It was a warm and breezy afternoon on Sunday when 34 sportsmen stepped outside of the clubhouse of the Mohave Sportsman Club after being certified as the state's newest graduates from the Arizona Hunter Education program.
The ceremony, which was held at the Seven Mile Hill Range, was the culmination of two weekends (35 hours) of intense learning and training about Arizona hunter education.
Students ages 9 through 63 years were taught a variety of subjects including hunter responsibility; conservation and wildlife management; wildlife identification; and Arizona laws and regulations that govern the activities of sportsmen in this state.
Students were also taught survival and first-aid; firearms identification and safety; game recovery and care; safe bow handling; ammo identification; compass; proper methods to cross fences; and even water safety.
But it wasn't all indoor classroom training that the students received over the five days they spent in the class. Students on the final day of class had to demonstrate to the volunteer instructors that they understood the information that had been presented to them.
This was done through a series of challenges that each student had to go through. They ranged from shooting a bow and arrow to firing 20 rounds of .22 ammo while demonstrating all of the shooting positions, which include sitting, kneeling, prone and standing.
Students also learned the value of using a shooting aid when going afield to hunt.
Each student got to fire one shot with the aid of a device called "The Claw." This shooting aid clamps to the stock of a rifle and is mounted on top of a tri-pod. Even when standing, shooters of all ages were able to put the bullet into the center of the target with very little difficulty.
Matt Snay was one of the hunter education instructors who assisted the shooters. "The kids did shoot a lot better when using it (Claw) in the standing position," Snay said.
Students also were grilled on their knowledge of the rules and laws regarding the taking of wildlife in Arizona.
What makes this day a true test of what the students have learned, no matter their age, is they were not allowed to be accompanied by a parent or guardian while going through all of the stations.
To put it bluntly, it was time for everyone in the class, no matter how young or old they were, to sink or swim.
If they didn't know the information, it would be a long nine hours for them on field day.
In the end, they all demonstrated to the satisfaction of most of the instructors their knowledge and understanding of what is expected of them as safe, ethical and lawful sportsmen.
On the final 50-question test, nine of the students scored a perfect 100 percent. However, not all of the perfect scores were made by the adults who took the class.
Eleven-year-old Gavin Lowry and 12-year-olds Kirsten Molt Bass, Kierra Olsen and Braxton Burgess all had perfect scores on their final tests. Four students in the class were designated as honor students by the teaching staff.
Those four will be entered into a drawing with other honor students from around the state to attend an all-expenses-paid pheasant hunt at the Chauncey Ranch near Cordes Junction in 2011.
Besides the score on the final tests, other factors were evaluated by the staff before selecting the four top students. It wasn't an easy task, as most of the students had excelled during the class. The students who were selected included 10-year-old Sadie Snay, 11-year-old Taylor Harrison, 12-year-old Kirsten Molt Bass, and the top honor graduate was 10-year-old Hunter Allen.
In the end, every student received a prize. Several received binoculars courtesy of the Mohave Arms Collectors Association, while shooting glasses, ear muffs, orange safety vests, hats and whistles were donated courtesy of the Mohave Sportsman Club.
In addition to the other awards, Allen received a certificate for an overnight striper fishing trip next summer for him and a parent as a result of him being named as the top honor graduate.
Allen then drew the name of one of his fellow students who would win the Good Student award. This award is given to one of the youngsters in the class as a reward for not causing any problems during the class.
Ten-year-old Kyle Dunton's name was drawn out of the hat. He and a parent will also receive a fishing trip to Lake Mead next summer.
Molt Bass was given a certificate for a one-day predator hunting experience for her and a parent as a result of a donation by instructor Bob Shaw.
And it wasn't just the kids that got prizes. Tammy Bollinger, another volunteer instructor, gave two certificates to her hair salon through drawings for the adults in the class.
This class, which is held twice a year mainly for local residents, was attended by a father/son duo out of Las Vegas.
Craig Johnson and his 18-year-old son Zach attended the class even though both had graduated from a Nevada hunter education class.
"To be honest, we really came here to get the bonus point," Craig said. "But we learned a lot in the class, and it was much more thorough than the class we took in Nevada."
One of the benefits of graduating from these classes is that each student does receive a permanent bonus that will help him or her draw Arizona big-game tags in the future.
Volunteer instructors who participated in this class included Jim Rich, Jerry Eaton, Rad Green, Bob Shaw, Kris Hendricks, Page McDonald, Tammy Bollinger, Tony Keller, Robert Rodriguez, Casey Fessenden, Lynn and Marsha Tonkinson, Bill Riehle, Scott Snay and Matt Snay. I was the chief instructor.
In addition, Forrest Keller and Kris Arbuckle volunteered to help the team with the field day exercises.
The next resident class to be taught by the Kingman team of instructors will be in March.