I have loved white-tailed deer and deer hunting since I was a very young boy. I have never wanted to be anything but a deer biologist. I think the key to being successful in any field is to have a passion for the line of work and seek the best training to prepare. To be a wildlife biologist that focuses on deer management, I strongly suggest students find ways to gain experience and make relationships with practicing deer managers. I consider gaining experience just as important as the coursework associated with obtaining a degree.
Over the past 15 years here at the Proving Grounds we have been blessed with mentoring and training 39 different interns. Our current interns are Tyler (Ty) McKinney and Weston (Wes) Mason. We asked the guys to tell us a little about themselves so our viewers can get to know them better.
Ty is from Louisville, Illinois. He attended North Clay High School. Through high school Ty worked on his family cattle farm (beef market) and for a local 12,000 acre crop production farm in southern Illinois. Ty says, “Being able to work at The Proving Grounds is a true blessing and dream come true. I spent the majority of my senior year in high school watching every GrowingDeer episode.” He prefers to bow hunt as he finds this to be more of a challenge! He says, “Bow hunting allows you as the hunter to draw closer to the land and test your patience while studying the animal movements.” One of his most memorable hunting experiences was when he guided his younger brother to tagging his first whitetail in the fall of 2016. Ty’s hobbies are four-wheeler riding, farming, shooting bows and skeet shooting. Tyler is driven to do better every day and strives to learn from his mistakes. After his internship with GrowingDeer is finished he would like to go home to southern Illinois to manage/sell hunts on his family land. He thanks both his Mom and Dad for always pushing him to do his best and setting high goals for him, knowing he could reach them.
Wes is from Opdyke, Illinois. He graduated from Mount Vernon Township High School then attended the University of Louisiana at Monroe where he earned a Master’s of Science in Wildlife Biology. Wes spent the summer of 2016 interning with the SCA as a Shorebird Intern at the USFWS Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Wes says, “I prefer bow hunting because of the process of dialing in your bow over the off season to ensure you have the accuracy and precision to put the arrow where it needs to be. The challenge of being much closer to your prey is very exciting.” His favorite hunting experience has been waterfowl hunting in the Louisiana rice fields where he saw thousands of ducks overhead. A unique characteristic of Wes is that he is left handed – the only thing he does right handed is shoot a bow/gun! His hobbies and interests are related to being outside in general, seeing new places and watching Cardinals baseball. Wes says, “My primary drive is the desire to learn; increased knowledge brings an increased appreciation to whatever it is you are learning about.” He hopes to get a job related to the management of game animals (preferably deer or waterfowl) and be involved in increasing public knowledge of conservation and land stewardship. Wes would like to extend his thanks to the following folks: Dr. Kim Tolson from ULM; his Dad, Rob; his Mom, Rynda; his sister, Hannah; and his girlfriend, Amanda.
We look forward to spending more time with these guys this fall. Hopefully, we’ll be sharing some of their bow hunts as they help us reduce the deer herd here at The Proving Grounds!