by Chris Chaffin - Thursday, April 6, 2023
Fred Williams, the First Hunt Foundation's Wyoming state director, enjoys offering mentor-based experiences, as shown above, which help to build lifelong skills and a passion for hunting and conservation.
Throughout the nation, hundreds, if not thousands, of programs and individuals are working to assure our collective future includes healthy wildlife populations and a strong community of supporters who will keep our hunting heritage alive. The nonprofit First Hunt Foundation (FHF) in Kamiah, Idaho, is a national hunting organization that does just that, believing that quality mentors for first-time hunters is a key component to building that future.
Rick Brazell, an avid hunter and a career U.S. Forest Service professional from Idaho, saw the need and “wanted to give something back,” he says, “especially regarding saving our hunting heritage.” So eight years ago he founded the First Hunt Foundation, a volunteer-based organization offering mentor-based experiences to provide education and training to help hunters develop lifelong skills.
Brazell believes there are many people who would like to learn to hunt and have a chance to go hunting but they simply lack the opportunity due to not having family members, friends or any kind of support group to facilitate the experience. Importantly, he notes, “The purpose of the First Hunt Foundation mentored hunting program is to increase the number of active, ethical hunters—not simply to take more people hunting.”
Brazell’s objective is to be the largest new-hunter mentoring organization in the nation. It’s a lofty goal, to be certain, but FHF is making strides and is growing quickly.
The FHF is now active in 43 states, with more than 900 mentors in its chapters. It has introduced more than 2,000 people to hunting each year and is America’s largest volunteer-based organization dedicated to providing one-on-one mentoring and hunter recruitment and education programs. It is particularly effective at reaching women and youth, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn to hunt. Also important: Every mentor is a professional who has passed a background check and agreed to a special “Mentor’s Creed” prior to joining the organization.
Recognizing both the need and the potential for good that the FHF program can have, in 2022 the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) awarded it a $50,000 challenge grant “to build on the organization’s track record of providing education and training for young people to acquire hunting skills.”
Further recognizing the vital challenge of recruiting qualified, ethical, experienced mentors, the NRA HLF recently donated an additional $120,000 to the FHF to help it develop a free national online hunting mentor training program.
Brazell praised NRA HLF for the donations. “The contributions from the NRA are a blessing and will impact lives for generations,” he said. “When people learn hunting skills and become self-sufficient hunters, they will pass those skills onto their friends and family.”
Like any organization, the FHF has to have both funding and a larger platform to deliver its message.
“The NRA has stepped up on both fronts and FHF is receiving new mentor and volunteer applications regularly,” said Brazell. “We have quickly grown to one of the largest boots-on-the-ground, new-hunter mentoring organizations in the nation. It would have taken years to get to that point without the NRA’s support.”
To grow even more, the FHF continues to seek folks with hunting skills that can pass them on to future generations of hunters.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time to give something back and be part of a national movement to ensure hunting remains a vital part of our culture,” Brazell said. “We are an all-volunteer organization and always looking for leaders at the chapter, state and regional levels, as well as other volunteers who can help in many ways without being a mentor.”
About the Author
An outdoor communicator for more than 40 years, Chris Chaffin has worked with multiple outdoor companies, including serving two terms as treasurer of the Professional Outdoor Media Association before taking on the roles of vice president, president and chairman of the board. In 2007, he launched the communications consulting company Chaffin Communications Inc. With support from the Outdoor Adventure Dream Giveaway, in 2012 he founded the Outdoor Adventure Conservation Fund, a Florida nonprofit encouraging more people to get involved in traditional outdoor activities.
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