Last year, I wrote about mentoring a new hunter. It’s harder to bring new hunters into the gun culture now than when I was a child. When I started hunting at age 11, with an air rifle on the farm in northern Wisconsin I grabbed a gun, stepped out the door, and was hunting. My father had carefully told me what pests I could hunt. In a year, I was using a real rifle, a .22. My father taught me to shoot, but most of my early hunting was alone or in the company of one or both of my younger brothers, who at three and five years younger than I, were not yet allowed to carry a gun themselves. Every boy that I knew hunted, or wanted to. The idea that a 12 year old was not responsible enough to carry a gun around the woods . . .
or drive a tractor would have been considered preposterous. The idea that such a decision be made by the government, insane. Now, government schools tell parents that their children may not carry a pocket knife or even draw a picture of a gun. It’s an intolerable situation.
Last year Joe shot four doves on his first hunt, under close supervision. This year on opening day, he shot four more. If a new generation of the gun culture is to continue the tradition of hunting, it’s up to us to make it so. Joe’s father is a hunter, but medical problems make it very difficult for him to go afield.
On Monday, Joe graduated to full hunter status. I felt confident enough in his ability that I let him hunt on his own. We even did a couple of mini-team hunts, where we separated and moved to flush sitting birds toward each other. To be trusted to carry a deadly weapon in the presence of others, to be considered mature enough to hold a gun in your hands, follow the safety rules, exercise judgement and make instant decisions involving life and death, is a profoundly maturing and empowering experience. Joe has passed that threshold.
In the gun culture, this experience is not undertaken lightly. I have known Joe for years. I have taken him shooting. I helped instruct him on gun safety. I closely observed him interact with others, follow instructions, handle the firearms that I presented him with. Some people never reach the state of responsibility that Joe has reached. Monday, Joe shot seven doves; I shot eight. I had Joe clean and prepare his birds as I did mine. We did it together at his house. They went into his refrigerator and together we have enough for a celebratory dinner.
Joe is now more than a student. He has become a hunting companion. Now we’re talking of a deer hunt in northern Wisconsin. Joe is 16.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Firearms note: Joe is holding my Browning Double-Auto Twentyweight 12 gauge in the top picture; the Browning and a Remington 870 20 gauge that I was using in the second picture. Both guns have Poly-chokes.