Hunters at Rest
episode 41 | Feb 15, 2021
Hunting & Fishing

Ep. 41: Finding a Hunting Mentor With the FIrst Hunt Foundation

In this episode of The Silvercore Podcast, Travis speaks with Rick Brazell, founder of First Hunt Foundation in Idaho USA. Brazel talks about his passion for hunting and how it lead to him starting the foundation to help get new hunters out there with the help of mentors. He speaks about difficulties experienced, as well as memories created, listen to this podcast to hear Rick’s truly inspiring story.
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Travis Bader: [00:00:00] I’m Travis Bader and this is The Silvercore Podcast. Join me as I discuss matters related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits with the people in businesses that comprise of the community.  If you’re new to Silvercore, be sure to check out our website, where you can learn more about courses, services, and products we offer. As well as how you can join The Silvercore Club, which includes 10 million in North America, wide liability insurance, which you are properly covered during your outdoor ventures.

Today, I’m speaking with Rick Brazell, who spent 36 years in the US forest service, managing land and in 2015 started the First Hunt Foundation. Where he and his team of volunteers provide mentorship and guidance for those wishing to get into hunting. Rick, welcome to The Silvercore Podcast. 

Rick Brazell: [00:00:59] Thanks, Travis. Really enjoy being here. 

Travis Bader: [00:01:02] So specifically I want to speak about the First Hunt Foundation, how it got started, what it does, as well as some of the challenges and successes that you’ve had. But first I’d like to get a little bit more into the background on you. Like where did you grow up and what ignited your passion for hunting?

Rick Brazell: [00:01:19] Oh, wow. That’s a great one. I grew up in Texas, so I’m a long way from home. So if you hear a little bit of a southern accent, that’s because I’m from the south. And I grew up in the country. I went to a little school that had like 85 students, K through 12. So we’re talking small.

Travis Bader: [00:01:37] Wow.

Rick Brazell: [00:01:38] Yeah. You know everybody, and their parents. And so you can.

Travis Bader: [00:01:43] No kidding.

Rick Brazell: [00:01:43] Get by with anything. Of course, and my dad  was the bus mechanic for the little school so I lived on a city block surrounded by fields and farmland. And so I just had an interest early on to hunt, to go get a BB gun, go out and chase things and the poor metal arcs back then weren’t safe. 

And I look at it now going, I shouldn’t have done that, but when you’re a kid, sparrows and metal arcs and anything else, it was fair game. 

Travis Bader: [00:02:12] Sure.

Rick Brazell: [00:02:13] So I just had an interest in hunting for a long, long time. And my dad wasn’t a hunter, which was kind of, made it hard for me because I didn’t have somebody to train me. I mean, he had a shotgun, but he didn’t really hunt. And so I had to learn it on my own basically. 

Travis Bader: [00:02:29] That’s a tough way to do it. 

Rick Brazell: [00:02:31] Yeah. Yeah. It was, it was tough. And so when I was about in the eighth grade and my buddy of mine at school, he wanted to be a hunter too and his dad didn’t hunt, so we kind of figured it out on our own.

We got our own guns and it’s a little bit like the Christmas story. I got my first deer rifle when I kept, saving up, had a Mason jar, had duct tape on it so I couldn’t get into as a kid and it had deer rifle on it. My parents got a kick out of that because I put every little coin I could or ever a little bit of money I made because I was going to buy my first deer rifle with that. And then I was going to get an old British 303 because it was cheap. 

Travis Bader: [00:03:08] Yeah. 

Rick Brazell: [00:03:09] And my dad and my mom were smart and one Christmas after we opened all the gifts, the said well look behind the tree and there was a deer rifle behind the tree. It was pretty, it was great.

Travis Bader: [00:03:20] Wow.

Rick Brazell: [00:03:20] My parents supported my passion and I was in the eighth grade, I remember that. And so now I had had a 243 and watch out world cause here I come. 

Travis Bader: [00:03:32] Well, you’re a bit of an anomaly. Most people don’t get into hunting unless they’ve had a family member, mother, father, aunt, and uncle, somebody to kind of get them into it. 

Rick Brazell: [00:03:41] Yeah, exactly. And that’s part of the reason the foundation’s there because I found there’s a lot of, especially youth and we’re finding a lot of adults now too, but especially youth that would like to get into hunting, like I want to do, but their parents or nobody in their family hunts. And then they’re looking for somebody to teach them and that’s kind of where the foundation started and it’s like, let’s find these kids and help them out.

And what happened, I was in Washington state, living in Washington state working for the us forest service. And I had 20 acres there and it was surrounded by alfalfa fields and in the evenings the deer would just go to the fields, but they wouldn’t go to my pasture because it was just grass, pasture grass. 

[00:04:24] And so in Washington state, you can put up feeders. So I’ll put up a feeder and I had deer coming. They would stopped to my place before they go the alfalfa. And I set up a stand and I made a deal with any kid that wanted to shoot their first deer, they could come to my place. I had seven kids come with their parents or me setting in that stand.

And they all were successful in getting their first deer and years later, I mean, years later they would come up to me on the street and thank me and say, Hey Mr. Brazell, I remember shooting my first deer, I just wanted to thank you, I’ll never forget that. And it hit me. What if I could duplicate that feeling of excitement, thousands of times, instead of just these seven times.

[00:05:09] And so I played with that in my head until I retired trying to figure out what am I going to do with my life when I retire? I thought I don’t want to create an organization that gives those first hunt experiences to thousands and thousands of people. And that’s kind of where it started was those seven kids getting their first deer on that 20 acres in Washington state so.

