New hunters have more op­tions

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look.com

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.

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