Ask any seasoned hunter how they first got into the sport, and most are likely to tell a tale about how their dad, uncle, grandfather, or some other older person, gave them their start.
Hunting is often a rite of passage, seen as something valuable, sacred, or at the very least, a tradition that is typically passed on from one generation to the next. And it is this tradition that "Take A Young Person Hunting Week," Sunday through Sept. 13, is trying to preserve.
"This week provides an opportunity for experienced hunters to share safe and ethical values and experiences with a young neighbor or relative," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "Mentoring and teaching safe hunting practices ensures the future of our hunting heritage."
Lewis knows first hand the value of mentoring. His father died before he was born, but he had a next-door neighbor that took him under his wing.
"He taught me how to reload shotgun shells and took me small game hunting," said Lewis. "It definitely had a positive impact on me. Who knows how different my life would have been without it."
In addition to working for Fish and Game, Lewis volunteers as a naturalist and educator in Soldotna area schools. He's taught 14 hunter education classes just this year to promote hunting and instill in youth an understanding of wildlife resources.
"It's kind of a passion with me," he said.
Lewis was the primary person who championed the cause to get the second week of September designated as "Take A Young Person Hunting Week" by Alaska State Legislators.
In 1998, Lewis suggested the proclamation to state legislators as a way to remind older, more experienced hunters of their obligation to promote ethical standards.
The event first became official in 1999, when state representative Gale Phillips sponsored House Concurrent Resolution 9.
Since then "Take A Young Person Hunting Week" has become and annual occurrence. On Aug. 20, Governor Frank Murkowski signed the executive proclamation which officially recognized it this year.
The proclamation reads: "It is essential to the future of hunting and to the conservation of our wildlife resources that young people be properly instructed in archery and firearms safety and responsibility, outdoor ethics and wildlife conservation."
Lewis reminded hunters that Hunter Education Certification is required for young hunters in Units 7, 13,14,15 and 20. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1986, must have successfully completed a certified hunter education course or be under the direct immediate supervision of a licensed hunter who has.
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