Travis Bader: [00:05:30] Wow. So when did you retire? 

Rick Brazell: [00:05:33] I retired now, about six years ago and started the foundation immediately when I retired. 

Travis Bader: [00:05:40] Yeah, I was just doing the math there.

Rick Brazell: [00:05:43] Yeah. Yeah. And it didn’t realize it was going to be so successful that it just blossomed and took off. And now we’re operating in 28 States and have almost 500 volunteer mentors, just about 10 shy of that, in those 28 States that are taking people out.

We did like 4,000 days last year. So 4,000 days of people getting out on their first hunts, our training, we count the days of training as well. Cause you can’t just go out, usually without learning how to hold a gun, shoot a gun, that sort of thing.

Travis Bader: [00:06:15] Right. All the things that the hunter ed course doesn’t teach you. 

Rick Brazell: [00:06:19] Right. Yeah. Yeah. And we don’t do the hunter ed stuff. That’s the state’s responsibilities down here to do that. We tell folks, well what do we gotta do? We’ll say, take your state stuff, get that done and we can even help them figure it out. And then we take them from there. We’re the next step. 

Travis Bader: [00:06:36] Right. Yeah, we’ve got, of course in Canada, hunter ed courses differ province by province, similar to in the States. And the most common concern or complaint that people come out of it with is it didn’t really prepare me to hunt.

It teaches me the laws, it teaches me regulations, it teaches me identification. And there’s all these important pieces around hunting that you, a new hunter should know. But the big part of it, the learning how to hunt isn’t covered in hunter education. 

Rick Brazell: [00:07:07] Right. And it’s actually with the pandemic it’s got a little bit more lax and I understand why. But in our particular state, they don’t even do a field day now for now, they did in the past, you’d have to do your course and spend a day in the field.

And they said, because of the pandemic, you can take it online and never even meet an instructor face to face and get your hunter education certificate. 

Travis Bader: [00:07:33] So there’s, in my opinion, a massive disconnect between hunter education, training and hunting, and that disconnect would be mentorship, something in between. And we live in a society now where the younger generation they’re on Facebook and Instagram and Tik Tok and their social  connections are done virtually and by and large and I’m seeing a trend towards a desire for, I guess, more intimate connections, more real connections with other individuals.

And I’m starting to see organizations like the R3 movement, right? The R3 movement is the, what is that? The retain and recruit and re-introduce or recruit, retain, reintroduce hunters.

Rick Brazell: [00:08:27] Yep, and we’re big into that. We didn’t start out that way, R3 wasn’t even around when we started, or at least it was in its infancy. And we were involved, the foundation was involved in going to early on meetings, trying to figure out what it was about. And but it does stand for recruiting new hunters and retaining those that are thinking maybe they’re losing interest. And then re-engaging those that have left the hunting and get them back.

And we do all of that. Our foundation, we’re chasing, getting mentors, take new people out. We’re are keeping people interested by giving them something to do. And we’re re-engaging folks that have left. A lot of people say, well, my kids are all gone out on hunting anymore. And we say, well heck we’ll find you a kid or help you find the kids.

[00:09:13] Some people joked about it, rent a kid, you know, it’s not really, it’s like, we’ll find you a person to take hunting and then that gets them back into the sport, which is a whole nother thing. It kind of bothers me to call it a sport, but it’s been called that for years. 

Travis Bader: [00:09:27] Sure. I think people know what we’re talking about when we say sport, but.

Rick Brazell: [00:09:32] Right.

Travis Bader: [00:09:33] Yeah, I mean, just this last year, my son got his first deer and 11 years old, 10 years old, got his hunting license. That’s all he wanted. He says, I want to walk in, I want to do my exam, I want to go to the government office. I want to, and in British Columbia, we call it a Fish and Wildlife ID card, so I want to get my FWID.

And the first year he was going out and learning about the species coming on hunting trips, but he was getting to carry around a rifle and get used to what that feels like unloaded. But he didn’t harvest any animals and we’ve got something called waterfowl heritage days. 

[00:10:14] So a week prior to harvesting his first deer, a couple from the local sporting goods store out here said, Hey, tell you what we got access to land, we’ve got a dog, we’ve got the blind, we’ve got all the decoys and gear. Would your son like to come out on waterfowl heritage days? 

And these guys get nothing out of it, other than the enjoyment of reintroducing, and I shouldn’t say they get nothing out of it, but obviously there’s a lot that mentors get out of it, but it is geared around the new hunter. Anyways, my son got his first duck and at the end of the day, he was very thrilled, so proud of himself. 

[00:10:53] And he says to me afterwards, he says, I didn’t know what it’d be like, and obviously you don’t until you’ve been there. But now I know, now I’m confident I can go out and I can go hunt that deer cause he had a limited entry draw for a deer. So that whole mentorship process is invaluable for new hunters, but it’s also like, you’re pointing out, a very valuable tool to hunters who’ve been doing it for a long time and they want to pass their knowledge onto somebody else. 

Rick Brazell: [00:11:23] Well, you know, it’s so fulfilling to see somebody else learn and grow. A lot of our mentors tell us that. And I personally would say that last year,  not the pandemic year, the year before I did 50 something days of taking youth out.

Travis Bader: [00:11:38] Wow.

Rick Brazell: [00:11:38] And then 30 something days of me hunting. So 80 something days in the field hunting, and I’m thinking, I think I’d died and went to heaven because that’s kind of what I love doing, but.

