Cole Hollingsworth is the youngest Hunter Education Instructor the state of Oregon has ever had. At just 22, he’s twenty years younger than the last record-setting instructor. He began hunting at the age of 14 when his neighbor, the County Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Hunter Education program — who later encouraged him to apply for a job there — took him into the field for the first time.
Cole remembers his first successful hunt fondly. A local cattle rancher reached out to him with the opportunity to thin the elk herd causing trouble on his property. Cole was so excited he spent every morning and nearly every afternoon for several weeks just sitting, waiting for a clean shot. On the day before his tag expired, just as he was nervous it would never happen, it did. A cow elk lined up perfectly with his scope and he took his shot. After taking his first big game, Cole was hooked.
In 2015, his neighbor approached him about the need for instructors in the Hunter Education program and encouraged him to apply. Being accepted and becoming certified just solidified his resolve: hunting wasn’t just a hobby, it was his calling, and it would be his career. Three years and 200+ students later, Cole says being the youngest instructor gives him an advantage. He believes his age makes him less intimidating than other instructors and allows younger students to feel more comfortable asking him questions.
When he's not teaching classes, Cole gears up (Sitka is his go-to brand) to hit the field with his buddies. While he loves these excursions and coming home with blacktail deer for dinner, his dream hunt would be a trophy elk, or to go hog hunting in the south.
Cole believes hunting is misunderstood and is an advocate for reinstating hunter education into public school systems to help people understand and appreciate the benefits of the sport, especially as it relates to wildlife preservation. When asked if opinions will change about hunting with future generations, he doesn’t seem concerned. He says it’s a tradition that has been passed on for generations and will continue to thrive — especially as a necessary part of wildlife management.
And maybe it will change others’ lives the way it’s changed his. Hunting has given Cole the chance to experience the outdoors, make new friends, save money on grocery bills and feel confident that the meat he enjoys is organic and hormone-free.
As the youngest Hunter Education Instructor in Oregon, Cole says it's just a stepping stone to becoming either a Fish and Game Trooper or a Game Warden. Whatever’s in store for his future, he says he won’t stop teaching. He loves that he became an instructor at such a young age and encourages others to do the same. “It’s fun and you get to share your knowledge with a whole new generation that could up teaching classes themselves one day.”