New hunters need wise helpers
The Sportsmanís Report
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By Bill Hanson  May 23, 2014 12:00 am

Hopefully you plan to introduce a new hunter this fall – a careful person, safe and thoughtful, who will keep the American tradition alive.

Check out the Department of Fish and Game website for hunter safety classes ( and drill down to the ‘education’ pages. Successfully passing the test is the minimum requirement just to get the basic hunting license.

My cousin and I took the test in 1961 at age 12. There was a lecture and a study guide we had read through and committed to memory, mostly. We both passed, and my mom picked us up in time for lunch. Today, there are two or three study sessions, a field test and a written test.

California hunters are brighter, safer and more educated hunters than back then.

Opening day of our first deer hunt began in the dark, with us sitting behind some bushes my uncle Ike selected. Anxiety the night before kept Mr. Sleep at bay. What little sleep came was rife with scenarios of me standing next to a giant buck, my grandfather’s old 30.30 in hand as I proudly smiled for the Brownie camera.  Just as daylight began to peak over Cow Mountain, an old Buick plowed up the dusty road. Four guys boiled out, spilling beer cans and yelling. They were waving rifles around and stood out in plain sight, waiting for a shot at a buck. Even at 12, I knew better than that. Those clods ruined the morning hunt for everyone in hearing distance and were a danger to the other hunters and themselves. I seldom see that kind of rude behavior in the field today.

Hunters today, for the most part, are dedicated to understanding their prey, spending time in the field before hunting season and using the shooting range several times before they enter the field. Often, today’s hunter is tutored by a caring father or uncle and is just as likely to be a young woman. The thrill of the hunt is not limited to testosterone-charged hunters but an expression of good behavior and skills learned in the outdoors. A-Zone opens the second Saturday in August.

It is time to culture that sleepless night of anticipation in a new hunter.


Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

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