Georgia Mentor Competition: Cortney Bunch
Cortney Bunch: Cortney is a master’s student at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. She grew up in Idaho, went to Western Washington University for her undergraduate degree and moved to Georgia to pursue a Fisheries master’s degree in 2017.
Michael Baker is a graduate student that moved to Georgia to obtain his master’s degree at Warnell in 2018. He is originally from Louisiana and is pursuing degrees in both Fisheries and Mathematics.
By Cortney Bunch
As a new hunter in Georgia, I had to figure out the lay of the land and find a spot to hunt. I was excited to find one and successfully harvest my first Georgia deer. Following my first harvest, I knew I had the knowledge to help a future sportsman. Michael was interested in deer hunting but didn’t have the time or the resources to go out on his own.
To thank him for being a great friend, I shared a package of backstrap with him and told him about my hunting experience. He quickly gained an interest and wanted to go out and try and get one, too. We both agreed to meet up early one morning and travel to my public hunting spot. Walking in we spooked a doe, a premonition to an exciting hunt. Eager and nervous, we set up in our spot and waited. I explained to him why I chose the spot and predicted where the deer would come from.
Not long after light, a couple of does wandered into a cluster of trees, preventing a good shot. About 20 minutes later a buck with one spike crossed a clearing in front of us and stopped to browse. Michael slowly exhaled and squeezed the trigger on my Winchester .243. The buck instantly dropped behind the terrain. After waiting a minute to watch for movement, we went to go search him out. I wondered if we would need to track the deer or if Michael’s shot was true. I held my breath as we scouted the clearing and found he was successful! I showed him how to gut and clean the buck, and we packed the meat out in our backpacks, thrilled with the adrenaline from our early morning hunt.
Why Is Mentoring Is Important To Me
Mentoring a friend in hunting is important to me because hunting and harvesting game is a unique skill to have, and it becomes even more meaningful as a shared experience. Growing up, it was normal for me to miss a couple days of school to go on a hunting and camping trip with my family during deer season. I took Hunter’s Education and got my hunting license as early as I could (age 12 in Idaho then), and my parents would always let me try and shoot a deer, even if they had a better shot or they had better aim. I was fortunate enough to get a lot of experience hunting big game growing up, and it made me appreciate how much my parents invested in my education and learning experience. We gutted, cleaned and packaged our own big game and ate from our freezer year-round.
Moving to Georgia two years ago, I didn’t know anyone well and decided to learn how to hunt in the South on my own. I successfully harvested a couple of deer in fall of 2018 but didn’t have anyone to go hunting with as of yet. That’s why I asked my friend and fellow student Michael if he wanted to go try deer hunting. I wanted to share what I had learned growing up and share the experience of being outdoors and living off the land. The mentoring experience for me was not just about harvesting deer but also about getting out of the city and enjoying the peace in the woods and the creatures that live there. I enjoy helping others and sharing empowering experiences such as hunting that help foster independence. I had such great time in the mentoring process last fall that I would gladly do it again.
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