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Background check for "Master Hunters" not a bad idea!
« on: January 31, 2008, 03:33:05 PM »
Published on Thursday, January 31, 2008 

New program would weed out some bad apples

At least one of the two men cited last Saturday for hunting elk within a state park, both of whom were been through Advanced Hunter Education training, would never have been eligible under the new Master Hunter standards.

The background check that's part of the new Master Hunter certification process ó but previously wasn't required ó would have disqualified him.

When enforcement officer Steve Rogers ran a check of one of the two Western Washington hunters he cited for hunting at Gingko State Park, it turned up two 2005 citations. One was for hunting without wearing hunter orange, an infraction that would have meant a five-year suspension from the program; the other was for having a loaded firearm in his vehicle, which would permanently bar him from the program.

"That's the kind of stuff that Master Hunters do not do," Rogers says. "That's why we've reworked the system to weed out that element."

The Advanced Hunter Education (AHE) program was suspended last April while state officials decided how best to upgrade the Master Hunter rules and requirements. In addition to the backcountry check, nuances of the new program include:

* The old signup was year-round. Now registration is open only from Jan. 1 through March 31, says Master Hunter program coordinator John Wisner, to attract people who "were a little more serious. You've got to get on top of it and get it done."

Hunters who have already been through AHE training and have a Master Hunter card must be even more on top of it; they have to reapply by the end of February.

* Applicants must complete pre-approved voluntary project work, 20 hours of service within that first year for new enrollees or, for previously-certified hunters, 40 hours over the next five years.

* Enrollees must achieve a shooting proficiency standard at a shooting range, witnessed by a range master or Master Hunter; complete Crime Observation and Reporting Training from the state's "Eyes in the Woods" program; complete a comprehensive independent study packet; pass the Master Hunter exam (with at least an 80-percent score); and sign a code of conduct.

Dave Pittman, a Yakima resident and hunter education instructor, calls the newer, more stringent Master Hunter qualifications "something that has been needed. We need to know who the people are who should be eligible versus the people who shouldn't be eligible.

"We don't want to muddy the waters."
Book'em Dano


ElkNut Outdoor Productions

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