Hunting and Fishing Mentorship Program 2017 SHIFTx Fellowship Fund Report

Made possible by a $10,000 grant from Patagonia, The Center for Jackson Hole created The SHIFTx Fellowship Fund to support projects by Emerging Leaders Program alumni that address issues of importance to their communities.

The inaugural Fund recipients, 2017 Emerging Leaders Program alumni Mateen Hessami and Jess Johnson, were awarded $10,000 for their Hunting and Fishing Mentorship Program proposal, which recruits twenty highly motivated university students, with an emphasis on women, and immerse them in a year-long conservation and subsistence development program. Participants are learning every aspect of becoming an independent, public-land subsistence consumer and conservation activist.

Here is the final grant report.

Throughout the 12-month duration of this grant, the University of Montana and Montana State Club of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are proud to report meaningful and impactful outcomes from our Hunting and Fishing Mentorship program.

The objective of this project was to provide resources and mentorship to a diverse cohort of college students at the University of Montana and Montana State University interested in learning how to hunt, fish and engage in conservation advocacy.

Hannah Leonard, University of Montana student and BHA student member learning firearm safety and technique at Hunting for Sustainability. Photo: Alex Kim

Learn to Hunt: Our first event, Hunting for Sustainability, was held at the Boone and Crockett Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. University of Montana (UM) students spent a weekend at this stunning ranch and were exposed to a comprehensive itinerary of knowledge relating not just to harvesting an animal—but also butchering, cooking techniques, biology, history, safety and ethics. Students learned how and where to find game, how to ensure a rifle is accurate, and the history and legacy of hunting relating to conservation in North America. “Hunting for Sustainability boosted my confidence by including us in every step of the hunt, from the planning of the hunting spot to the processing of the meat,” Madeline Damon, now a senior, and President of the UM BHA club is an inaugural member of our program.

Montana State University students learning about civic engagement related to public land advocacy and conservation. Photo: Paul Kemper

Civic Engagement: in the winter of 2019, the Montana State University student chapter of BHA held a how to engage in advocacy training panel. The individuals selected for the panel consisted of Fresh Tracks host, Randy Newberg, Director of Conservation of Meateater TV, Ryan Callaghan, and Executive Director of 2% for Conservation, Jared Frasier. These three advocacy veterans regaled the attendees with their personal experiences of working in both the national and state arena of conservation advocacy. Through the experience shared by the panelists, attendees gained the tools and knowledge necessary to engage with their elected officials in an effort to safeguard the public lands, waters and wildlife they cherish.

Nicole Ballard, University of Montana student and BHA member, holding a fish at our fly-fishing event.

Fly-Fishing: Angling is often viewed as having a lower barrier to entry than hunting. Statistically it’s also shown while many hunters are anglers, not all anglers hunt and the voice of anglers in conservation advocacy is just as important as those of hunters. With that in mind, the third event made possible by this grant was a learn to fly fishing day. Put on in collaboration with UM American Fisheries Society. We introduced a dozen UM students to the sport of fly-fishing, which is large economic driver and steeped in tradition in the state of Montana. While our day on the water wasn’t productive in terms of fish caught, everybody got to learn to cast, entomology, the biology of trout and the importance of protecting our rivers, ensuring they have cold clean water.

Four University of Montana recipients of the Rebecca Romero Award. This award pays for out-of-state hunting licenses and tags for students.

Breaking down barriers: In the fall of 2019 UM BHA, in partnership with the UM Chapter of the Wildlife Society sponsored four UM students who were new hunters. The four students were given scholarships that paid for their non-resident college student hunting licenses. This scholarship was made possible by the Emerging Leaders Fellowship grant and other donors. The scholarship is in memory of an active BHA member, Rebecca Romero, who tragically passed away in June of 2018. Three of the four recipients were women — brand new to hunting and facing a significant financial hurdle due to their out-of-state status in Montana. The impact of this award speaks to the theme of our grant and our commitment to providing resources and mentorship to a generation that holds significant responsibly in speaking for and conserving our public lands and natural resources.

Rocket Fuel