Hunting course teaches safety
Jaxon Ray, 10, picks up a shotgun as instructor James Graves tells him how to properly handle a weapon. (Alejandro Davila)
Now, 41 years later, he is an instructor, with this being his 18th year in that role.
“I think people should learn how to shoot responsibly,” Graves said, who teaches the course in Brawley.
But the course “is not a shooting class,” Graves said. In fact, he tells people he teaches “how not to hit things.”
The hunting education course covers parts of weapons, ballistics, basic hunting skills and shooting skills, Graves said, but “the heart of the course” is safety, proper handling of a gun, hunter ethics and wildlife conservation.
Today marks opening day of dove-hunting season — if you couldn’t tell by the shotgun blasts at dawn — and uncertified hunting aficionados have to attend and pass a five-day hunting education course as a prerequisite to buy a hunting license.
Graves said the “most important thing of gun safety” is to control where the gun is pointing at all times, while the most common mistake is “fiddling” with a gun.
In Imperial County hunting classes are only available during late July to late August, Graves said. If people miss those dates, they have to wait until next year.
Yet, just to attend all classes is not enough to get certified and buy a license, Graves said. The state Department of Fish and Game also suggests a live fire observation, where students fire a shotgun and a rifle under the supervision of the instructor, Graves said.
“(I) want to see how people handle guns in the field,” he said.
If students do well in the live fire portion of the course, they have to take an open book, multiple-choice test comprised of 100 questions, Graves said.
Students have to get at least 80 answers right to get their certificate, he said.
Hunting education certificates don’t expire, Graves said. Moreover, there is no minimum age limit to receive a hunting education certificate or a hunting license, according to Fish and Game.
“We want them to pass, (so) we give children extra time” for the test, Graves said.
“When I was 6 … I decided to take the class,” Madeline Swerdfeger, 9, of Westmorland said. “I liked it (course) because I want to get the license.”
But Madeline’s father said she had to mature and wait a few years before she could take the course. This year she was ready, her dad, John Swerdfeger, said.
“She (Madeline) wants to learn and go out with me hunting,” Swerdfeger said.
In the class she learned not to point at anything she didn’t want to shoot, Madeline said.
“I am taking the course because I want to learn how to handle a gun,” Donovan Clayton, 9, of Brawley said. “I like guns because they can shoot stuff.”