Mike North: 'Young bucks' find their feet

06/14/2011 1:39 AM

06/14/2011 2:07 AM

I've always placed a lot of importance on teaching kids how to hunt, but an article I came across the other day on the "American Hunter" Web site illustrates how the lessons can be reciprocal.

There are a handful of virtues adults can learn while hunting with kids, including patience, ethics and appreciation for what we might sometimes take for granted, according to the article written by Brian Lynn.

There are several ways for adults to get involved and promote this type of growth through youth hunting and wildlife preservation.

Unfortunately, many of the supporting events -- especially fund-raisers -- have taken a hit and attendance has significantly dropped since the economy took a dive.

However, a couple weekends ago I went to the second-annual California Deer Association youth-hunt fund-raiser at Canada De Los Osos.

The fund-raising lunch was located in the hills south of the Gilroy Hot Springs and north of Casa De Fruta.

The event raised about $6,000 for the youth hunt program that not only teaches kids about the thrills of hunting, but also teaches them about sustainable wildlife management.

The property where the program takes place was sold to the Department of Fish and Game in 2000, said Henry Coletto, a retired Santa Clara County Fish and Game warden who's the on-site volunteer manager for the program.

It didn't take long before the California Deer Association -- a non-profit conservation organization -- stepped in to manage the property and teach kids who may not otherwise have the opportunities to learn about nature and hunting.

Canada De Los Osos is one of a handful of outlets kids have to get involved in the sport.

From June 26 to June 30, kids from 10 to 15 years old will take part in Quail Unlimited's "Covey Camp" near Los Banos where youngsters can train to get their hunter education certificate, fire shotguns and long rifles, and take part in conservation projects.

The event started in 1994 and was the first camp hosted by Quail Unlimited anywhere in the nation, said Dennis Campini, chairman of Quail Unlimited. There are now about 30 similar camps across the U.S.

"It's for kids from all backgrounds," Campini said. "It's very hands-on."

The camp costs $400, but some chapters cover part of the charge.

This year's local event is taking place at Stillbow Ranch -- about 8 miles east of Los Banos. There are still a couple spots open, and those interested can contact Dick Haldeman at (951) 767-3435 or westernqu@aol.com.

I had the benefit of learning how to hunt, track and care for game in the field with my dad, and I took my hunters safety course -- a requirement for all hunters -- in a grueling two-day course that left little room for fun and hands-on learning.

For kids who may not have the luxury of learning from their elders, this is a prime opportunity to learn the finer points of hunting, beyond what would usually be jammed in a 10-hour hunters safety course.

In past columns, I've mentioned how healthy of a sport hunting is, especially for kids. At the same time, I've also written about how the sport, though important as ever, is shrinking among today's youth.

But with events like the fund-raiser at Canada De Los Osos and "Covey Camp," it's reassuring to know that folks are out there committing countless hours of their own time to preserve the hunting heritage and pass on the tradition.

I would say that their efforts often go without thanks, recognition or reward, but I know seeing joy on a kid's face that comes from winning a gun in a raffle or learning about hunting techniques in the field is more than enough reward for these men.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsun-star.com.

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