Field to Fork program arrives in New York state
This year I know of at least 10 new hunters who will be experiencing their first deer hunts come November. Likely more.
They are part of the Field to Fork program, which in New York is a collaborative effort between the Quality Deer Management Association and Cornell Cooperative Extension office. QDMA began developing the program a few years ago, modeling it after a similar program in Kentucky. It is growing rapidly and expanded into New York last year in the Rochester region. This year, the Upper Hudson Valley branch of QDMA jumped on board in the Lake George/Saratoga region.
Regardless of where it takes place, the aim of Field to Fork is to recruit adult hunters, who it has been deemed tend to stick with hunting once they take it up. The locavore movement is specifically sought after as they tend to want to know where their food is coming from, including organic meat such as venison.
The challenge is that many of these people have no hunting background, which the Field and Fork program hopes to solve. Over the summer, QDMA and Cornell staff, along with volunteers, showed up at a number of farmers markets where they handed out venison jerky and recruited potential Field to Fork candidates.
Those who signed up are currently going through a series of hunter training sessions. They’ll also take their DEC hunter education courses and spend some solid time at the rifle range. But it doesn’t end there.
Come November, when the Southern Zone big game season opens, mentors who have been with these new hunters every step of the way will take them into the field and hopefully help them get their first deer. They’ll also help them field dress and likely process and butcher the animal; all with the intention of teaching them to be hunters.
The Upper Hudson Valley QDMA branch, which is also purchasing participants their first hunting license, is also considering a pot luck dinner with the mentors and participants following the season. That sure sounds like a good time.
Although I have not heard about the number of participants in the Rochester area, which was said to be excellent in 2018, I know that in the Lake George/Saratoga area 10 people signed up. One of them, whom I referred, sent me an email after the first class explaining how impressed he was by everyone involved. “I felt right at home,” he wrote, going on to explain how comfortable he was and how there was no such thing as a silly question.
I can tell from the tone of his email that he is excited, and I am excited for him. To top it off, I know the person who is going to mentor him as well. Deer or no deer, I know they will have fun and that this new hunter will come away with some positive experiences. I may even have the chance to spend some time with both of them as well, perhaps giving a small Adirondack deer drive a try.
Hats off to all the mentors everywhere who are taking some of their own hunting time to bring someone new into the sport. And kudos to the QDMA and Cornell for making this happen. Read more about it at: https://www.qdma.com/recruit/field-to-fork/