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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wildlife and Hunter Education Certification

Michael spent a fun weekend in training that will help several 4H projects.  This blog post will tell his experience:

Interesting day today, started off with introductions in the classroom.  We were given two publications that are used in Hunter Education throughout much of the country.  The Hunter's Guide by the NRA and Today's Hunter, by Texas Parks and Wildlife.  (Larry said that many states have adopted the Today's Hunter for use in their states.)  We were also introduced to many of the resources that Hunter Safety educators can order for their classes.

Since both the Hunter Certification class and the 4H Wildlife and Hunting projects include a live fire activity we were also given some guidelines for running a range.  This is almost old hat to me, as I have been to many ranges over the last two decades in the army.  There is a big difference in vocabulary, however. In the Army a firearm is a weapon, but in 4H it is a gun.

After wrapping up our morning in the classroom, we drove out to a nearby ranch.  We were treated to a meal of "carne asada" (grilled beef) and tortillas.  We then drove out to a pasture where we were introduced to black powder muzzle-loading rifles.  This was  a new experience for me, but many of the same safety rules apply.  Loading a black powder weapon is complex, but not difficult, as long as you remember: "Powder, Patch and Ball/Without these/It won't work at all."  This helps you to remember the proper loading steps.  Though we did not demonstrate what happens if you don't do this properly, some people did share personal experiences.

After we all fired one round, we went on a Hunting Skills trail.  Denise (our Hunter Certification Instructor) had three dummy weapons, so we took turns as the hunters explaining how we would deal with common hunting scenarios.  We had to shoot a (simulated) deer and follow its blood trail after it ran off.  We found some turkeys and got a demonstration of the effectiveness of camouflage, demonstrated by a mannequin hidden beyond the turkeys.  This led to a discussion about ethical and safe behavior in hunting.  Since the other hunter was hidden, it would have been incumbent upon him to make his presence known to the walking hunters.  We also discussed proper use for game animals, and why some animals are hunted, even if they are not commonly eaten (such as the collared peccary).  Invasive or destructive species may be hunted, if the property owner deems them to be so. Of course, protected species are still protected.

We also had scenarios on bird hunting, covering zones of fire and safe positioning of hunters, as well as a mule deer/white-tail hybrid that was sky-lined.  (Never shoot a sky-lined target, as there is no backstop for the bullet.  However, if you do (legally, safely, and ethically) shoot a hybrid, you must tag it as a mule deer if it shows at least one mule deer characteristic.

The last field activity today was archery.  We discussed specifics of archery and bow-hunting, and some of us were introduced to 3-D target shooting (life-sized foam targets) at various ranges.  I remembered more of my old college archery classes than I thought I did!  On my team was one of the Texas State 4H Archery team members.  It was a very interesting experience.

We headed back to the main building for dinner (BBQ) and found a 20 question Wildlife ID course set up for us.  I have picked up a lot more from Michelle and the boys than I realized.  Though I only got 12/20 correct, the ones I missed are not ones that are usually taught in WHEP or Wildlife.  We also received four pamphlets that cover certain animals for Animal ID.  Though they are small, they are pretty detailed.  I think that they will be very useful for both W&H and WHEP.  They are Illustrated Guides to: Ducks, Geese and Swans; Small Game and Furbearers; Big Game Animals; and Upland Game Birds.

We finished up the night with campfire discussions about hunter ethics and motivations, 4H programs, and complementary non-4H programs.   I did not get to participate fully in these, as by this time my allergies were going haywire.  However, we did get a lot of good information, and I can't wait to get back tomorrow for shotguns and our Hunter Safety exams.

Day two:

This morning we headed back out to the ranch.  Our first activity was a test for those of us that had not previously received our basic Texas Hunter Safety Certification.  I did alright, missing one question because I did not read it correctly.  Oh well.

Then we moved out to the ranch's skeet range to practice shotguns.  It was very interesting.  I had shot on a moving target range, ages ago, in Infantry School, but that is nowhere near the same thing.  While I did not break the clay pigeon, I did get a piece of it.

After that, we headed back to the main building for a talk on topographic maps, compasses and orienteering.  Our practical exercise was a nifty test of pace count and compass handling, and everyone did fairly well, though it did demonstrate how a little error can produce big discrepancies.

Then we got a bunch of goodies from the 4H folks.  Including targets, posters, pamphlets and more...I think I will keep the last little bit as my surprise for the youth that decide to join Wildlife and Hunting.

Then it was back to the 4H office for a last discussion about resources and our certificates.

This looks like it will be a fascinating project to get off the ground.

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