I just got back from East Alton, Ill., where, along with a handful of other media, I was the guest of Winchester. There we toured the factory of the ammunition company where cartridges have been manufactured for decades. While I was there, it occurred to me how much experienced hunters know about their craft; how much there is to learn (always); and how much we can offer anyone new to the field.
Winchester marketed the ride as “Shotshell University”. On the surface, the event appeared to be a new product launch. But it was much more than that. First, we spent some time in the classroom at the Winchester campus and toured the factory. We then travel to nearby Nilo Farms, Winchester’s famed hunting and shooting range, established by John Olin in 1952 to breed and train field test labs; this is the home of King Buck, the legendary black lab, the most decorated field trial champion of all time. There, we spent time in the field, soaking up demos on pattern boards and ballistic jelly, and shooting clays. And we also hunted those famous dogs, hunting pheasants and chukares in the afternoons; One morning we shot the Nile Ducks as they passed by on their way to the pond. We’re laying off new loads of Winchester destined for the shelves this year, of course.
As Winchester engineers and product managers shared with us the makeup of many new products, it soon became clear to everyone that we were delving into the history of the company, its research and development of shot, wads and powder… philosophy, actually, of building shot shells. .
it was fascinating. All media present were experienced hunters; we all understood what we were being taught, and that understanding prompted many questions. I always say: “The only stupid question is the one that is never asked.” Apparently every member of the media in attendance agreed with that premise. We all understood that we had people at our disposal who could teach us more than we had considered about cartridge development. Sometimes we would ask probing questions, and everyone would nod their heads as we digested the answer. Sometimes the questions sounded pretty elementary, as if, before asking the question he really had in mind, the writer simply needed to back up and first lay a foundation; everyone nodded to the answer as if to say, “Well, sure, of course… and now, with that established…”.
If a protege clings to you, don’t let go, for God’s sake don’t ignore him. He understands that he has identified you as an expert. He needs your help.
Now imagine that you are a member of this class. In fact, you don’t need to imagine why you are a member even if you don’t realize it. You can’t share your knowledge or what you learn with readers in print and online like members of the outdoor media do. But you read magazines like american Hunter, I would suggest, because you know a good thing when you see it. The vast majority of oh readers have searched for decades. Imagine how much collective knowledge that represents.
We are ideal to be opinion leaders in our spheres of influence. You do not believe me? Let’s start with the cartridges, since we are on the subject.
On the afternoon of the first day, I shot primarily with a new Winchester Xpert Steel load designed for pheasant hunting in places (like California) that demand non-toxic shot even at high altitudes. It was fine, but, man, I felt it on my shoulder. Remember, steel is less dense than lead, so you need to get up and running quickly. It takes a hefty charge of powder to get that payload of steel to the target. The next day I shot mostly Super Pheasant Diamond Grade, a new 2¾-inch 12-gauge mountain load. It’s 1⅜ ounces of #5 diamond grade copper clad lead shot that starts life at 1300 fps. It’s bad, I say. It is absolutely deadly and, my great conclusion, quite forgiving on your shoulder. I’m lovin ‘it.
Sure, a new bird catcher could gain that knowledge for himself. But it might take him a couple of hunts to get multiple charges fired to find what suits him. You would do him a favor if you explain this nuance to him before he spends his hard-earned money on ammunition.
Consider the value of your advice. As an experienced hunter, he absorbs the messages in advertising a little more deeply than a new hunter, if only because he has seen and done more in the field. You can read those boxes on the shelf and explain to this new guy what he can expect. That’s a lesson you can take to the bank.
Now scale this type of tutelage across the spectrum of your hunting knowledge.
What kind of rifle to buy and what caliber to recommend, it all depends on the hunted game, one’s budget and more – questions that an experienced hunter has answered more than once. Western hunters know it’s best to let your eyes roam a wide expanse before burning through the leather of your shoes. That requires effective use of glass. And how exactly is the game found in an observer? How do you set up to use a binocular effectively for hours on a cold mountainside without tiring yourself out or inducing a headache? There are more questions, of course. There is always more. “How can I dress a deer in the field? How do I butcher the thing? Are there meat processors? How much do they charge to butcher a deer? How do I skin a squirrel? How can I legally transport ducks? What is the best clothing for my budget? And there’s always ammo: Aside from firearms, ammo can seem like the most arcane subject for a new hunter.
If a protege clings to you, don’t let go, for God’s sake don’t ignore him. He understands that he has identified you as an expert. He needs your help. He needs the guide. Provide it. Prepare for many questions. Be patient. Explain everything that comes to mind, and recognize that you will repeat it often.
Also remember that this will not be a one time thing. It won’t be enough to train a new hunter, take him into the field one season, and release him the next. It may be a few years before he feels comfortable trading alone. We all know this to be true, and we all know why.
Hunting provides a lifetime of enjoyment. It’s a trade few Americans practice these days. Over the years, we learn a lot about the forests and the waters, about hunting, about firearms, ammunition and optics… it’s fun, isn’t it? In addition to adventure and personal discovery, I think hunters are drawn to our hobby precisely because we enjoy learning about it all. Understand that your protégé enjoys it too. So don’t be in a hurry to drop it. This may take a while. It can take a lifetime, actually.