Payson Teen Tapped For New Zealand Hunt

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For 17-year-old Micah Crabdree, hunting has always been a way of life.

The youngster was first introduced to the sport at 4 years old by his father, Scott, and Grandfather Chuck.

"We first started hunting on a family ranch we had in Texas," Micah said.

Micah's mother, Tina, a Rim Country Middle School science teacher, is also an avid outdoors person. She and Scott recently participated in a big game hunt in Spain.

The Crabdrees' affinity for the outdoor way of life led to a family membership in the Payson Zane Grey Chapter of the Safari Club International.

There, Micah learned of the New Zealand Apprentice Hunter Program that is open to youngsters 15 to 18. To participate, the teens must have completed a hunter safety education program and be able to provide letters of recommendation about their character.

After studying the program, the Payson High School junior quickly set his sights on taking part.

He easily met the requirements of owning a safety education card and could provide the letters of recommendation. His final obstacle was to pass a screening test administered by Austin Myers, president of the local Safari Club.

The International Foundation had asked all local chapter presidents to recommend only students who "have demonstrated civic responsibility and have the potential of being a role model for hunting."

Micah easily passed the screening test and on March 14 received a letter from the SCI foundation informing him on his selection to the program.

The letter read in part, "We received many qualified applications and the competition was keen. ... Congratulations, the Apprentice Hunter Selection Committee has chosen you."

The letter also told Micah that he "should experience a trip for a lifetime of memories."

During his 10-day stay in New Zealand, Micah will live on the Retaruke Country Estate with five other program participants from around the United States.

The curriculum of the apprentice hunter program includes hands-on lessons in tracking, stalking, animal identification, navigation, wild game management, first aid, safety, skinning and awareness of surroundings during the hunt.

While in the wilderness, or "bush," he will hone his survival skills under the watchful eyes of professional hunter Brian Harre and guide Jason Smalley.

New Zealand police fire arms officer Steve Mastovich will instruct the apprentice hunters in firearm safety, cleaning, reloading, gun selection, ammunition, models and calibers.

Wildlife biologists will head programs in bush lore and game conservation.

Also on the agenda is a visit to a professional taxidermist where the six students will spend part of a day learning the trade.

Among the many activities Micah and his fellow students will participate in are: 4x4 quad riding; archery deer, goat and pig hunting; clay-bird shooting; and overnight stays in hunter huts.

The Rim country teen's international experience begins with a 12-1/2 hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Auckland.

After a night's stay in Auckland, the teenagers travel to Retaruke near Taupo.

During the stay on the estate, the six students reside in a self-contained bunk house.

At the conclusion of the extensive week-long program, the teens will be required to take a final examination and write letters to their sponsors and to the newsletter of Safari International.

As a souvenir of their experience in New Zealand, the students receive a video of their activities during the week and a certificate of course competition.

With passport in hand, Micah eagerly awaits his international journey knowing he's one of only a select few fledgling hunters chosen to participate in the New Zealand adventure.

"I guess I'm pretty lucky, I can't wait," Micah said.

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