Keith Warnke, hunting and shooting sports coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, who has been teaching the course since 2012, says more adults are finding their way to his course through their passions for local food, sustainable living and a connection to nature. “Most of these students don’t come from hunting families,” Warnke says. “We start at the very beginning and show them everything. The course is really a soup to nuts kind of thing.”
Warnke says that while food classes typically have a higher percentage of women students, “our classes are about half-and-half men and women. When you consider the population of hunters, women make up about 10 percent.”
Full-menu course of history, habitat, hunt with a wild potluck
Classes typically meet every week for about a month. Students begin by learning about conservation history and how the North American conservation model is unique. Next is basic biology and habitat. Types of hunting land — public, private, and special categories like Managed Forest Crop land — scouting, and shot placement also are covered. Students learn the importance of waiting for a clean shot and how to track wounded game. They explore “fair chase” and other concepts.
“It’s a wild game potluck,” course instructor and cookbook author John Motoviloff says. “Venison, dove, duck, small game, wild rice, fried bluegill. It all depends what we have on hand. Next class, I’m going to try my hand at making turtle soup.” This is hands-on learning.
Students learn to clean game, handle firearms and visit a shooting range for live-fire practice. Students also have the option of earning their Hunter Safety certificate.
The class culminates in a guided hunt led by an experienced mentor. Since the DNR has the authority to conduct hunts outside the normal season framework, chances of hunter success are improved.
Mentors and students meet the night before the hunt at deer camp or turkey camp sites. Everyone enjoys a meal and plans the next day’s hunt. Learn to Hunt Events have proven popular in cities like Madison, La Crosse, Stevens Point, Wausau, and the Twin Cities – and in the rural areas. Warnke says no matter where someone lives in Wisconsin, enjoying good food and caring about the natural resources are shared traditions.
For details on hosting a Learn to Hunt event, search the DNR website, www.dnr.wi.gov, and search keyword “Learn to hunt.”