Travis Bader: [00:11:48] You’re living the life.

Rick Brazell: [00:11:49] Yeah, I had more fun taking those youth out and teaching them and they get their first animal and it could be a doe, but they were so excited that it could have been a 30 inch mule deer buck or whatever. But to them it was just, they should just. And then there’s folks that don’t have money.

I mean, there’s one lady, that’s a widowed grandmother raised three of her grandsons because the parents didn’t do well in life, I won’t go into that. But she’s having struggles, and when one son got a deer, that was food for their table. And they cried when she thanked me for helping them, not only teach their grandson a skill and get him out doing something besides being on a computer, but they had lots of meals out of it.

[00:12:44] And they were so excited. That to me, when, when that happens, it’s like you’ve changed somebody’s life. You’re not just giving them a one day experience. You’re changing their entire life. 

Travis Bader: [00:12:53] You really are. 

Rick Brazell: [00:12:54] Yeah. 

Travis Bader: [00:12:54] Yeah. You really are. Well, I should imagine, and it looks like you just came on like gangbusters, you’ve already got 500 mentors across the country in a relatively short period of time. How did you get this started? 

Rick Brazell: [00:13:11] Well, we knew we had to find people mentors. I mean, locally, we found a bunch of real quick, cause you talked to your friends and that sort of thing. And then we started thinking, well, let’s figure out how, where do we go to find these people? We could advertise of course, but where do you advertise?

And we started thinking, let’s go to the big outdoor shows cause there’s a lot of those down here in the States. And some of them have like 50,000 people go and all those 50,000 people are going to those outdoor hunting shows because they’re into hunting. And so we put up a big booth and people’s, we kind of grabbed them when they come by and try to get them to come over and talk to us.

[00:13:51] And we were starting to sign up mentors that way. And before you know it we had 50 and a hundred and of course they talked to their friends and buddies and go, Hey, you need to be part of this. And then we would get more that way. One of the kind of, I don’t know if it’s a, call it a catch, but it was fun.

We created a simulated Nerf hunting range, not a shooting range, a hunting range. So we had these Nerf guns and we had this background that had deer and elk and bear and moose and ducks, instead of rounds and black circles, which most target things have for kids. And then we had these little Nerf guns that had scopes on them.

[00:14:29] They looked like a gun, except they were bright coloured and we’ve had over 7,000 kids go through that at the shows. And so when the kids come over and they’re shooting and we celebrate, Oh, you got an elk, what are you going to do with all that meat versus, Oh, you hit the bullseye and they’re grinning from ear to ear.

The parents are grinning from ear to ear. And then we kind of hooked the parents cause they’re probably hunters and say, Hey, how about joining our organization? So they’re seeing their kid have a good time that we provided. And some of them it’s the first time they ever thought about, and some of them aren’t hunters and then they shot, never even shot a gun. 

[00:15:06] They don’t even know how to hold a plastic gun, let alone a real gun. And then we’re not training them to be hunters. We’re just saying, Hey, here’s an experience you could could build on. You could actually go out in the world later, maybe shoot a real deer. 

And so anyway, 7,000 people went through that, but again, with the pandemic, it’s a pretty much of a germ fest when you got all these plastic guns laying on the table and you’ve literally got four kids and four behind them. And you know, it’s like, Oh, you can’t keep it clean. 

Travis Bader: [00:15:35] No, everyone’s rubbing them on their faces. 

Rick Brazell: [00:15:37] Oh yeah, I’ve seen them their sleeve, their nose sleeve and then pick up the gun and just kind of, and we wipe them. We did wipe them down before the pandemic, but now I’d be kind of scared to put them out there. But anyway, it was a great experience, it was a way to get the parents there. And we, we recruited a lot of people from those kind of things, as well as raffles. 

Travis Bader: [00:16:00] Yeah, just boots on the ground, work at the different shows. So I should imagine, now you guys don’t charge anything. You guys don’t charge anything for a person to come on their first hunt with you do you? They pay their own way for whatever it is and, but you’re not charging any extra on top of that are you? 

Rick Brazell: [00:16:17] No. We don’t allow any charges at all. In fact, we’ve told our mentors that if we find out that you’re even accepting money for gas, then you won’t be a mentor anymore. And the reason for that is, several reasons for that. One is we’re a nonprofit, we’re doing this for the cause and for the good. And even though there is expenses, people are willing to donate some gas for a day or shells or gun. 

And most of these new people don’t have any equipment, so they’re having to use the mentors equipment. The other thing in the States anyway, for a lot of States down here, there’s a lot of rules on guiding. And so we don’t even use, we don’t even allow the word guide to be used in our vernacular.

[00:16:59] It’s just because it has a legal connotation that if you’re not a licensed guide, that you can’t do it in certain States and some people would say, well, you’re guiding. No we’re teaching. We’re not guiding. We’re not just taking them out to get an animal. We’re trying to teach them conservation and how everything.  Hunter ed, kind of all of the above. Whereas a guide would just take you out and shoot the animal. 

Travis Bader: [00:17:22] Right. And that was where I was going with the question, essentially did you receive pushback from any of the States or any of the guide outfitter organizations?

Rick Brazell: [00:17:33] No, we haven’t, not yet. And I hope we don’t. Partly the reason I don’t think we will is because the R3 we mentioned earlier, the States are just like, how do we implement this thing? When they hear about us, they go, Oh my gosh, here’s a nonprofit doing what we want, let’s put her arm around them and help these guys.

