Written by Haley Phillips
“Mentored hunting” isn’t a phrase you’d expect to hear in Philadelphia. Neither is “hunters of color”. And that’s exactly why John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum provides a mentored archery deer hunt every year.
The Mentored Archery Hunt, though open to all 12 years and older, prioritizes applicants from Southwest Philadelphia and systematically excluded groups. With support from the Philadelphia Game Commission (PGC), the hunt is free and all equipment is provided. Participants learn the basics of hunting and deer biology during orientation and a mentor assists participants throughout the hunt.
Besides skills, participants also walk away with a new community. To celebrate this, the participants and staff came together this year after the hunt to share experiences and food during a potluck. Highlights included a former mentee returning to serve as a mentor and a teen harvesting their first deer with this father as their mentor.
As an intern working with the PGC, I tried hunting for the first time this year and had to work through the different reasons to hunt or not to hunt for myself. After learning more about how hunting can be a conservation tool, I realized it was a more sustainable and ethical way to consume meat. Being a female person of color, I am not the normal demographic, either, but I felt welcomed, learned so much, and had a great experience.
Many people decide to hunt for the reason I did. Others are deeply opposed to it. Refuge Manager Lamar Gore leans into this, engaging with protestors in-person and online. In these conversations, he asks people to consider how managing deer populations limits collision vehicles (something community members call the Refuge about frequently) and disease spread in herds while improving the health of the forest for all the other plants and animals who depend on it.
The lottery application window is open from August 1st to 31st, 2022. For more information, email Garrett at [email protected]
Heinz staff will also be available at pop-up archery events to answer questions about the mentored hunt. Check out our summer calendar in this issue to see when our next archery event is!
Written by Haley Phillips, Philadelphia Game Commission Intern working at John Heinz NWR at Tinicum and Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area