Prairie to Plate club gets hunters in the field

November 20, 2018

SPEARFISH — Rachel Dather loves to hunt, and she is now taking that passion and is getting others involved in the sport.

Dather, a senior outdoor education major at Black Hills State University, started the Prairie to Plate club on campus.

“I grew up in Nebraska hunting and fishing,” the Verdigre, Neb., native said. “I knew a lot of kids coming to college wouldn’t hunt when they were out here. My goal was to connect people back to hunting.”

South Dakota allows full-time students the opportunity to apply for resident hunting licenses, and beginning this fall, allows for apprentice hunting, a $5 guaranteed draw antlerless deer license that is valid statewide for those who have not held a deer tag for the past decade.

Dather hopes that those incentives are enough to draw students to take up the sport.

Since the founding of the club at the beginning of the school year, about 20 people have joined, eight of whom participate routinely and four who are fully committed to the club.

She started the club with a Make a Difference Scholarship, which gives her $3,000 for tuition and another $2,000 to get a program off the ground.

The club, Dather said, partnered with the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, which provides rifles, ammunition, camouflage, and everything else needed to harvest an animal.

“If you have the equipment provided for them, it is a lot easier to get them hunting,” Dather said of new hunters. “Because things aren’t cheap.”

Her goal as part of the program is to recruit new hunters, retain those already in the field, and reactivate those who have not ventured out for a while.

Several of her club’s members are brand new to the sport.

To prepare them to hunt, she had gotten the members, or is in the process of getting them HungtSAFE certified, a requirement of the club, taking them scouting, taken them to the rifle range, worked on map skills, and taught them the ethics and laws of hunting.

Dather herself is a certified HuntSAFE instructor.

The club members have even learned how to field dress and butcher a deer, and classes in wild game cooking are planned.

Dather has even arranged private land for the new hunters to access.

“We supply everything they need to go hunting,” she said.

Many millennials are concerned with where their food is coming from and how it is raised – from vegetables to meat. This gives Dather a chance to discuss hunting with potential club members.

“When you give them the opportunity to go out and harvest their own, it makes them excited because they are involved in the entire process,” she said of hunting. “They are involved from the prairie to the plate.”

She said she hopes people will get involved and get a hunting license. But she said she will not pressure them to pull the trigger.

“It’s not my job to say, to shoot an animal with her bow or rifle, but chooses not to as she is enjoying the animals in front of her.

“You do not have to kill the animal,” she said. “I’m not going to think less of you.”

She said the hunting population is growing older and the number of younger hunters coming up is not enough to replace those who hang up their rifles.

“The sale of hunting and fishing licenses pays for conservation. … We have to get more people out hunting, he said.

The club is open to all Northern Hills residents and not just BHSU students.

For more information, email Dather at rachel.dather@yellowjackets.bhsu.edu.

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