And it’s the state’s usually that would be on the other side of that with the Outfitters and guides, because they control the outfitter and guide boards. So, so far we’ve not had that, I suppose it could happen. You know, if some Outfitters felt like, well, you took a kid bear hunting that they would’ve paid me to take them, but you took them for free so. 

Travis Bader: [00:18:11] Hmm. Now, do you guys keep metrics on the individuals coming through sort of maybe whether they’re a country kid, city kid, gender, demographics, any of these sort of things. Do you guys kind of keep an eye on that? 

Rick Brazell: [00:18:30] Yeah, we did. We didn’t at first, but as we first couple of years and we started thinking, well we needed to keep track of this. So we started tracking youth, whether they are youth, first of all. Eight, less than 18 and then we started tracking whether they’re male or female. So we know how many boys and girls are there. We started tracking gender for adults as well, but we didn’t, we don’t track specific stuff like a species.

One of the things we’ve got to, we’re working on an app. We hope that, that the app will help us collect more data and people can do it in real time because, well, let me tell you one of the issues with this thing. And it’s been, it’s like pulling teeth is to get the mentors to give you data because at the end of the year, we contact them and go, Hey, how many people did you take out in all these categories?

[00:19:26] And less than half of them will respond. And then it puts the burden on us to call them and say, please, would you give us this data? And it’s kind of like, it’s not that they’re negative against it. But they’re like everybody else, they get inundated, I don’t want to do another survey. And so getting that data is hard.

So we’re working on trying to get an app. And if we had anybody that helped us develop a phone app, that’d  be even better. So you could do it in real time. So literally get on your phone and go, I’m doing a training day, I’m doing it with a 12 year old or male or whatever. 

[00:20:01] And then boom, it’s done because what happens now at the end of the year, we hit them up and they’re sitting there and going, Oh my gosh, what did I do? I got to look back into the entire year and try to remember what I did. You know, how many days and who I went with. And we used to give out a little.

Travis Bader: [00:20:17] And nobody wants to do that paperwork.

Rick Brazell: [00:20:18] Nobody wants to do that. And I used to give out a little hard copy book. And I was spending a lot of money printing it, which had all that information in it, plus their miles that they could put on taxes and nobody was filling it out.

They’d tell me, Oh, I forget about it, I put it in my glove box or jockey box and I never remember it. So we’re trying to get, that’s kind of one of those deals. If we could just figure a way to make it simple for people, we could get more data. 

Travis Bader: [00:20:42] So one thing that we’ve noticed up here is there seems to be a renewed push for people to get out in the outdoors. I mean, COVID has locked everybody down and we’re seeing a lot more interest. And in the shooting sports, we’re seeing a lot more interest in just being outdoors, but hunting in particular, we’re seeing a lot of interest there. Are you finding the same thing with the First Hunt Foundation?

Rick Brazell: [00:21:08] Yes. Yeah, we are. We getting a lot more adults this last year.  Oh, it’s been a great increase in the adults coming to us wanting to do it versus the kids. I mean, we’re still doing mostly youth, but I’ve been surprised. We had a 73 year old lady contact us. She called me up one day, I was actually helping, trying to find a deer for a kid that lost it.

And she said, I want to hunt and I bought a gun and I’m a real good shot. And my buddies, I called three of them and they said, they’d take me and  none of them  will take me. So I heard about you, will you take me? And we said, sure, we’ll take you out. And so we took her out and she subsequently missed. And so the mentor said, well, let’s go shoot your gun. 

[00:21:51] Well, the gun was way off. So she never did sight it in, she bore sighted it, so she thought it was on. And so we had to, we took a step forward and had to take two steps back and took her out. I took her out with another guy and she missed a couple of hard shots. And so we’ll take her out again this next year and get her.

But anyway, we’re so we’re getting a lot of the older generation adult folks that are coming to us. And they’re a little bit embarrassed to ask like, well, I don’t know what to, who to ask. It’s a little bit humbling to say, I don’t know something. Kids don’t care, they’re like sponges just teach me, you know, but adults. 

Travis Bader: [00:22:34] Just put it all on you. 

Rick Brazell: [00:22:35] Yeah. Adults have a little more ego that we have to deal with, but it’s happening. 

Travis Bader: [00:22:39] Just a tad.

Rick Brazell: [00:22:40] Yeah. It’s awesome that we’re getting that done. 

Travis Bader: [00:22:43] Well from the adult perspective, I mean, I guess one could say that introducing a youngster into hunting can ignite a passion and can point them down a path for later in life. But hunting’s expensive, it’s a time commitment and they need to have other people in their family or in their friend group who share that same interest. Otherwise the chances of them continuing down that path, get slimmer and slimmer. 

Mind you, if you get an adult who’s got more discretionary means and the ability to actually get out and hunt, from a generating new hunter’s perspective, I would think without having looked at the numbers, but I would just think that the efforts into the adults would pay huge dividends.

Rick Brazell: [00:23:28] It does because one, they can afford, one of the big deterrents that get into hunting is buying gear. That’s just huge. I mean a gun, just a simple gun is going to cost you, a used one 250, 300 bucks and way more if you get a new one and same with bows and other things. So adults usually have the resources to do that, where kids may not ever have that until they start working.

And their parents may or may not want to get that gun and put it behind the Christmas tree like my folks did so. But they do some of them do. And some of them can’t afford it. I mean, a lot of them just cannot afford to the gear to get into it so.

