The following appears in the February issue of California Sportsman:
By Amy C. Witt
Some people like what they do while others love what they do. And then there are some people who eat, live and dream about it. For one young California sportsman, Anthony Yang, being called passionate or even obsessed might be an understatement.
“Whatever is in season, that’s what I do and I do it to my best potential, just as I would any other season,” says Yang, a 19-year-old who was raised eating tree squirrel soup.
As a young Hmong growing up in the Central Valley (the San Joaquin Valley has a sizeable population of those with Southeast Asian roots), Yang lived next to Porterville-area’s Lake Success, where his father taught him all aspects of fishing. And being raised and attending school in the Valley means being exposed to many conservative American country boys. Yang was drawn to his fellow classmates’ hunting ways and began to pursue them as friends.
“One thing that is never talked about is culture. When I started hanging out with a kid from school and was introduced to his family, I was already labeled as a poacher or someone who took advantage of the resources.” Yang says. “My elders, Dad and his friend, taught me how to respect and understand the outdoors, but there’s my generation and older who may tend to poach and kill over the aspect of meat. It creates a stereotype and it’s unfortunate because that’s not how the culture really is. We are mountain people and we respect the land and the animals.”
For his 12th birthday he asked for a big-bore rifle, but instead he received a bow and arrow. He began bowfishing for carp, and hunting small game like cottontails and squirrels got him intrigued by the sport. As years passed and Yang developed friendships with families who were heavily involved in duck, pig and deer hunting, he was introduced to another culture, the world of hunting.
“Hunting for me is about finding yourself. It’s about being in touch with nature and challenging yourself, because if you’re not challenging yourself, you’re not hunting,” says a smiling Yang, who refuses to kill big game with a rifle.
While in high school he began an apprenticeship with a Porterville hunting store, Sierra Sportsman (559-784-4122), where he learned the mechanism, hardware and the ins and outs of a bow from the store’s manager, Bob Dempsie. As coworkers left, Yang started helping run the store as manager of the bow department – researching, ordering and selling only the best equipment while educating and exposing customers to better quality and experiences.
Bowhunting has taught Yang patience and respect, and given him the opportunity to solely be one with nature. The time and patience alone in spotting and stalking, studying and researching, weather and environment, times of feeding and activity, and of course distance, are contributing factors that Yang feels create the challenge that he craves.
“I bow hunt because I am staying true to myself and how I kill my animal,” he says. “It’s kind of like conquering an ego because I don’t want to rifle hunt and I don’t want to hunt out of a tree stand.”
WHEN YANG WAS INTRODUCED to duck hunting, a whole new obsession burned. He became very familiar with waking up on cold early mornings before work and school, racing to get to the refuge and waiting 2½ hours at the location before even having the opportunity to fire a shot.
“Oh gosh, duck hunting is nature and wildlife put together,” he explains. “It’s nitty and gritty, from packing out pounds of gear and decoys in mud, walking in waist-high water, and racing to beat other hunters to your honey hole.”
But the reason Yang duck hunts is for the art and beauty of the sport. It’s the ability to create a language with the ducks while conserving the species. He says that most duck hunters could be bird watchers because they study and search for the beauty of the bird – the various species, their movements and colors and the way they speak. And hunting etiquette is one of the most important aspects of duck hunting for the gun enthusiast.
Shooting decoying birds that like to work and finish is something the young hunter takes pride in doing. He expresses that when Duck Commander made its debut, a new crowd of hunters began to flood to the waters. While hunting, he observed that many new hunters were his age and were fond of skybusting, taking advantage of the resource and, later, posting obnoxious photos to social media.
With that in mind, Yang and his brother, Brandon Yang, an avid bass angler, decided to share their passion and love by creating an Instagram page: California Hunting and Fish (@Calhuntnfish). Through their page, they began displaying their adventures, catches and kills, but with a few things in mind – respecting the great outdoors while hunting and fishing the right way.
ALTHOUGH YANG ONLY VIEWS bass fishing as a hobby, his mind is flooded with knowledge, education and the ability to reel in some big bad catches. Learning many tricks from fellow anglers or grandfather and brother, some of Yang’s biggest catches include a 12.73-pound largemouth from Lake Success and an 11-pound Clear Lake largie. Some of his best bag limits have been caught at the latter lake – ranked as one of the nation’s premier bass fisheries – including five beauties that went 32 pounds. One of his favorite techniques is flipping and pitching, which he enjoys because of its fast-paced fun.
And as stated before, obsessed may be an understatement to describe Yang’s life revolving around hunting and fishing. While a full-time student majoring in criminal justice with a minor in natural resources and ecology at Sacramento’s American River College, he is employed by Bass Pro Shops. As a bowtech at the Rocklin location, he takes his time as he helps each customer find the best equipment suited for his or her needs. Outside of repairing, setting up and tuning, he teaches archery lessons through Bass Pro.
But his goals are set beyond a big trophy buck or a 20-pound bass. After graduating from Sacramento State in the future, he aspires to become an employee for the California Department of Fish and Game as a game warden. With his devotion and appreciation for wildlife and nature, his motive to pursue a career as warden will be to teach and show people good ethics, strive to protect and conserve wildlife, and prevent wrongdoing against resources and nature.
“I love what I do and I am excited about my job. I am a perfectionist and take pride in my work,” Yang says. “I just feel like whatever I am going to do, whether it’s hunting deer, shooting ducks or fishing, I am going to do everything I can to my best ability.” CS