New hunters have more options
Back in the spring, my oldest daughter sat through and passed Maryland’s hunter education course.
There were lots of junior hunters in that particular class, and quite a few girls, too.
For some of the youngsters, it was clear getting their hunting license was a rite of passage in their family.
Several of the boys were eager to get their license so they could join their dads in the field for deer season. Other boys from the local Amish and Mennonite communities didn’t chit-chat too much, but for them, I can only imagine hunting is simply a way of life, one of the ways they can contribute to the family and put food on the table.
For my daughter, taking the
class was more of a fact-finding mission. She enjoys recreational shooting with her dad and uncle, and has seen so many wild turkeys on her adventures outdoors, she wanted to learn the basics of hunting and then decide if it’s something she wants to try. After all, she’s descended from a long line of hunters and there are plenty of girls joining the ranks of hunters these days.
My husband has a box of family photos that we look through from time to time to remember his late mother and the grandparents who played such a significant role in his upbringing.
One of my favorite photos was taken when his dad was in his early 30s. He had just come in from spending a day hunting in the backwoods of West Virginia and had a bounty of squirrels hoisted over his shoulder and a big grin on his face. Those squirrels would become dinner for the family.
My own Uncle Tom was an avid fisherman and hunter. Although he never brought a deer home to my Aunt Joan, she recalls that he almost never came home empty-handed. Over the course of their 44year marriage, she estimates she cleaned and cooked nearly 100 rabbits. She dipped the meat in egg and flour, fried it up and served it with mashed potatoes on the side.
After the second class, it was clear my daughter was having a good time and wanted to do well so she could get her card. She carried around the class manual and studied ever y chance she got.
On the last day of the course, she was ner vous about taking the written portion of the exam. In fact, several people didn’t pass the multiple-choice test and were asked to leave before the field practical exercise and live fire. She was giddy with joy when she finally left the facilities with her hunter safety card in hand.
There’s much more to hunting than passing the course, but it’s the first step in the process and is absolutely necessar y to obtain a license
in Mar yland.
Now the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has come up with an alternative way for people to give the sport a try before signing on for the hunter safety course. Maybe you hunted as a kid or know a neighbor or co-worker who hunts and wonder what the big deal is. Now you can find out.
The Apprentice Hunter License is available to residents for $10 and nonresidents for $20, for any age hunter who has never held a Maryland hunting license before. It provides the same privileges as other Maryland hunting licenses, so that means apprentice hunters can hunt deer, rabbit, squirrel, turkey and waterfowl, but must purchase additional stamps for deer and migratory birds.
Getting the apprentice
license does two things. First, it shortens the more lengthy process required to get the hunter safety card. Instead, applicants take a brief online course. Second, apprentice hunters can only take to the field accompanied by a fully-licensed hunter, who must be close enough to the apprentice to take control of an archer y device or firearm.
In an ideal world, that’s how all first-time hunters should get their start,
with a more experienced mentor. An apprentice hunter can only hunt unaccompanied after successfully completing the full hunter safety course.
If you know you want to get your license in time to partake in deer season or are already looking forward to spring turkey season, there are many hunter safety courses lined up across our region. You must absolutely take one of these classes before you can purchase
a hunting license.
The classes usually span two to four days and include a 50-question multiple-choice test with a passing grade of at least 80 percent, a field exercise where you will be checked for safe handling of a firearm and a live fire. Additionally, the instructors must recommend students, which includes judging attitude, maturity and asking themselves the question, “Would I feel safe hunting with this student?”
Locations include Southern Maryland Coonhunters in Loveville, the La Plata Fire Department, Sanner’s Lake Sportsmen’s Club in Lexington Park, the Nanjemoy Volunteer Fire Department and the Calvert County Fairgrounds in Prince Frederick,
For a full listing of all the class dates and locations, go to http://dnr.maryland.gov/nrp/Pages/hunter_education_classes.aspx.