Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am now a Certified Safe Hunter in the State of Alaska

I passed my Hunter Education Course last night. It was nontrivial--about 3-4 hours of prep work beforehand, 5 hours in the classroom, an hour outside practicing field skills, a 50-question written exam, and a marksmanship test. The coursework emphasized firearm safety above all, with other portions (in order of diminishing emphasis) devoted to "Wildlife Conservation and Management", "Respecting the Wildlife Resource", "Survival and First Aid", "Water Safety and Hypothermia", and "Game Care".

I was deeply impressed by the instructors, who were volunteers who had hunted for decades and worked myriad relevant jobs--as a game warden, a flight instructor, a state trooper, etc. They were genuinely devoted to both firearm safety and responsible use of wildlife. They were deeply scornful of stereotypical "macho" behavior, and of any breaking of game laws or hunting ethics guidelines.

I recalled a contrasting experience I had had when I was working for a company that was transitioning to comply with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. RoHS is a set of guidelines that the European Union has put in place to greatly reduce and restrict the use of six known toxins, including lead, mercury, and cadmium. (For us in the semiconductor industry, the two that required the most changes from us were lead and hexavalent chromium.) So we Sili Valley folks all had to undergo pretty major process changes and training to be in compliance.

The guy who gave the introductory informational talk to my then work group was openly scornful of the RoHS directive. He rolled his eyes and threw in frequent sarcastic comments about the effete Europeans and their wussy refusal to use lead, and was very annoyed that we had to change our processes to indulge those pansies and their predilections for, what, saving the environment, or hugging trees!

The hunter education instructor, in contrast, showed a genuine respect for the laws, and none whatsoever for people who try to slip under the laws. He emphasized repeatedly that the laws are there for good, sensible reasons, for our safety and for responsible game management. He told stories and showed video footage demonstrating how people have been hurt or killed, and how uncontrolled hunting has caused huge ecological damage. With some melancholy, and in defiance of his apparent blue-collar machismo, he told us about situations before game management laws were put into place--passenger pigeons in flocks large enough to darken the sky, herds of bison whose numbers could not be counted by a human eye--and finished by reminding us that hunting limits preserve the environment for hunters and non-hunters alike. They also discussed respecting the animals--hunting humanely, using every part of the animal, and even respecting the feelings of non-hunters by keeping both gut piles and harvested meat away from public view. I was pleased to see quite a few young teenagers and preteens in the classroom absorbing these messages.

It was a fantastic class, and I cannot recommend it enough. As for myself, I probably won't take up big game hunting any time soon. Although regular readers of this blog know that I support responsible hunting and avoid eating factory-farmed meat or supporting CAFOs, I cannot justify taking down a moose for 500 some odd pounds of meat to sustain a household of one full-time and one part-time human, two dogs, and a very vegetarian rabbit. It would be ridiculous and absurdly wasteful. Even if I were to give most of the meat away, it would not be financially sensible for me. The cost of gas alone to drive out to a reasonable hunting area would cancel the cost of meat for my tiny household, even taking into account that I pay a premium for only locally-grown, family-farmed meat. Not to mention, I'd need to buy another freezer to store my giant quantity of meat, and considering that I don't eat all that much meat, it would probably be several years before I recouped that cost.

Nevertheless, I am proud to be a certified responsible hunter in the State of Alaska, even if all I hunt are paper plates, clay pigeons, and cans. :)


Debs said...

Well done! I am very impressed. I'm also equally impressed that you used the word "myriad" to my high standards (none of this annoying "a myriad of")... so well done again!

Arvay said...

LOL! I recently learned a new phrase for us grammar pedants... The greengrocer apostrophe can also be called the "Oh sh!t! Here comes an s!" apostrophe. :)

That's thanks to BT's husband E. :)

Rena said...

neat! Congratulations - sounds like quite a class, even if you never have to use any of the information. I assume that you own a rifle now?
Yeah, it would be silly for your small household to use an entire moose, but you could probably shoot one in your driveway, couldn't you? And your adventures in giant celery have shown that you're pretty adept at sharing food with friends...

Hmm, I wonder if you could do some cured/dried cuts (like salami or prociutto) with moose?

Arvay said...

LOL, no, I couldn't shoot one on my land, although that would sure be convenient (there was just one on the bottom of my property this morning!). But my neighborhood doesn't allow hunting except with bows, and to get a bow hunting license, it's a whole other set of bureaucratic rigmarole. I would not feel confident enough with a bow to make a humane kill myself. I have a weak upper body and poor depth perception in low light.

Although I totally respect the concepts of "fair chase" in theory, in practice I'd prefer to be sure of making a clean kill, even if it means using technology. :)

AussieAlaskan said...

I am also impressed - glad you took the time and made the effort to find out more about hunting and shooting - too bad more people don't. And if the occasion ever comes up, just ask for help and share. Well done!