UM wild sustenance course teaches hunting and conservation through real-world experience
CLINTON (Missoula Current) – A light snow falls in the pre-dawn hours of October. It’s opening weekend of the general hunting season as Mattie Budine and Jack Hanson gear up to go hunting for the first time.
The property they are hunting is owned by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and has been reserved just for them for the first two weeks of the season.
Budine and Hanson are UM students in a class known as wild sustenance.
Co-instructed by Joshua Millspaugh and Elizabeth Metcalf, wild sustenance is a class that aims to introduce students with no prior experience to hunting and the role that hunting plays in wildlife conservation.
“I always look at my own story.” Said Metcalf, “I was against hunting for so many years until I started to learn that hunting was one tool that agencies had to help manage certain things like wildlife populations and disease.”
In Montana, most of the money allocated for wildlife conservation efforts is generated through the sale of hunting licenses.
The class is intended to break down some of the barriers to entry when it comes to hunting and create an environment where discussions can take place around ethics, fears and pre-conceived notions about hunting.
“It's been nice for me to have a community that's been so open and welcoming to introduce me to this sport,” said Jack Hanson.
Students were taught about female engagement in the male dominated sport, how hunting and conservation go hand-in-hand and indigenous views on hunting. But the highlight of the class for most students was outside of the classroom.
A three-day workshop at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front gave students the opportunity to learn about hunting in a hands-on way. Students in the wild sustenance class were able to practice archery and rifle marksmanship, learn how to prepare game meat from a renowned chef, and participate in hunting excursions.
What came as a surprise on the trip was successfully harvesting a black bear and a buck, giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn how to process an animal after it is killed.
“You can lecture, show posters and show videos, but to actually do the act of processing, it just gets more ingrained in your brain,” said Mattie Budine.
“I fundamentally believe in experiential education,” said Metcalf, “It's hard to do at a university sometimes, but this class is a perfect opportunity.”
Experiential learning is simply learning by doing. According to Kent State University, engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection often allows them to better connect theories and knowledge learned to real-world situations.
Students in the course were also given the unique opportunity to hunt on their own on a piece of property specifically reserved for the class, courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Wild sustenance takes students with virtually no hunting experience and gives them the confidence to enter the world of hunting and an understanding of what hunting means to many Montanans.
This unique course helps students through hunters ed, offers real-life hunting experience along with field dressing and butchering, but the goal of the course is not necessarily to create hunters out of all the students.
Rather, Millspaugh and Metcalf want students to understand hunting and the role it plays in wildlife conservation in the state.
“What does Montana need, they need people who understand and can speak the language of hunting to understand how to effectively govern this state,” said Metcalf.