Wildlife Watch: Free seminars help hunters take skills to the next level

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NORTHFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) It's just a few weeks away from the start of bow hunting season and Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials are reminding hunters that there is much more to learn about the sport than gets covered in a basic hunter safety course. The department is hosting free seminars to help Vermonters hunt smarter.

Avid hunter and wildlife lover Rodney Elmer has run Mount Deer Taxidermy in Northfield for over 30 Years. When he is not hard at work in his shop, he's also a volunteer educator offering his expertise through free informational sessions that Vermont Fish and Wildlife is offering.

"It's important if you are going to go out and go hunting that you owe it to the deer, or to the game and yourself and the land owner, to be as responsible as you can be. To go out and enjoy what happens and to also make good use of it. Hunting is really all about eating and it's important that we get a chance to eat as much as we can, and when you treat it really good it comes out good. Learning how to take care of that animal is important," Elmer said.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: How important do you think it is to harvest their own food and what they will be learning in these sessions?
Rodney Elmer: Vermont right now -- one of our biggest crops is trees. We grow lots of trees in Vermont and of course we can't eat trees, but I can eat the animals that eat the trees. So I have a little deal with the deer, I take care of my forest and make sure it grows good for them and later on they pay the deer taxes and get to have a little something to eat from it, and we benefit each other you know? We all want to fit in nature.

Elmer will lead sessions on deer processing and tracking, something he feels there is always more to learn about. "There is tons of people who have moved here and have no one to show them the ropes, and they want to get started at it. And that's one of the things about hunter ed is, we have been working hard to make it so we can do a little more than just get them safe and go in the woods. There is so much more to it," Elmer said.

He feels that every hunter should be ready to go and be prepared when they hit the woods. "There is nothing wrong with being prepared, and if you go hunting in warm weather it's nice to know how to take care of that bear that you have gotten, or the moose, or that deer, or any of your fish -- you know what to do with them to keep them good to eat -- that's important. In the long run, I want to make the most of everything and not waste anything. Even though nothing is really wasted in nature -- it really isn't -- but I don't want to have a deer not die the right way or me not take care of it the right way and waste it. That would be a shame to the deer," Elmer said.

Nicole Meier, a Vermont Fish and Wildlife education specialist, says it's important for hunters to keep learning, and these sessions will facilitate that. "This is extremely important for hunter's success. Hunter education classes are really what people need to know for safety and ethical reasons before going out into the woods, but these seminars that we are doing on deer tracking, deer processing, and squirrel hunting are going to make hunters successful. They are what we want people to know before they head out into the woods," she said.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Why is this a next step in education?
Nicole Meier: This is a next step because we are going so much more in depth with the foundation that people have built through their hunter education course. This is really getting into the nitty gritty know how of specifically targeting different species.

"In so many ways, man's relationship with nature is so important, cause if it isn't a good relationship, you can kiss nature good bye. We can be a people with more disease. I want to go out and fit in nature because man is a product of nature too and he belongs there. That's pretty much the biggest thing I say on our YouTube channel. I say the same thing -- that's the main message -- man belongs here too, it's not an invasive species," Elmer said.

How to sign up for an upcoming seminar.