On the right course: Hunting in Conservation

Students answer, ‘What’s your favorite class at URI?’ Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

Are you a Wildlife and Conservation Biology major looking for a class with an entirely new experience? Are you a biology student who has an interest in hunting? Maybe you just happen to be interested in conservation courses with a unique curriculum. 

Well I have the class for you! 

This past fall, I took a brand new class here at URI called Hunting in Conservation (NRS 355) where we learned how hunting methods are actually beneficial for conservation efforts. We met once a week on Wednesdays, and had a two hour class hearing from various guest speakers throughout the course. Speakers were often from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM), accompanied by the professor of the class, Scott McWilliams. 

The class was broken up into two sections, split between the midterm. The first half of the class was all lectures from McWilliams and DEM faculty, teaching us about hunter safety and general ruling of the sport. 

We had to read from our “textbook,” being the hunting manual we used for the class called “Today’s Hunter.” The magazine had all the information needed to take the hunter certification exam, which coincidentally, was the exam we took for our midterm. I thought this was pretty unique, because this is a certification that is uncommon among students, but it was not stressful like normal midterms. 

Did I still stress about the exam in the moment? 

Yes, but I knew a lot more of the information than I thought I did, preparing me without even realizing it. There was also another book we read for class titled “Call of the Mild,” which was a personal account by Lily McCaulou on her reflection of taking up hunting as an individual interest of hers. 

This was a nice account to read because I could relate to her experiences and how her hesitations with hunting proved to be why she fell in love with the sport. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes a good autobiography.

The second half of the class is more focused on the real accounts of why hunting is beneficial for conservation. Lessons in class demonstrated how cases in Rhode Island have used hunting information to analyze regulations for next year.  It was interesting to see how Rhode Island is using this data to determine the health of species populations such as White-tailed deer. As a conservation bio major, it was great experience in the field as well as making connections. 

The best part about this class was that we got to experience a real hunt! Our final day of class began at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday in late December, when we all woke up to get ready for the hunt. We had mentors from the DEM take us out in small groups to locations around local ponds where we got to see the entire placement, setup and actual demonstration of going duck hunting. Since we were certified in hunter’s safety, we had to go buy legal permits and stamps and then we were able to hunt! Whatever waterfowl species you were able to harvest was brought to a game dinner, where we were taught how to properly cook the meat of our harvests. 

This may sound intense, and trust me it was, but it was also an amazing experience that I feel lucky enough to have had during my college years. I feel that this class has given me a unique perspective and qualification when entering the job field and I also have a new appreciation for something that I used to not even really know anything about. 

This is definitely the most intriguing and fascinating class I’ve taken so far at URI and I’ve gained a new career path that I’m interested in pursuing thanks to this class.