The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Mentoring Adult Onset Hunters

Taking That Very First Shot to Understand the Value of Sourcing One’s Own Game

Photos byDominic Aiello and Joel Strimling

Joel Strimling is a 48-year-old foodie who grew up in Eugene, Oregon, as a physician’s son. He wasn’t allowed to own guns and didn’t have any immediate family members who hunted, but it only took one meal for his life to be forever changed.

During a holiday dinner in his early 40s, he had his first taste of wild game. When he asked for more, the reality of the situation set in. He realized he was eating meat someone else killed for his meal. It was then that he decided if he couldn’t engage in the process, maybe he shouldn’t enjoy the privilege.

As our country becomes more urbanized and the movement to know where your food comes from grows, Joel’s story is less rare. It’s coined, Adult Onset Hunting, and it comes with challenges. However, those challenges are also opportunities. Here’s the story about how Joel and I crossed paths, the challenges he faced, and the rewards I’ve received while mentoring him.

Paths Cross

I met Joel on the first day of a new job. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I’d end up as his hunting mentor and hunting buddy.

After he made the decision to begin hunting, he considered his options. Should he pursue deer, elk, waterfowl, bear, or wild turkey? He thought the best way to be successful, especially starting later in life, with no mentor, would be to start with an easier pursuit. That’s why he chose to chase wild turkey. It was a smart choice, and something to consider if you are new or ever have the opportunity to mentor a new hunter.

After several successful turkey hunts, it was time to up his game (pun intended). This is where his struggles began and my mentor role started. Over conversation at work, he mentioned that he had tried the year prior to hunt deer but wasn’t successful, and in fact, he hadn’t even seen a deer.

Fortunately for him, I had previously scouted a new area I never ended up hunting and didn’t mind passing it off to someone else. I took Joel to the area on two occasions and showed him where I had seen bucks and areas I recommended he focus on.

Since the season wasn’t far off, I tried to prepare him for the difficult challenge ahead. “The barrier to success, for many people, is themselves,” I told him. “It’s easy for new people to get frustrated or overwhelmed by a lack of immediate success and give up. If your goal is simply to kill a blacktail buck, it’s really just a numbers game. If you spend enough time in areas where you know there are deer, eventually one of those deer is going to be a buck, but that could mean grinding through days of only seeing one, two, three, or even no deer. Finally,” I said, “if we get any stormy weather, get your butt out there. I’m not sure why, but the blacktail bucks love to move when it’s nasty out.”

First Season

Two weeks after the season opened, my phone rang. I picked up and said, “You had better be calling to tell me there’s a buck down.” His response was perfect and unexpected. “Buck down!” he yelled.

I couldn’t have been happier than if it had been my own buck. After a short congratulation, he surprised me with, “I’m going to have to let you go though; I need to get to Urgent Care.”

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