"First Shot" Mentored Hunt Program

Are you 18 or over and interested in learning to hunt?  

"First Shot" is designed to help adults who don't have anyone to help them get started.  We will pair you with experienced mentors to learn before and after your hunt, from scouting and biology to field dressing and cooking; this is more than just a hunt! You will be required to participate in an orientation workshop where you will learn about the species biology, hunting techniques, processing and cooking, and safety before participating in the hunt with your mentor.   

How and when can you apply?  

A spring turkey program is offered in April, with applications opening in March, as well as a fall deer program in October with applications opening in August. Application links will be posted here during the open period.

About the Program

The First Shot mentored hunt program is a partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and National Wild Turkey Federation and is designed to help adults who want to hunt but don’t have a network to help them start or reactivate. Between 2018 and 2021, over 148 mentored hunts for deer and turkey have been provided to new or lapsed hunters in a structured, supportive program to help them learn and gain confidence to hunt on their own on the refuge and neighboring lands. Over 50 mentors volunteer their time to help mentees have positive and empowering experiences in the outdoors, with over 80% of the mentees continuing or planning to continue to hunt after the program.

"First Shot 2.0" Program

This program is limited to previous participants of the First Shot Mentored Deer Hunt. The goal is to provide a “next step” for these new hunters that learned the basics of deer hunting under the guidance of their mentor, to increase their comfort and competency in a more controlled environment. The First Shot 2.0 program allows participants to hunt on their own, with the option of inviting another hunter, in the mentored hunt areas on Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. 

If you have previously participated in the First Shot program, and are interested in First Shot 2.0, please contact Refuge Manager Marcia Pradines.