Travis Bader: [00:24:09] It’s not cheap. 

Rick Brazell: [00:24:10] No. And the clothing, just the clothing. I have two examples that happened to me early on, I go pick up a kid at their house. They’d walk out, course in tennis shoes and holding a Walmart bag with a Gatorade in it. And that happened twice with two different kids and that was their hunting pack, was that Walmart bag with a Gatorade.

That’s all they had. They didn’t have anything. So I’m kind of looking at it, I’m like, well okay, we’re not doing any major hiking today. And so getting gear is a big deal. 

Travis Bader: [00:24:44] Right. You know, and people can get really caught up in the gear thing. There are some necessities, there are some things that you definitely need to get out and hunt. It doesn’t have to be the latest, greatest name brand camouflage clothing. I think more animals have been taken in blue jeans and plaid shirts than any of the latest, greatest camouflage out there, but there are some essentials. And even those essentials aren’t cheap. 

Rick Brazell: [00:25:09] No, they’re not, we’re looking at programs of people donating use gear and trying to get it out. But again, that takes the logistics and we’ve been toying with the idea of how would we pull that off because there’s lots of stuff in people’s closets that they’re not using anymore, that somebody could use. But getting back to your other topic.

I want to go back to that about recruiting people and you know, one of the key not dynamics, but the group that we want to get to is the women. Because if you can get a mother, if you can get a mother into hunting, well, she’s going to teach her kids. 

Travis Bader: [00:25:45] That’s right. 

Rick Brazell: [00:25:46] I mean our dad too, but for sure the women are, I mean, that’s just seems like we’ve been very successful. If we can get a lady into hunting that most of her kids are going to be hunters as well. 

Travis Bader: [00:25:57] So that becoming an outdoor woman or BOW program. And I’ve see it’s in a number of States as well is, is huge. And then, you know, my wife went on a BOW program up here in Canada and she had a great time. And,  she’s part of a women’s fly fishing group now.

And she came from a background of wanting to live in the city to, and working as a chef at some high-end restaurants and that love of cooking. Naturally went into gardening and went into where does my food come from? And it led to hunting and fishing and these BOW programs, I think women are the fastest growing demographic in all of hunting in the United States and Canada.

[00:26:44] And the secondary thing, I guess, on that would be the food aspect. When you start introducing like where the food comes from, because there’s for a number of years now, there’s been a, and I forget what the term was called, it’s not locavore. It’s something like that. 

Rick Brazell: [00:27:02] Yes. Like, yeah, it was like lacovore or something like that. I’ve heard it as well. 

Travis Bader: [00:27:07] Yeah. basically where can I find, and whether it’s foraging for mushrooms or plants and whatever it is, or fishing and all of these things tend to naturally lead down to a path of hunting and learning a sustainable food source. I think those are two of the huge areas that are being exploited right now that are introducing so many people into the world of funding.

Rick Brazell: [00:27:32] So one of the things we’re working on is trying to recruit as many women mentors as we can, because a lot of the spouses of the hunters there, it’s kind of interesting. They’re standing there at the outdoor show and of course the guys talking to us and the mom hunts too. And so we’re talking to them, trying to sign them up and we look at, always look over and say, what about you?

And she kind of looked at us if we need more women mentors to especially take out young girls, they feel more comfortable a lot of times with a lady than they would a crusty old guy, you know? And so we’re seeking hard to find good women mentors, and we’ve got a lot. We’ve actually got a lot.

Travis Bader: [00:28:14] So if somebody wants to be a mentor with your program, what do they have to do? How do they first, I guess they go to their website and they, they read about it. But what are the next steps?

Rick Brazell: [00:28:22] Well, yeah the website has a ‘our programs’ component. You look under our programs under mentoring, and there’s a mentor sign up sheet and you sign up on the web and it comes back here to our headquarters and, which isn’t my loft here in my house. 

Travis Bader: [00:28:42] Yeah. 

Rick Brazell: [00:28:43] It started on the kitchen table. It’s kind of funny. And then my poor wife lost her sewing room and our next step will be a brick and mortar building as we grow. But anyway, you sign up and yeah, it comes back and we do a criminal background check, which is basic and  online to see if there’s any criminal history there or anything like that.

And I’ve had to turn a few people down, but and then once you do that, you’re basically become a mentor. That’s that’s our criteria is, have you met the state’s responsibilities to be a hunter? And then we try to try to get them hooked up with some other people locally and get a chapter going that’s our goal is to get chapters going.

[00:29:23] Cause if you have say 10 people in one area, then you got one of them that’s a duck hunter, and one them that’s a bow hunter. And so according to the top of skill needed, you’ve hopefully got somebody to shift it off too, but that’s what it is. You go to the website, sign up and it comes in and we do a background check on you.

Travis Bader: [00:29:42] So, and this might be a complete aside being a Canadian, I’ve heard of these programs. I think there’s one in Washington, I believe there’s one in Oregon called a Master Hunter Program. 

Rick Brazell: [00:29:51] Yeah. 

Travis Bader: [00:29:52] Does that include any level of mentorship with those programs? Are you aware of those programs? 

Rick Brazell: [00:29:56] Oh, am I aware of those programs? Yes. 

Travis Bader: [00:30:00] Okay. Fair.

Rick Brazell: [00:30:01] No. That was great.

Travis Bader: [00:30:02] Educate me.

