Fall is in the air. Fishing is winding down. Hunting is under way.
While the seasons are different, many of the rules for hunting and fishing remain the same: be careful, be courteous, pack your common sense.
Hunting is a time-honored Alaska tradition. Just as fishing puts food on Alaskans' dinner plates, so does hunting.
And, like fishing, there is an art to hunting done well. If you are a first-time or otherwise inexperienced hunter, you would do well to get some advice from the experts.
You have lots of opportunities to do so.
The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is offering two hunting-related classes this week. Their objective is to help food bank clients and the general public take advantage of available food resources and become more self-sufficient.
The first class is hunter orientation, which will be offered from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday at the food bank, 33955 College Drive, off Kalifornsky Beach Road. It will include answers to commonly asked questions; state, federal and land-use regulations, equipment and safety tips; and information to help identify legal-size moose, as well as what you should do if you shoot a sub-legal-size moose.
The second class will deal with field dressing game animals and will be offered from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday, also at the food bank. The class will include a 30-minute video, "Field Care of Big Game," alternative ways to field dress large game animals; instructions on proper care of moose, bear, rabbit, fowl and other game meat; and basic butchering techniques.
Both classes will be taught by Larry Lewis of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
In addition, Fish and Game will hold a Basic Hunter Education certification class Aug. 19. This one-day course requires completion of a self-study workbook, four hours of classroom instruction and a written test, and an additional four hours of instruction and a shooting proficiency test at the rifle range. The total cost is $10 per participant.
As of Aug. 1, hunters born after Jan. 1, 1986 must possess hunter education certification to legally hunt in units 7, 13, 14, 15 and 20. If they are under 16 and do not yet have the certification, they must be under the direct, immediate supervision of a licensed hunter who has completed a certified hunter education course. Interested people may sign up for the class by calling Fish and Game at 262-9368.
There's a reason the classes are important: Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to hunting.
Not only does Alaska not take game violations lightly, but someone could be injured or killed by a hunter's mistakes.
There's another important reason. Some people give hunting a bad name because of their stupidity and lack of ethics.
True hunters would not leave an injured animal in the field to die a slow, agonizing death. True hunters would not guess at their target. True hunters would not violate game laws. True hunters would not leave the carcass of an animal on a trail. True hunters would not hunt on private property without permission of the landowner. True hunters would never drink alcohol or take drugs while hunting.
Yet every season, people calling themselves hunters do all of the above.
True hunters know what they are shooting at before they shoot. True hunters obey the laws. True hunters prepare for the season by being in good physical condition and by practicing with their bow or firearm before going out in the field. True hunters let someone know where they are going and when they plan to return. True hunters prepare for emergencies.
By their actions, true hunters show respect for the wildlife that puts food on their tables.
As hunting gets under way, those who hunt need to remember that their actions can either give all hunters a black eye or help everyone better understand the connection between wildlife and humans. Our hope is it will be the latter.
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