Question: I just took my first Hunter Education Class at the age of almost 60. I am interested to put my training into practice and bring my kids and grandkids into it as well. What is a good plan to begin hunting that can include all of us, since I have never had anyone to teach me how to start?
Answer: First of all, welcome to the exciting comradery of California hunters. We can recommend several options. First, put your new Hunter Education Certificate to use right away by purchasing your hunting license and tags/tag applications.
We encourage you to go through the application process together. It will introduce all of you to navigating the online system. If your grandkids are junior hunters, ages 12-17 years-old on July 1 of the license year, apprentice hunts are an excellent option for most big game.
Every hunter who annually applies for draw hunts anxiously awaits the results from the draw. Then, if successful, they can enjoy the experience of spending scout time leading up to the hunt planning for their adventure. The planning stage is an important part of the hunt you can all do together. Don’t forget, an integral part of the hunt is sighting in your firearm or bow at the range, another activity you can do together.
Draw hunts are not your only options - wild pig tags and some deer tags are simply available for purchase. Wild pig hunting is a good introduction to big game hunting and require a tag to hunt them. However, the season is open year-round and there is no daily bag limit.
Consider hiring a licensed hunting guide. It may cost you some extra money, but guided hunts frequently give you access to private properties with higher density game populations. Guides should have expertise for the species and the area you are hunting. Soak up everything the guide is willing to teach you.
If you or your kids are successful, most guides will offer to field dress the animal for you. We strongly recommend having your guide teach you how to field dress the animal and do it yourself.
CDFW also offers Advanced Hunting Clinics that focus on the “how-tos” of hunting, including how to hunt turkey, upland game, waterfowl and big game.
Each clinic covers types of firearms, ammunition, importance of sighting in the firearm, gauging distance, scouting, tracking, field dressing, shoot-don’t shoot scenarios, hunter ethics, landowner-hunter relationships, conservation, and safety.
The goal of this series is to develop ethical, conservation-minded, successful hunters through education taking the hunter a step beyond the basic hunter education course.
Throughout the year, CDFW Special Hunts are also offered and designed especially for new hunters, youth hunters, women hunters, mobility-impaired hunters and people with limited experience or opportunity to hunt on their own.
Depending on the time of year, hunts for upland game birds (pheasant, quail, chuckar and turkey) and, upon occasion, waterfowl, deer or wild pig may be offered.
Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer in this column. You can contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.