deer season was very slow. Warm weather was a serious challenge. Between work and adjusting to a brand new environment, I had limited time to scout and hunt. The important message here is that I stuck with it.
I kept tabs with some of the other guys in the office who also hunt. They all were having an easy time filling their freezers with venison. I communicated my lack of luck, but directed it to them in a manner to show I wanted to learn; not have anything handed to me.
The landscape of central NC is very different than South Georgia, so my approach to hunting down here has had to adapt. I kept quizzing the guys in the office on strategies to use in hunting this area of the country. Slowly, over the fall, I believe I gained a little respect from them by showing my determination. They eventually opened up with some of their proven approaches and when going after deer.
This sequence of conversation and events transferred over to fishing. With abundant marshland, the speckled trout and red drum fishing in coastal Georgia is famous. With my kayak, I began to explore around and sharpen my saltwater angling skills (of which I have few). Again, with time and my inquisitive nature to earnestly learn the skills necessary for success, I made an impression on one of my work colleagues. After six months of me going about it on my own, and comparing notes, I got invited to go on a morning fishing outing. I nearly jumped out of my skin to say “YES!”
I soaked in all I could that morning by observing and asking questions. We fished structure near pilings, explored oyster beds, shelves, and feeder-creek mouths known to my compadre. These are all techniques and spots it would take me years to find and test out on my own. Continuing to ask questions and advice, I banked invaluable data that morning.
Ultimately you have to be able to adapt to new circumstances or regions. Part of the adaptation process is gaining and using new knowledge. The fastest way to learn, in any scenario, is to communicate with or accompany someone with institutional hunting and fishing knowledge.
Going along with an accomplished local sportsman is the most effective approach to 1) get into hunting or fishing as a beginner, 2) improve your knowledge and skills even if you’ve hunted and fished your whole life, or 3) learn the ropes in a new region. For me, I am glad to have made friends of like mind to share knowledge with. You really make strides up the learning curve when you can hunt or fish alongside someone who has covered more ground than you have or could any time soon. Stay patient and sincere, be inquisitive and honest, show your integrity, and express your calling to source the best meat and fish for you and your family. Your energies will not go unnoticed. And it will land you in the right company.