Hunter education class teachesBy Stephanie Kendrick
outdoors enthusiasts how to treat
the wilderness with respect
Assistant Features Editor
The untrained hunter is not only a menace to his prey, but to his outdoor companions and to himself.
Many hunting accidents could have been avoided through proper hunting practices. Wendell Kam, director of the state's Conservation Education Program, relates one such tragic tale.
Several years ago on Kauai three brothers were out hunting. Their technique was to have one brother go into a gulch and push the deer out. The hunters were wearing blaze orange, gear designed to stand out from natural surroundings, but the brother in the gulch had covered his protective clothing with a camouflage jacket. He was shot and killed by his older brother, who was 80 yards away.
Kam, who runs the hunter education class offered by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, also has stories of lives saved by proper training.
Hawaii's hunter education class is mandatory for anyone who wants a hunting license and cannot prove they were born before 1972, and had a license before July 1990. But many experienced hunters take the class as well. Kam had one man go through class only because his friends recommended it. He didn't really believe he had much to learn. A few months later, Kam received a thank-you letter from the man. He had gotten lost hunting on the mainland. He used the acronym S.T.O.P. (sit down, think out your options, observe and plan) that he learned in the class to quell panic and find his way.
Henry Mendoza knows the dangers involved, so when it came time to teach his son Justin how to hunt, he signed up for the January hunter education class at Nimitz Business Center.
"I want to hunt legally and I don't want to teach (Justin) wrong," said Mendoza.
The Mendozas plan to hunt birds after they are licensed and have been practicing by shooting clay pigeons on private land on the North Shore.
They were pleased to learn from instructor Mark Krieg that 19 of the 22 approved game birds in the United States are found in Hawaii.
People found shooting the wrong birds or taking animals out of season forfeit their weapons, are required to take the hunter education class and can be fined.
But most who register for the class do so voluntarily and about half are not hunters, they are relatives and friends of hunters, as well as people who enjoy the outdoors but do not hunt -- hikers, campers, photographers, etc.
The reason for that interest is class content, which ranges from wildlife management and identification to outdoor survival.
Despite the amount of ground covered, the course does stay focused and that focus is on ethics.
"We teach responsibility and respect," said Kam. And he has seen the results of his work.
Ten years ago there were three times the number of hunting accidents in Hawaii, according to Kam. Now it's about one accident every two years, below the national average.
But hunting without an license is still a problem in Hawaii. And there are virtually no enforcement officers in the field. But the class helps there too. "Our students are our greatest watchers of our resources," said Kam. And he expects his efforts, and those of the volunteers, will continue to pay off.
"We know what we are doing is going to have a affect in 10 years," he said.
Volunteers give hundredsBy Stephanie Kendrick
of hours to hunter education
Assistant Features Editor
Responsible hunters assist in wildlife management by reducing the number of animals to a level the habit can support. These sportsmen also contribute dollars and time to conservation efforts and help maintain our natural resources.
Largely through its hunter education program, Hawaii has been working for 20 years to encourage this sort of hunter.
"We want to see it done right," said instructor Mark Krieg. And they want to protect and grow the sport.
Nationwide hunters account for about 10 percent of any community's population, said Krieg. People who are anti-hunting make up another 10 percent. That means about 80 percent of people in any community are ambivalent about hunting. And hunters need to stay on the good side of that 80 percent, said Krieg.
"We're not the pig-on-the-hood yahoos," said master instructor John Kobayashi. The president of a real estate company by day, Kobayashi has been involved in the program since the early '80s.
A life-long hunter, Kobayashi was exempt from the class but took it with his son when he was old enough to hunt.
Kobayashi enjoyed the class so much he volunteered to become an instructor. His goal is to create more conservation minded hunters and he enjoys his work.
"I volunteer for a lot of programs and this is the one I like the most because I get something back from the students."
Kobayashi and Krieg are among 70 volunteer instructors statewide who each donate anywhere from 110 to 700 hours of their time every year.
The program is mainly funded through a federal tax on the sale of hunting weapons and accessories. But it also gets about $180,000 annually in such in-kind volunteer services.
To be an instructor, an individual must complete a two-credit college correspondence course and additional instruction from the National Rifle Association, the National Bowhunters Association and the Red Cross. These men and women also bring their own areas of expertise to bear.
Henry Yamada is one of four distinguished master instructors in the state of Hawaii. As a former member of the Army rifle team and marksmanship instructor for the National Guard, Yamada's instructional specialty is the safe and proper use of firearms.
But he's not in this to train sharpshooters. "We stress the basics," said Yamada.
Hunter EducationWhat: Class is 12.5 hours long and taught over the course of two days.
Content: Outdoor ethics and responsibility, principles of conservation, wildlife management and identification, firearms familiarization and safety, muzzleloading safety, bowhunting safety, hunting laws and rules, outdoor survival and first aid, game care.
When: Classes are often booked up months in advance, but students can sometimes get into earlier classes on a stand-by basis
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