Family First

I never thought I would be a hunter. 

My parents didn’t hunt, my grandparents didn’t hunt, and my great grandparents didn’t hunt. There wasn’t a particular family aversion to this treasured American pastime; it was just something we simply didn’t do. While we have always been strong supporters of the Second Amendment, and are a multi-generation family of gun owners, no one had introduced our family to the hunting tradition. 

With no family member to pass on the hunting tradition, I never gave hunting much thought. For the first 22 years of my life, hunting stayed off my radar completely. It wasn’t until I started working at California Rifle and Pistol Association that things began to change. 

CRPA is one of the premier groups advocating for hunters and hunting rights. As an employee, I was quickly exposed to the world of hunting. While at first only interested in a professional capacity, I slowly began to develop a personal interest. The more I learned about the benefits of ethically harvested game meat, and the good hunters do to conserve our state’s wildlife, the more interested I became. 

When a CRPA offered a Hunter Education class, I jumped at the opportunity to expand my knowledge. This class truly cemented my desire to hunt. My instructor, Rick Travis, masterfully presented the information: discussing the various types of game, methods of hunting, types of ammunition, shotgun chokes, safety and much more. By the end of the class, I was inspired to get into the field as soon as possible. There was just one problem: I had no idea where to go. 

For a few months, my dreams of hunting faded into the background of my everyday life. That all changed during a trip north to Sacramento. When our legislative liaison and master hunter Roy Griffith realized that my trip coincided with spring turkey season, he quickly planned to take me on my first hunt. It was finally happening.

On the day of the hunt, I woke long before my alarm was set to go off, too excited and filled with nervous anticipation to sleep any longer. We left before dawn and settled into our blind just as the sun began to rise on that cold April morning. We waited patiently in the blind as Roy began to call in a turkey. 

Slowly, but surely, a turkey began to make its way toward the blind; each step brought it tantalizingly closer to us. Just a few more yards until I had my shot. 

But then the bird turned. Foliage obstructed my view, and the bird walked out of range. I’ll admit that I was disappointed; I knew better than to expect success, but to come so close to have the bird turn away was frustrating. Nevertheless, I remembered my training and settled down. I knew that patience would win the day. 

Eventually, the bird came back. This time there would be no turning away. It walked up and stopped 25 yards from the blind. I knew this was it. Heart pounding, I took aim and pulled the trigger. A shot rang out, and I had my first turkey. 

It was an amazing, and ultimately delicious, experience. For the first time in centuries, a Hallenberg harvested wild game to feed his family. I had claimed a part of the hallowed American hunting tradition, and I haven’t looked back since. 

Unfortunately, stories like this are becoming more and more rare. Hunting is at an all-time low in California; continued decline could spell disaster for wildlife management and conservation programs. It is up to us to save hunting. 

If you have never been hunting but want to learn, consider taking a Hunter Education class. Take this first step to explore this treasured American pastime. You will not regret it. 

If you are a hunter, introduce hunting to your friends, family and loved ones. Encourage them to take a Hunter Education class and then take them into the field to show them the ropes. If you are an experienced hunter, consider becoming a Hunter Education instructor, and join a team of committed conservationists dedicated to the survival of hunting in our state. Together, we can ensure that this tradition lives on. 

— Ryan Hallenberg

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