Hunter became a part of the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprenticeship Program at SCWA in May of 2019 and will be departing soon, as he has accepted an Assistant Habitat Manager position in North Carolina. Hunter tells all about his experience at SCWA in the letter below.
“My story about coming to and leaving SCWA is a very different story than that of the majority of my colleagues. To start, I wasn’t born in the South and knew absolutely no one in the state of South Carolina, let alone the organization. I grew up in Shawano, a small town in Wisconsin, and became obsessed with hunting and fishing. Once I was old enough to get a job, I started working in the agricultural field. It was through my work experiences back home that I realized I’d like to have a future in farming, but somehow incorporate it with my passion for hunting and fishing.
After high school, I went to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and received a Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Management. It was there I learned everything I needed from a science perspective to apply to a career. A job listing of “Habitat Management Technician” in Pinewood, SC on the Texas A&M job board caught my eye. I did my interview in the cab of a tractor and was offered the job. I packed my friends’ enclosed goose trailer with almost everything I owned, and even sold my vehicle to get down to SCWA in an “all-in” effort to live out my dream.
Upon my arrival at SCWA, I was kind of out of my element. I knew how to do a lot of the technical work already coming in, but being in South Carolina was a culture shock. Things in the South are 100% different, and that took a lot of time to adjust to. While at SCWA, I honed all the skills that I had developed before into habitat management skills and could directly see the reward later on in the year when hunting season came around. I had the opportunity to guide an entire duck season at SCWA, which is a truly special experience in itself. I visited many different plantations, which allowed me to network with in-field professionals and even become great friends with some of these individuals. Picking their brains about how to make it a career and getting answers to every question under the sun from people who have made it their way of life was so beneficial.
These types of experiences were the ones that proved to me that this was the career path that I wanted to continue on. My time at SCWA really fast tracked my career. It gave me direct in-field experiences that other employers wanted to see coupled with my Bachelor of Science degree. After my first full year, I knew I was ready to make a step forward in my career and keep moving up the proverbial ladder to my end goal.
I am moving on from the Gary Dietrich Wildlife Management Apprenticeship Program to be the Assistant Habitat Manager at Jones Island Hunt Club in Bayboro, NC. This hunt club is home to 230 acres of saltwater impoundments, 110 acres of upland impoundments, and a 4,000-acre island to manage. The manager was a former waterfowl technician at SCWA. I know that is not the sole reason that I was chosen, but it proves how far the SCWA branch is spread in the world of wildlife. This is another stop on my journey to becoming a Wildlife Habitat Manager of my own plantation.
This was a positive, life altering, career kick starter experience. I grew as a person in ways only leaving all familiarities behind can do. One dream that I aspire to accomplish much later in my career is to bring the SCWA model to Wisconsin. I think waterfowl impoundments would be highly effective in the correct areas where I am from. I would also like to bring the Camp Woodie aspect to the north woods. There are no camps like that in the Wisconsin. I would have loved to attend a camp like that growing up. The hunting, fishing, and general love of the outdoors is a rich tradition in the Midwest just as it is in the South. Those are my plans and future aspirations, all of which truly started at SCWA. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to the entire SCWA family for teaching and guiding me down this path I have chosen.”