Learn to hunt: finding a mentor
Connect with an experienced hunter to help you gain confidence in the field
DWR Upland Game Coordinator
For many Utahns, hunting is a way of life that's been passed down through generations. The camaraderie felt by a group of friends or family — especially when experiencing nature together at camp and banding together to achieve a common goal — is something hunters look forward to each year.
However, for those who didn't grow up hunting and haven't seen those skills firsthand, it may seem intimidating or difficult to become a hunter. Where do you start when you want to break through the actual or perceived barriers to becoming a safe, confident and successful hunter? Often, one of the biggest challenges for new hunters is finding someone to walk them through the process and pass on their field knowledge and skills.
Fortunately, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers classes, events and seminars each year for hunters of all skill levels. And many local and national partner organizations also provide resources for new hunters. There are even resources for specific groups of beginner hunters, such as youth hunting events and women's mentorship programs.
Here are some tips to help you get started on your hunting journey:
Utah Hunter Education
Learning how to responsibly handle firearms and/or archery equipment — and understanding the fundamentals of hunting safety — is a priority for everybody. This knowledge is crucial for both new hunters and everyone they'll be sharing the outdoors with during hunting season. Start with taking a Hunter Education course to ensure that you understand how to handle your firearm safely and have the basic skills to get started. You may even meet other new hunters who already have mentors that will welcome you into their fold!
Interested in trapping? Start with taking a furharvester course, which is required for residents to obtain a furbearer license in Utah. The course includes instruction in safe and responsible trapping. You can take a fully instructor-led course, or choose the option of an online course followed by an in-person field day.
DWR facilities, programs and events
- Statewide, the DWR offers many beginner hunting clinics and seminars throughout the year — from going on your first pheasant hunt alongside experienced hunters to learning how to field dress and cook your harvest. Subscribe to our email newsletter, follow us on social media or keep an eye on our events page to get alerts for upcoming events near you.
- Both of the DWR-run public shooting ranges offer shotgun, rifle, pistol and archery clinics (and other instructional events) year-round. Keep an eye on the Lee Kay and Cache Valley public shooting range Facebook pages for details of those events.
- After completing Hunter Education, hunters are eligible to compete in the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, which is a fun annual competition where you can meet other hunters — and potential mentors — of all ages and skill levels. Despite the name, YHEC is also open to adults!
- The Utah Hunter Mentoring program allows any qualifying adult to share their hunting permit with Utah resident youth (ages 12–17). Learn more about program eligibility and requirements here.
- Utah's Trial Hunting Program allows anyone over the age of 12 to try hunting for a few years — while accompanied by a licensed hunter over the age of 21 — before taking a Hunter Education course. To qualify, you must complete a brief orientation course and exam. After completing the exam, you will receive a trial hunting authorization number, which allows you to apply for a hunting or combination license and hunting permits.
Non-government hunting and trapping organizations
Note: Please keep in mind that the DWR is not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the third-party sites or organizations listed below, and the Division in no way warrants or guarantees any of the services offered by these organizations.
Mentorship and education opportunities for hunting and trapping are available through these national, state and local organizations:
- Adults can sign up to find a mentor — or volunteer to be a mentor — through the International Hunter Education Association Learn to Hunt program.
- The Utah chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers hosts year-round events and has an established community of potential hunting and fishing mentors.
- Reach out to your local shooting club or gun range to see if there are instructors or mentors on site to help you develop your skills.
- Youth Hunter's Voice offers youth hunts annually, partnering experienced mentors with beginner youth hunters.
- Visit Pheasants Forever to view their How to Hunt Upland Birds video series, tips on how to train a bird dog and more.
- Delta Waterfowl mentors individuals each year through their First Hunt program, and even has a partnership with Utah State University to engage college students.
- The National Wild Turkey Federation assists with mentored hunts annually, and the organization has a dozen local chapters in Utah to connect with a group near you.
- The Utah Chukar and Wildlife Foundation has members who are willing to show new hunters the ropes in person, through their chukar hunting video series and by interacting on the UCWF Facebook page.
- The Utah-based group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife hosts new hunter events and seminars, and has an active Facebook page.
- Several local groups and archery shops host clinics to get the whole family involved in bowhunting — including archery instruction especially for women. Visit their Facebook pages for details: Eppich Archery Unleashed, Brigham Bowmen Archery Club and Wide Arrow archery equipment store are just a few.
- The Utah Trappers Association is more than happy to show you the tips and tricks to becoming a successful trapper; see their website for upcoming events and their Facebook page for details.
Hunting waterfowl and upland game are great options for beginners. If you're interested in adding to the excitement of your hunting experience, consider participating in our upland game or waterfowl slams. After registering with a small fee, each slam is designed to give you an extra challenge while you're hunting, and the opportunity to earn commemorative, collectable coins or metal bands with each slam completion. All slam proceeds are used for habitat improvements and protections for upland game and waterfowl.