By Joanne M. Haas

Conservation Warden Nate Ackerman used the universal language of smiles, laughter, friendship and fun when he led a two-part September learn to hunt outing with a group of enthusiastic young Hmong novices and their wiser Hmong mentors.

“The Learn to Squirrel Hunt started last year with a contact I had with a Hmong hunter in Green Lake County,” the Berlin-based warden said of the hunter who, in turn, urged Ackerman to follow through on his culture-crossing proposal.

Ackerman was not only determined to make sure the novice hunters would complete the event well versed in firearm safety, Wisconsin regulations and how to successful hunt, he also made sure to include in the instruction the traditional Hmong method to clean squirrels.

On September 1 and 8, Ackerman’s bridging-cultures idea became the success he envisioned. With the exception of one, all of the hunters were Hmong as were most of the mentors who guided the novice hunters. Ackerman also enlisted Warden Supervisor Carl Mesman and Conservation Warden Judi Nigbor to help.

Ackerman staged the learn to hunt event at the 1000 Island Nature Center in Kaukauna and the Kaukauna Shooting Range. The field day was held on September 1 in Green Lake County near the White River wildlife area and on nearby private property.

Most of the hunters were 10 to 12 years old – and there were boys and girls. One 20-year-old also participated. “All of them were first-time hunters,” Ackerman said.

The field day consisted of a presentation about hunting laws and small game regulations from Warden Nigbor. The novice hunters also were educated on firearm safety, hunting techniques, habitat, target shooting and aftercare of the game — including the traditional Hmong way of cleaning squirrel.

Ackerman staged the hunt on September 8, mostly in the White River Marsh west of Berlin.

“Lots of squirrels were seen but with leaves on the trees and some windy conditions making the hunting conditions less than ideal,” Ackerman said. “Almost everyone was able to harvest a squirrel and all had a good time!”

And that included Ackerman.

Image courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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