The Maiden Hunt Series: Ryan's first deer hunt

Mentoring is woven in the fabric of hunting. For millennia the tradition has been passed down through generations and shared with friends. For the tradition to continue, the each generation of hunters are tasked with passing the torch to the next.

Fish and Game's Maiden Hunt Series explores how rewarding it can be for hunters to pass on their passion for the outdoors, and shares the stories of new hunters, from completing their hunter education and seeking out a mentor to experiencing their first hunt. Each hunter comes to hunting with a different perspective, background, concerns, and interests.  From balancing a love of nature with the emotional experience of harvesting an animal, to following in family footsteps, these short films explore the realities of becoming a hunter and illustrate how hunting is so much more than the harvest.

This video follows the journey of Ryan, as he undertakes his first deer hunt with his hunting mentor Phil. Please consider introducing someone new to hunting this year by signing the Mentor Pledge at


Q: Having a year to reflect on your first hunt, what has surprised you most about becoming a hunter?

Ryan: I’ve been most surprised by how friendly the hunting community is in Idaho. I think hunters get a bad rap as secretive, unfriendly, and uncaring. My experience has been the exact opposite. Everyone I’ve met in the hunting community is more than eager to share advice on hunting locations, gear, technique, etc.

Q: After harvesting a deer on your first hunt, can you share some stories about preparing and eating wild game?

Ryan: After I harvested my deer, butchering was a family affair; we all learned together. Being inexperienced butchers, we kept the prep straightforward and divided the meat into steak, roasts, and ground. Recipes were simple - for example, salt and pepper the steaks, sear on a cast iron pan for 2 minutes on each side, and enjoy!

Q: What did you discover about yourself, or hunting, that you were not expecting?

Ryan: If you’re a parent, you know that there is pride in providing for your family, no matter what form that takes. I was not expecting how this feeling of pride would take on a new meaning. Sure, I’ve made family dinners countless times in the past, but something always felt different as I watched my young kids devour deer steaks like they were going out of style. I didn’t just go to the store and buy steaks; I harvested those steaks.

Q: You ended up harvesting your deer without your mentor. How did that go, and what advice would you give a new hunter that might be concerned about field dressing and butchering their own deer?

Ryan: My mentor was fantastic, but oddly, I felt less pressure harvesting without a mentor. Maybe because I wasn’t worried about anyone seeing my mistakes? My dad has a saying: “Before you can kick butt, you have to get your butt kicked” (I cleaned up the language). My advice to new hunters is not to worry about field dressing. It doesn’t have to be perfect your first time. Do your best, take what’s legally required, and improve over time.

Q: Looking back, what do you wish you understood better before your first hunt, and what would you tell someone interested in hunting?

Ryan: I went through the Learn to Hunt program sponsored by the Idaho chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) and IDFG. This program was invaluable and I was mentally and physically prepared, so there isn't anything I wish I understood better before my first hunt. I would tell new hunters to keep it simple. Resist going down the gear rabbit hole. Rifle. Binoculars. Knife. Any backpack. That’s all the gear you need. All the other “essentials” can come later if you continue the pursuit.

Q: Do you plan on hunting again this year? 

Ryan: I definitely plan to continue hunting. I have 3 trips already planned in October.

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Will Bales

Ryan embarks on his first deer hunt.