Rick Brazell: [00:30:03] Question. No the Master Hunter Programs and they do have one in Washington, they have one in Montana and what they do is of course allow those people to have some other options for hunting, draw hunts, depredation hunt, other things that they have. Well, those programs require some sort of continuing education or service.

And so we have made deals with the state of Washington and currently with Montana that if they sign up as a mentor with the First Hunt Foundation, any of their time mentoring and helping new hunters counts as their continuing education. So it keeps their status as a master hunter doing something that they love doing anyway. So it’s a great marriage.

Travis Bader: [00:30:51] That’s fantastic.

Rick Brazell: [00:30:52] It’s a great marriage for both of us, for the States and for our organization. 

Travis Bader: [00:30:56] Because if I understand correctly with enough volunteered time and efforts into these programs, these master hunters are then afforded a greater land access or a greater limited entry hunting access. Is that, is that a fair assessment? 

Rick Brazell: [00:31:13] Yes, that’s.

Travis Bader: [00:31:13] Am I understanding that correctly?

Rick Brazell: [00:31:14] As I understand it because it’s not here in Idaho where I live, but yeah, there’s certain areas that only master hunters are allowed to go, certain draws, hunts that I think only master hunters are allowed to put in for kind of limited entry for master hunters.

I think there may be some depredations kind of tags that are reserved for master hunters. So they get some benefits out of being a master hunter and by serving as a volunteer with us, it counts toward their credit hours that they need to keep that, they have to keep that certification up. They can’t just sign up one time. They got every year, it got to do so many hours to stay a master hunter. 

Travis Bader: [00:31:52] That is fantastic. 

Rick Brazell: [00:31:53] Yeah. It’s awesome.

Travis Bader: [00:31:53] And everything they do with, yeah. And then everything they do with you guys helps build towards that. So it’s just, win-win all the way around.

Rick Brazell: [00:32:00] It definitely is. In fact, in Washington state, when we met with those folks, we had something like 50 or 60 mentors sign up in a week. It was crazy.

Travis Bader: [00:32:11] Woah.

Rick Brazell: [00:32:11] Well, the other thing, this is what’s interesting is at least in Washington state, the master hunters, they encourage them already to go out and mentoring, but the state was concerned because there was no liability insurance provided by the state. And so by hooking up with us, they get to be covered under our liability insurance, because we do have liability insurance for the mentor. 

So if a mentor takes somebody out and heaven forbid something happens and they were to be sued, then they would be protected under our liability coverage. 

Travis Bader: [00:32:45] So Rick, you guys are in 28 States growing like crazy. What’s the future hold?

Rick Brazell: [00:32:52] Well, you know, our goal is of course to be an all 50 States here in the US any, any place that they allow hunting. Is our goal is to just get it to be the largest new hunter mentoring organization out there. So when somebody thinks of mentoring, they think of First Hunt Foundation, which means we do two things.

One is we recruit as many mentors as we can. And two is we start offering programs and training, which we’re starting to work on now with events. And you can’t do that of course ’til you get organized with the leaders. And so you get the events going where you have training days for either new mentees or mentors and we’re doing that last year.

[00:33:34] We did one in Wyoming where we had 10 new hunters and 10, I think mentors go to the same training. And at the end of the week, they actually got to go hunting antelope. So they actually got trained one week or three, four days. 

Travis Bader: [00:33:46] Wow.

Rick Brazell: [00:33:47] And then went hunting and harvested an animal, and then they talked about processing the animal, so that’s all part of it. So we want to be kind of known as the, the full deal, where we’re providing opportunities for folks to go hunting, training new people, mentors on how to go hunting and how to mentor. And someday have a certification program to be a mentor. I mean, other people have talked about that.

That would be tough one to get everybody, some people don’t want to be certified. They just, let me take people out and I’m fine. And we’re okay with that because it meets our mission of getting new hunters out, but to bring it to the next level and to get some highly trained people that’s, would help everybody I think. That’s our goal. 

Travis Bader: [00:34:32] We’ve got the first time out of the way. What about the second hunt? Can people phone you back? I mean, do you find people are just calling over and over at, Hey, let’s go to another hunt, let’s go on another hunt. Cause I could see some people just getting addicted to it and maybe not intentionally, but abusing the process.

Rick Brazell: [00:34:48] Well it, yeah, so that’s kind of a misnomer when we named it. First hunt was the first, giving that first hunt experience, not having a first hunt. And so the first hunt experience is just one experience and you can’t train a person one time, let ’em shoot an animal and say, you’re done, nevermore. 

Travis Bader: [00:35:09] Right.

Rick Brazell: [00:35:10] I’ve got one young man that I’ve been with for four years and I still would go out with him even though he’s a mentor now and training people. The real term of mentoring is a relationship. And then their R3 movement, there’s a talk now that we shouldn’t be using the word mentor, it should be coach, unless you’re going to really be sticking a long time with people. I don’t personally agree with that. You’re mentoring for one day, you’re mentoring for a lifetime and so.

Travis Bader: [00:35:39] I agree.

Rick Brazell: [00:35:39] And so that’s kind of where we’re at. So we want it to be a long-term relationship. That’s the best kind. And so, yeah, it’s multiple hunts. The one kid, I took him on his first deer hunt, his first elk hunt, his first bear hunt, his first duck hunt, his first coyote hunt.

I mean, there’s all these first hunts and we give certificates too, by the way, like your son, he could have went online and you could get a certificate for the first deer hunt, mule deer, white tail, whatever it is.

