by Brian McCombie - Friday, June 25, 2021
An all-volunteer organization, the non-profit First Hunt Foundation (FHF) was founded in Idaho six years ago, and since then has become something of a force West of the Mississippi in introducing new people to hunting. The group started in the West near its headquarters and rapidly grew from there, now operating in 18 Western states, plus Virginia.
FHF mentors instruct first-time hunters in basic hunting skills, educate them about wildlife conservation and hunting’s place in it, take them afield on hunts and even assist the newbies with game processing after the hunts. Mentors are dedicated to improving the lives of those in their chapter communities while providing for hunting’s future.
“We recruit most of our mentors by attending the larger outdoor shows,” said Rick Brazell, FHF president. “We essentially got shut down for an entire year due to COVID-19, but we are starting up again. We have a booth at the World Deer Expo in Alabama, July 16-18, so we hope to gain some more Eastern mentors.”
In moving forward, Brazell explained, “Being an all-volunteer organization has its challenges because we really need our folks to step up to see things happen. We are finding that our best leaders (those who have the time) are folks that are already retired and are looking to give back. There are a ton of folks willing to give something back to hunting to see our sport survive. Our challenge is finding them and then supporting them in whatever way we can so they can be successful.”
Even with the problems COVID-19 created, FHF chapters are growing—and busy. For example, the FHF established its Wyoming chapter just two years ago and it is expanding rapidly.
“We already have 70 mentors, with FHF Chapters established in Cody, Cheyenne, Laramie and Casper,” said Fred Williams, FHF Wyoming State Director. “Our mentor volunteers have introduced in excess of 200 individuals to hunting in each of our two years through one-on-one mentoring. Our structured education programs teach lifetime skills, too. Our mentors spend on the order of 1,500 days in the field annually.”
Wyoming, of course, has strong historical traditions tied to hunting, the outdoors and the Second Amendment. So why would the Cowboy State even need an FHF program?
“We’ve seen a large number of new residents relocating to Wyoming, people without hunting experience or an established social network to have the opportunity to learn to hunt and enjoy the outdoors with confidence,” Williams noted. “This, combined with a growing interest in self-sufficiency and sourcing healthy food locally, has created a growing appetite for mentored hunting experiences.”
FHF is all about collaborating with other organizations that share similar missions. FHF chapters and their mentors have worked with their counterparts at the National Rifle Association, Pheasants Forever, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the SCI Foundation.
The Wyoming FHF works closely with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, too, and was recently awarded a 2021 Wyoming Commissioner's License for its upcoming online auction for a 2021 Wyoming Commissioner’s License. Bidding starts at $15,000 and will run from June 28-July 2. The lucky recipient can choose between a hunt for antelope, deer or elk virtually in any area in the state. In addition, anyone who gets on the website and donates a minimum of $5 during the online auction will be entered into a drawing for a Vortex rifle scope valued at $1,399. All proceeds benefit the FHF mission to recruit new hunters.
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