Region 6: Understanding the Land Through Hunting

Last fall, Bruce McGlenn started his hunting school in Central Washington. It’s exactly what the sport is in need of: a modern, holistic approach to harvesting wild meat. This Filson Life is part of Filson’s celebration of the Forest Service and the people of the Pacific Northwest Region of the USFS, Region 6. 

Learning to hunt can be like learning to sail a yacht. For the uninitiated and those who didn’t grow up doing it, the obstacles to entry can seem prohibitive. The options in the past were to hire a guide or teach yourself. Teaching yourself, via binge-watching YouTube how-to videos, will show you the nuts and bolts, but never get you out of your comfort zone.

Hiring a guide can be educational, but it’s also expensive. And more often than not, the guide is the one doing most of the hunting. Thankfully for the un-blooded, there’s now Bruce McGlenn’s Human Nature Hunting School. Located in Kettle Falls, Washington, the school opened last year and offers a four-day class that is a primer on harvesting wild meat.

“There’s so much to learn between Day 1 of learning to hunt and actually taking your first shot,” he says. “There’s so much to experience in the whole process of the hunt from the early embers to the late stages when intuition becomes a guiding force and the senses are fully awake. That’s what I wish I could bottle up and share with people.”

McGlenn’s course—he hosts three four-day classes between spring and autumn—is called Awakening the Hunter, and in the broadest sense, his goal is to introduce students to the mindset of a hunter. Part of that mindset is the boots-on-the-ground knowledge of how to move through the woods, find water sources, cut for sign, and recognize suitable habitat for whatever you’re hunting – basically think like a wild animal. When you’re hunting the back country, McGlenn says, every step in the forest is a decision. You need to think like both a hunter and the hunted, with a high level of awareness to be successful and safe.

During a class last fall, McGlenn got a call from his neighbors that a deer was in their pasture. He had a damage control permit — a state-issued license aimed at reducing the local deer population that had been eating crops – so he threw his rifle in the truck, drove down the road, and shot the doe.

“It was one of the quickest hunts I’ve ever been on,” he says. “It was really more of a harvest than a hunt, but it was great for the class.”

Under the watchful eye of McGlenn, the class cleaned, skinned, and hung the deer while working under the light of headlamps, which is what you’re often dealing with in the field, he says. The next morning, everyone helped butcher the carcass. The meat was trimmed, wrapped, and tossed in a freezer under a collective effort. For some of the group, who had never dealt with a dead animal as large as a deer, the process was demystifying. When McGlenn dragged the dead doe out of the back of his Toyota Tundra, she looked a long way from frozen steaks, he says. Twenty-four hours later, she was in the freezer.

“I think they all got an appreciation for how this plays out,” he says. “Hunting is a unique opportunity we have in this country to eat really good food. By processing our own meat, we know exactly what’s been done to the animal and where it’s been. I think people look at buying meat differently after they’ve seen the connection that hunting gives them to their food.”

McGlenn has been introducing newcomers to outdoor sports for decades. He’s a National Rifle Association-certified shooting instructor and regularly hosts workshops on how to properly use a shotgun. For the past 15 years, he’s been an instructor for the Washington Outdoor Women group, which his mother founded in 1998. Over the years, he says, the hunting classes have grown. So he decided to take that one step further through a hunting-only program.

The idea is not to become a guide or an outfitter. McGlenn says he wants to give new hunters the confidence to strike out, follow their gut, and create their own adventures.

“Hunting is not something you can learn overnight or during a weeklong course,” he says. “It’s a way of life. It’s a connection to your food source and the land. I want to help people make that connection.”

Story by Will Grant
Photography by Dylan Furst