The State of Nebraska has an archery mentoring program. To be a part of this program, a person has to be a certified bowhunting education instructor. Then the state signs up young people with a memorandum of understanding about what they’re going to learn, and what they're going to be able to achieve and provides a mentor to teach them. We teach them hunter safety, how to shoot the bow with both field points and broadheads, how to scout for deer, how to pick a tree stand site, what’s tree stand safety, and how to shoot from a tree stand. The final step is to take them hunting and help them take deer.
Last year I took 30 youngsters hunting to try and help them take a deer. The place that I'm assigned to take youngsters in the mentoring program to hunt is a tree farm, which is part of the University of Nebraska’s Lincoln Division Lands. This property has been set aside and only can be hunted by members of the mentoring program, and the youngsters they're teaching to bowhunt. This year we saw good numbers of deer at the tree farm. Because of a medical issue, I only had the opportunity to hunt with 10 young people this year, but that problem has been resolved. I should be in full swing, taking more young people and helping them take their first deer in 2017.
In 2005, I took eight youngsters to try and take their first deer, and seven out of the eight achieved that goal. I guess the main thing I like about the mentoring program is that these young people start with me when they're 12 years old, and I mentor them until they're 18. So, I get to watch these young people grow-up, learn how to shoot their bows and learn how to hunt and develop the love of this sport like the one I have. I don’t know of very many young people that I've started with that haven’t stayed involved in the program until they’ve graduated from high school. During that process, I feel like I get almost as close to these young people as I am to my own children. I'm not raising them like their mothers and fathers, but I am raising the hunting part of those young people’s lives.
As a part of the program, we try and take these young people hunting at least five times per year. But in a normal year, I’ll hunt with them many more days than the five required. Most years, I’ll spend at least 10 days with each young person. I take both boys and girls. Over the years, I've learned that the girls usually learn faster than the boys - not because they're smarter than the boys. But girls listen to every word I say, and they do exactly what I've taught them to do more than the boys do.
Last year one of my students harvested a buck that would score about 110 inches, and he was a 4x4 (8 pointer). Eight years ago, one of the hunters I was mentoring took a nontypical buck with his bow that would score in the 130s Pope & Young - not bad for a youngster’s first deer with a bow.
I really enjoy teaching young people to shoot the bow and hunt. But for me, the most-important thing that I teach is how to hunt safely at all times. None of the people that I've hunted with on the tree farm ever has had an accident, and that fact is really rewarding for me. We also teach our youngsters in the mentoring program the conservation aspects of hunting. We don’t have any water on the tree farm. So, we buy kids’ plastic swimming pools, dig holes and put the swimming pools in the holes level with the ground. Then we fill the swimming pools up with water. We have four to six swimming-pool watering holes on the land. During a really-dry year, sometimes we’ll fill up the watering holes with water every week. We’re fortunate that the maintenance crew that takes care of the tree farm has a water tank on a truck that we can use to fill up the swimming pools. We keep our swimming pools full of water, so that water is available not only for the deer but for the other wildlife on the property. Fifty to 75 percent of the deer that our students take are usually harvested within 20 yards of these watering holes.
One of my most memorable hunts happened 4 or 5 years ago. I took two sisters on a hunt, and both sisters took a deer on the same afternoon. When two people are hunting within 75 yards of each other, and they take two deer, this feat definitely qualifies as a memorable hunt. One of the girls wanted to field dress her deer and ended up being one of the most entertaining exercises I'd ever seen as long as I'd been a part of the mentoring program. Actually every hunt I take a young person on I remember just about every aspect of the hunt. That sort of sums up what I said earlier. I feel really blessed to be a part of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff and being able to do the things I really enjoy doing as a representative of Mossy Oak.
I’ve been married to my wife, Angela, who’s a teacher in the Omaha Public Schools, for 31+ years. We’re both Mississippi State University graduates. We have 4 children, Ashley, a flight Nurse out of Omaha, Tess, who attends the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Maggie, who attends Peru State College and Will, who attends Roncalli High School. I work for First National Bank of Omaha as a portfolio analyst in bank card marketing, where we issue the Ducks Unlimited and NRA credit cards besides others.