[00:36:06] And then they get a certificate in the mail. Unbeknownst to them that it’s coming kind of a surprise. Cause the kid gets a big envelope, missed at a mom and dad and they open it up and there’s a letter. Right now I’m able to write letters, thanking them. Get a little information, I hear you shot your first deer with your grandpa’s 30-30, and they’re going, how did this people know that, you know?

And they get their certificate. So it’s like, there’s this anti hunter group out there saying you’re a bad person for doing this. There’s our group out there going, no, you’re a great person for doing this, put the certificate on the wall to remember this event in your life, you know? And so. 

Travis Bader: [00:36:42] That is fantastic.

Rick Brazell: [00:36:43] So we do that for anybody, whether we mentor them or not, anybody can go to our website and get that certificate and that letter. And so that’s one of the things we do I’m kind of proud. We’ve said hundreds and hundreds of those out, across the nation. Love to send some to Canada. 

Travis Bader: [00:37:00] That is fantastic. I know his graduation certificate, just the paperwork he has there. He says, dad, can we make a frame and frame this and put it up on the wall? Not a problem, let’s make a frame. We’ll go into the shop, made something up. And, but there’s definitely. I think you’re definitely onto something here, Rick, this is a fantastic foundation.

I’m really liking everything that I’m learning about it. Cause I’ve been doing some reading online as well. Is there anything that we should be talking about that we haven’t brought up yet? 

Rick Brazell: [00:37:32] Well, we haven’t talked about the negative side of things, I guess when you’re.

Travis Bader: [00:37:36] Well, sure. 

Rick Brazell: [00:37:37] Well, it’s not a big it’s, we’re making it happen regardless, but it takes money to make anything happen. And so if you build a nonprofit or anything from the ground up, it’s like building a company from scratch. And currently right now I can say that we are one of the only organizations doing as much as we’re doing that has absolutely no paid staff, including myself, no one gets paid. We’re all volunteers.

[00:38:04] And you know, I’m putting in 40 to 60 hours a week and I honestly am doing that. And I’m okay with that because I’m retired and I have an income from my retirement. So it takes a lot to fund an organization and so our insurance, we pay for the insurance. That’s a big bill. We spend $10,000 in making caps that have our logo on it to give out to kids or new hunters.

I mean, we give them away. We don’t, don’t make a penny on them. Going to these shows, you may be three or four or $5,000 going to a show to recruit more people, to take more hunters out. So there’s a lot of money. So we’re a nonprofit and you’re always out there with your handout trying to find grants, to fund the cause. 

[00:38:47] We’re going to, we’re going to start a membership here soon that, there’s a supporting membership. So folks who believe in what we’re doing, get become a member of the First Hunt Foundation and they’ll get a free knife, which we had. Was it, 1500 knives donated by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, about $8,000 worth of knives.

So stuff like that, that we can try to. So my goal to keep this sustainable is to find a funding source, eventually, that we’re not constantly having to chase grants down. And I don’t know what that is yet. So we’re always thinking outside the box, what would, you know, sell a product, something that would keep, keep the foundation going, win the lottery, you know. 

Travis Bader: [00:39:31] Yeah, yeah. Just keep buying those lottery tickets.

Rick Brazell: [00:39:33] Yeah. So I mean, anyway, that’s an issue. 

Travis Bader: [00:39:37] Yeah. So if somebody wanted to donate to the First Hunt Foundation, is that just done online? 

Rick Brazell: [00:39:42] Oh yeah. And we get some of that. Yeah. You can go online and there’s a donate button. I mean, and we’re going to start some national, here locally or in the U S some national raffles. We’re going to try to get going for some big items, maybe a high end hunting rifle or something like that, which could generate some money as well. 

And if we wanted to kind of group think sustainable revenue generation, a model that kind of will keep revenue coming into the First Hunt Foundation. If somebody wanted to contact you as all that contact information  on the website? If someone listened to this has ideas and say, you know what you should do, they can just contact you through the site?

[00:40:22] Oh yeah. Yeah. There’s a spot on the site where you can contact us and call me, I think probably the numbers on there as well. So I’m always open to those ideas, but. 

Travis Bader: [00:40:33] So, and I tend to kind of shy away from the negative side of things. Like, I know that the formula for popular podcasts would be controversy, but I always try to impart some sort of positivity and a learning message to each one of these podcasts. But you know, if we’re talking about some of the negative here, are you encountering any pushback from any anti hunting groups? 

Rick Brazell: [00:40:54] Not yet, but I’m sure those days will happen. I mean, my truck has logos all over it. So I have to keep thinking sometimes when I’m traveling across the country, that I’m going to get egged or  something.

Travis Bader: [00:41:09] Windows smashed or.

Rick Brazell: [00:41:10] Yeah, windows smashed or something when I come out of the motel. But I have people pass me on the interstate with a big thumbs up because on the back of my.

Travis Bader: [00:41:16] That’s good.

Rick Brazell: [00:41:17] Yeah, on the back of my truck, it literally has a picture, you can’t tell it’s me, leaning over, whispering to a young girl who has a rifle. You can tell at a shooting range. And so it’s a message like a here we’re helping kids learn how to shoot guns.

It’s right on the back of the truck. And so when people pass me, a lot of them are just big thumbs up, like, Hey, way to go. Cause I’m sure they’re hunters or outdoors people, but I suppose somebody could drive by and give me other gestures. They haven’t done that yet. 

