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Success for New Hunters at Matthews State Forest Youth/Apprentice Hunt

By Jeff Pease/DWR and Jimmy Mootz/DWR

Five new hunters took to the field at Matthews State Forest in Grayson County, participating in the first annual Matthews State Forest Youth/Apprentice Hunt. The hunt was the culmination of months of planning and teamwork between the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR), the Department of Forestry (DOF), and the Matthews Foundation.

These new hunters began their journey in September, when DWR and DOF offered a deer hunting workshop at Matthews State Forest. The workshop taught these eager participants about deer biology, hunting techniques and safety, ethical shot placement, game laws and how to care for your game after it is harvested. The class included a session outside in the field to learn scouting techniques and how to identify local food sources for deer. A blood trailing exercise was also included. Five of the 10 registered participants were randomly selected to attend the mentored hunt on September 30. DWR Law Enforcement and Hunter Education Staff worked with those selected to provide “live fire” range training prior to the hunt.

A group of eight men and women standing together, all dressed in camoflague and blaze orange.

The five hunters selected for the mentored hunt at Matthews State Forest and some of the Hunter Education Instructors.

On the day of the hunt, the new hunters were paired with a DWR Volunteer Hunter Education Instructor/Mentor and shuttled to their hunting blinds well before light. These mentors were instrumental in coaching the hunters and advising them on ethical shot considerations. Two of the five hunters harvested their first deer, with all of the hunters seeing deer and observing other wildlife. Venison stew and venison barbeque were prepared and served for lunch by District 31 Conservation Police Officers before the hunters were shuttled back to their blinds for an evening hunt.

A photo of a woman holding the head of a harvested deer along with two men beside her. They're in the woods and all dressed in camuflage and blaze orange.

One of the successful hunters (center) with her Hunter Education Instructor and Mentor.

One of the hunters in this hunt, Ashwin Kumar, was inspired to try hunting by Paul Hardwick, a hunter who attended the first Deer Hunting Workshop and Radford Arsenal Mentored Hunt held at the Montgomery County Izaak Walton League and Radford Army Arsenal. Paul is a student at Virginia Tech in the College of Natural Resources who did not come from a hunting family and had never hunted before coming to college. Paul harvested his first deer on the mentored hunt in 2021, thus beginning his journey of becoming a lifelong hunter.

Paul has helped promote hunting and DWR programs to other students at Virginia Tech, including Ashwin, a graduate student from India who had never hunted before. Paul not only drove Ashwin to the workshop and mentored hunt, but he also was in the blind with Ashwin and the DWR Hunter Education Instructor/Mentor when Ashwin harvested his first deer. Paul has demonstrated his passion and commitment to hunting through the giving of his time to encourage others to give it a try. Paul has also recently completed the training at Holiday Lake to become a Volunteer Hunter Education Instructor. He is member of the VT chapter of The Wildlife Society and the National Deer Association.

This event was a tremendous success and made possible by a team effort and partnership between DWR, DOF, and the Matthews Foundation. Plans are already in place for next year’s workshop and hunt with a goal of passing along ethical hunting skills and hunting opportunities to many more youth and apprentice hunters.

  • October 30, 2023