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You can only be a first-time hunter once. There’s excitement in the anticipation. Some anxiousness, too. The perfect time to start your journey as a hunter? When you are ready. If you’re lucky, you’ve got experienced family or friends to make that first hunt safe, memorable and successful – however you define success.

In September, I was a member of an eight-woman hunting party – including six first-time hunters – who participated in a Wyoming pronghorn hunt sponsored by our company, Vista Outdoor. This hunt was as much about understanding how other hunters (employees and customers) experience Vista Outdoor’s mission of “Bringing the World Outside” when using our brand products as it was about tagging an antelope.

Before the hunt there were questions for co-workers, friends and relatives about the upcoming hunt, and multiple visits to shooting ranges to get comfortable handling a rifle, scope and ammunition. As a first timer, I had to complete a hunter safety course, which included an emphasis on how hunting and the shooting sports are critical components of conservation in North America. All of us would experience how the hunt supports Vista Outdoor’s Conservation Counts campaign.

We were aware not only of the need for safe handling of our firearm and ammunition, but we were also aware of the nervousness that would take over our thoughts leading up to the hunt.

Crisp mornings were followed by sunny afternoons. In the evening, the clear, dark sky exposed the Milky Way – a sight rarely visible with city lights.

Each morning, we broke into smaller teams of three: two hunters and a guide. Teams travelled over rolling hills of yellow grassland and fragrant sage. In addition to the many herds of antelope, watchful hunters saw rabbits, prairie dogs, a burrowing owl, hawks, red foxes and bull snakes.

Three days of hunting morning and afternoons. Three evenings around the campfire sharing hunting stories and getting to know each other. At the end of Day 3, all tags were filled and new friendships formed.

Following each harvest, hunters participated in the cleaning and field dressing of their animal. Together, we shared in reviewing each hunter’s shot placement and analyzing the circumstances leading up to the harvest.

Each successful hunter returning to camp also dealt with the emotion of the hunt – not unlike many first-timers. Celebration. Remorse. Comradery. A new connection with nature.

After the trip, we were asked to complete a hunter participation study to support the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports’ efforts to better understand trends of hunting and shooting sports participants.

Will we continue to hunt now that they had our first hunt under our belts?  Some probably will, some probably won’t. We all could agree we learned a lot about the hunting experience, our products, our co-workers, and ourselves.

Lori Messner

Vista Outdoor employee, Anoka, Minnesota