Texas Hunter Education, or “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Fudds”

To hunt in the state of Texas, if you were born within the last 30 years, you need to have passed an approved hunter education class and carry the proof with you. Unless you pay $10 for a one year deferral, like I did last year. Unfortunately that deferral is a once in a lifetime thing so this past weekend, in preparation for the coming hunting season, I spent 10 hours of my life in a conference room at a Bass Pro Shop listening to two TPW instructors indoctrinate the newest wave of Lone Star hunters. And it turns out they were the biggest Fudds in the world and made no bones about it . . .

Let me back up a second here. The term “Fudd” is derived, of course, from the Elmer Fudd, the hunter in the Looney Tunes cartoons. And in Pennsylvania, it’s used to describe a certain kind of person. Specifically, one who believes the only purpose for firearms is hunting, that the only acceptable type of rifle is the kind their pappy gave them in the 1960s (and that all others should be illegal) and is generally intolerant of change. In other words, a crotchety old fart.

Perfect example from back in Pennsylvania: I was with my shooting team at a state game lands range (which used to be free) sighting in our AR-15 rifles for a coming 3-gun match. It was just us, and an older gentleman who was hoovering up all the brass from the range and putting it in a bag to take home. We were being perfectly safe, following all of the rules, and even being downright courteous to the old man who was picking up our brass the second it hit the ground. But no more than five minutes after he left the police arrived, saying they got a tip that people were shooting machine guns and destroying the range.

That, my friends, was a Fudd. He called the police because he didn’t like the way our guns looked and wanted to get us arrested.

When I walked into the hunter education course, I was expecting a certain level of professionalism from the instructors. Whatever their biases were, I was expecting them to put them aside and teach the state approved materials, giving this very young crowd of brand new hunters the best possible introduction to hunting and firearms they could get. Instead, what I got was a pair of old men who inserted their own opinions on everything ranging from gun control to hunting regulations at every opportunity and spared no chance to editorialize on the state of the law and how they thought it should be.

The best example of this was when they were talking about the new laws for the year. Specifically, the legalization of hunting game animals (like deer) with silencers. Not three seconds after the instructor had finished reading the letter of the law, he launched into a rant about how silencers would make hunting more dangerous and how they should be banned, despite the evidence to the contrary being printed immediately below the law in our books. Just like the worst Brady Campaigner, he spouted predictions of (human) blood on the streets (or in the woods) and danger for hunters everywhere. And he wouldn’t listen to any arguments to the contrary.

Even better: they believed that the legalization of hunting with silencers was a conspiracy by the gun control advocates to somehow get all hunting with firearms banned in Texas.

Also predictably Fudd-like was their belief that “assault rifles” were not “hunting rifles” and their use was destroying hunting. They wanted hunting to be exactly like it was when they were kids and out with their fathers. That meant using an old .30-30 lever action rifle and peep sights instead of these modern “assault rifles” with their scopes. They couldn’t see past that reality to the possibility that a new generation using the latest equipment was bringing more hunters into the sport and expanding it for future generations. All they knew was that these new rifles were scary, change was bad and they were having none of it.

I have no problem with people having opinions that differ from my own. They have every right to be wrong, including that pesky First Amendment right to speak about their beliefs. But when someone is teaching a class that’s sponsored by the state — and with a clearly defined curriculum — I expect them to follow that curriculum and keep their personal beliefs separate out of what they’re teaching.

This was a class where a good 50% of the people were under the age of 15, were being exposed to firearms for the first time and were learning the information from people whose title was “Master Instructor.” And instead of teaching the state-approved materials (which included nothing whatsoever on gun control or politics), the instructors decided to broadcast their own biases to the class to try and keep hunting the way it was in by-gone days. They were über-Fudds. And that’s something I’m not OK with.