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Building Lifelong Outdoorsmen and Women through Volunteering

Lincoln Dillman (left), his dad Nick Dillman (center) and guide Tim Tower (right). Lincoln harvested his first and second deer as part of this event.

Lincoln Dillman (left), his dad Kevin Dillman (center), and guide Tim Tower (right). Lincoln harvested his first and second deer as part of this event.

During Young Sportsmen Deer Hunt weekend in January, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation hosted its second Hunt Master event. The Federation views fostering the next generation of outdoorsmen and women central to ensuring the long-term conservation of the state’s wildlife and natural resources. And the new Hunt Master program is designed to give youth and their parents an enjoyable outdoor experience to fuel their interest as well as the knowledge to go out on their own once the weekend is over.

Held in West Tennessee, this hunt guided seven youth and seven parents/guardians through a complete outdoor experience. In addition to guiding them through their first hunt, the weekend includes primitive camping, fireside chats, field-to-table meals, and skills development—such as ethical shot placement and determining a deer’s age.

“The transformation we see in both kids and their parents is incredible. Some enter the weekend with excitement about their first hunt. Others are less engaged,” said Matt Simcox, manager of youth hunting and fishing programs at Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “But by the last night when we are all winding down around the fire and reflecting on the weekend, it was clear everyone enjoyed the hunt, the weekend, and the time together.”

“Many are already making plans to go out again on their own. That is the result we hope to see,” added Matt.

The seven youth hunters harvested four does during the weekend. One youth took two, donating the second to the Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program that provides donated venison to food banks and soup kitchens. Photos from the hunt can be seen HERE.

“These hunts are proving effective with sparking interest about the outdoors in youth and their parents. It takes a lot of work to pull it off—there’s a 3:1 adult-to-youth ratio on these trips,” said J.W. Worthen, director of programs at Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “Volunteers make the program possible and we’re working to train a base of volunteers across the state so more kids have access to the Hunt Master program.”

A broad range of volunteer skills are needed for the weekend—from guiding hunts to cooking to outdoor skills instructors. The Federation trains volunteers and provides them with all of the tools and support needed to participate in future hunts or lead their own.

“Creating a network of people who provide social support to these young outdoorsmen and women is key.”

“Without friends who share interest or parents who can help plan trips, it’s less likely these kids will keep venturing into the great outdoors,” said J.W.

To learn more about becoming a Hunt Master or volunteering with the program, contact J.W. Worthen at

Thanks to our benefactors and sponsors that made this hunt possible: Landowner Dr. David Sloas; Landowner Dr. Jack Gayden; Land Manager John Gayden; Tennessee National Guard; Quality Deer Management Association; Gander Mountain; Academy Sports; Thompson Machinery; Warren Community Church of Somerville, Tenn.

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