Travis Bader: [00:41:44] Ahh, you got a couple other digits on the hand, but no that’s. So we’ve covered sort of where you’ve been, where you look to be going. Some of the difficulties that you’ve encountered, which doesn’t seem like you’ve encountered really a heck of a lot of pushback. Is that a fair assessment? 

Rick Brazell: [00:42:02] That’s a fair assessment. In fact, at least with the States, everybody we’ve talked to is excited that somebody is doing what we’re doing. And I think a lot of nonprofits don’t last very long, you know, like businesses that last a year or two, and now we’re going on our sixth year and lots of numbers that we’re producing. The COVID, the numbers will be down for 2020.

We haven’t done that data yet. And our name recognition is getting out there. So I think that’s all going to help and we teach conservationists, not just about killing something. It’s teaching about the woods and nature. And I mean, you got to take advantage of that time. You’re out there besides just teaching a hunting skills, this talk about conservation.

[00:42:41] Let’s talk about, cause hunting is conservation in the future. And that, I mean, I worked as a wildlife biologist originally in my career, in the forest service before I became a line officer. And so I was all about for fish and game and critters and so I love teaching people about nature and what’s out there.

So that’s a big part of it as well. And so that’s the white hat part. I mean, I’ve gotten hardcore conservation organizations that know me and they were supporting what I’m doing because they think it’s a good thing. 

Travis Bader: [00:43:14] Well, so many people equate hunting, so many non-hunters will equate hunting with the actual process of harvesting the animal. When that accounts for less than 1%. While you’re pulling that trigger, that’s your time  harvesting the animal. All the other time is the preparation and the study and is spent with animal identification and learning the environment. 

And the whole conservation movement is just hugely ingrained into the hunting perspective. A lot of people, non hunters, they don’t see that. When I look at new hunters that are looking to get into hunting, they’re not necessarily like you or I. 

[00:43:55] They don’t come from the same sort of backgrounds as you or I, we might have some hipster wanting to get into the hunting for reasons that are the idea of sustainability and finding a local food. Are you finding any difficulties in bridging the gap between some of the new hunters and existing hunters? 

Rick Brazell: [00:44:13] I don’t think so. I think we’re finding that most of the hunters, if I understand your question, that we recruit are just excited to teach anybody about hunting. And so if somebody comes in with different ideas or values or backgrounds, I haven’t ran into anybody that had an issue with any of the new hunters coming in, yet.

You know, it’s so exciting to, for what we’re doing. I’ve had several experiences that stick with me. I mean, when you’ve been hunting, I’m going to be 67 here, probably in a few weeks and I’ve hunted since I was like the eighth grade for sure. And so when I go pick up a kid to go like Turkey hunting, and you’re going real early in the morning, and to me, it’s just like another day to go Turkey hunting, I’m excited about it. 

[00:45:03] But the kid looks at me and says I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited thinking about this I couldn’t sleep. And it reminds me, it brings back that flood of memories of when I was a kid and I was so excited to go hunting and nobody to take me. And I remember one time when my dad’s uncle’s came and they were going to go hunting, I don’t know how it was.

It wasn’t very old and they wouldn’t take me because, you know, I was a kid and the guys were going to go out and do their thing. And I remember crying, thinking I want it to be there so bad, they wouldn’t take me. And so when I heard her kids say they couldn’t sleep because they were so excited and they were  so thankful to have that opportunity. I know we’re doing the right thing.

[00:45:50] I know what we’re doing matter to that kid, probably for the rest of their life. And that just, that’s what keeps us going, man. That’s, you know, the organizational stuff sometimes it’s a pain in the butt. Cause it’s that admin, you gotta make it happen to make all these ‘those experiences’ happen. 

And when one of them happens and you feel it and see it, it’s just amazing. I had another one I got to tell you, it touched me where I taught this young boy for years. The first deer he shot, it was raining and getting dark so I field dressed his animal. I said, we got to get this done.

It’s raining, just hold the light, I’ll get it down and got it done. The next year, I took him out again to have another experience. He shot us his first deer or second deer and it was daylight and I said, Oh, good, you get to do it. So talked him through it. He did all that, I didn’t touch anything. 

[00:46:41] And the next day he called me that night and he says, my grandfather is excited about me hunting and he’s never hunted. Would you take him hunting? And I knew him and his grandfather fish, I said, sure. So about two days later I took him and just grandfather out hunting, he’d never hunted before, he shot before. And so he shot this little buck, a little spike buck, and we walked over and I was just about to go through the process of teaching him how to do that.

And I looked over to Jordan. Jordan was our number one mentor, mentee, number one. And I said, Jordan, teach your grandfather how to do this. And I stood there and watched the grandson teach his grandfather how to field dress a deer. It just like blew me away. It’s like, it’s not passing it forward, it’s passing it back or something. I’m not sure what it is, so.

Travis Bader: [00:47:33] That’s just fantastic.

Rick Brazell: [00:47:34] I know! And I’ll never forget that and they didn’t forget it. And they started putting in for hunts and going hunting together. And I created two hunters by creating one and it was just, it was amazing. 

Travis Bader: [00:47:43] Man Rick, I really, really enjoy speaking with you. I really enjoy your passion for hunting, for bringing this into other people’s lives. It’s contagious,

Rick Brazell: [00:47:54] It is.

Travis Bader: [00:47:54] I tell you that much. Thank you very much for taking the time to. Talk with me on this Silvercore Podcast. 

Rick Brazell: [00:48:00] Well, thanks Travis. I appreciated the opportunity.

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