Really cool feature from Backcountry Hunters on a California kid who didn’t have a hunting background, but he’s found his calling halfway across the country in Minnesota. Here’s a peek at his story:
Growing up in Northern California, the state with the lowest hunter-per-capita ratio, there were not many opportunities to get out and hunt if you did not have a close relative or friend willing to teach you. I grew up in a small, rural town at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills in California’s vast Central Valley. My family and friends did not hunt, so neither did I. I do, however, have parents that love the outdoors. Camping, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, and going to the ocean and the lake were commonplace for my siblings and me growing up. My uncle is an avid angler, and when the family would go on our annual camping trip, he would take all the kids fishing for trout.
In the spring of 2011, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, complicating my relationship with the outdoors and making it more difficult to venture out into remote places, searching for adventure. Nevertheless, I got my hunter’s safety permit in 2013 at the age of seventeen at a Troop meeting through Scouts. I then promptly put it away, with college on the horizon. Little did I know that a single, smoldering ember of passion for hunting and angling had just been ignited.
In college, I got into foraging for edible mushrooms through my degree in Forestry. Many of my peers in the natural resources program at Humboldt State were avid hunters and anglers. Still, I was only passively interested and too engrossed in my studies for any extracurriculars. After graduation, I worked for a timber company as a reforestation technician. Nearly everybody in my office hunted, fished, foraged, or was interested in procuring their own food. Unlike college, I left my work at work and had an expendable income for the first time. My smoldering ember of interest in hunting finally got the oxygen it needed. I decided to retake the hunter’s safety course and got nearly a perfect score on the exam. I watched the shows, read the articles, bought the books, and listened to the podcasts, but I still did not know where to begin without someone to take me under their wing.
In the fall of 2019, shortly after my 24th birthday, I found myself as a Naturalist teaching at an outdoor school about thirty miles north of Yosemite National Park. The importance of this chapter in my life has to do with the power of observation. I lived on-campus, in the woods surrounded by oaks, pines, and wildlife. This was when I first began observing the movements and habits of individual turkeys, deer, and squirrels on the property. I became enthralled by wild turkeys learning everything I could about them, seeing what different noises would make the toms outside my window gobble. While I did not intend to hunt them, I began applying what little knowledge of scouting and wildlife habits I had, but I still did not have the means, confidence, or mentorship to use these skills in earnest. The tiny ember had become a flame, and that flame was continuing to grow.
I accepted my position as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in 2020. I soon found myself as the President of the BHA Club at the University of Minnesota, and ever since, things have been a blur, in the best of ways. Through my work as a BHA club leader, I was connected with some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, and experienced hunters, anglers, and public land advocates I had ever met. Still, most importantly, I found the mentors I had been looking for.
Congrats to Alex!