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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.

Gun Watch

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.

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    • I am not entirely sure how young I was when I started hunting. I had a Crossman 760 BB/pellet rifle probably in 6th grade that I used to plink. Then I purchased a Marlin Model 60 .22 L.R. around age 14 and a super cheap pump action 12 gauge shotgun by 16. I just went into the woods and struck out on my own.

      Near the end of high school and into college I started to hunt with my older brother-in-law and his dad … although they really were not mentoring me in any way. Then I didn’t hunt for something like 18 years. I finally jumped back in with both feet … again on my own without any mentoring. I have learned a great deal on my own and with a little research. I would like to think of myself as a pretty good hunter with several deer under my belt.

      Now, I am trying to impart my wisdom, knowledge, and skills to my daughter. It will be interesting to see how far she goes with it. And having read this article, I might just seek out a young person to mentor. While I happened to have enough passion and natural skills (apparently) to hunt successfully, there has to be others who do not and could benefit from mentoring. This will prove to be an interesting odyssey.

      • You Might want to find the NRA magazine which is the one that deals with political issues with the articual in it about a young girl, in Maryland who has already at 13 or 14 been offered a full ride to I believe the top three Ivy league schools in the country, due to her shooting abilities, granted she started younger than you daughter is now. Apparently her Dad was out in the backyard and she wanted to know if she could shoot too. he already had a table set up and hay bale with targets on them which is what he was practicing on. Apparently she was a natural, One of my sons is, fist time live shooting on the range in basic training at the end , the Sargent asked him how long he’d been shooting and the answer was never until today sir. He ended up ranking sharpshooter.
        I hope she likes it we need more people who grow up respecting what a gun can do and how to use them.

  1. My dad bought his 1st .22 rifle when he was 12 years old with the money he had made delivering newspapers. He went to the Western Auto store in town and carried it home. Amazingly enough no one was killed or injured.

    • He must not have lived in New York City, Chicago, or Washington D.C., because those guns mutate, grow legs and fingers and walk around and kill people. I see it all the time on the news. \sarc_off

  2. My Son has been handling a Chipmonk rifle since 3, doing age appropriate things with it. He’s now 8 and is expanding to the 20 GA. He could drive the tractor but he’s a little too light for the safety switch. Children need to rise to expectations rather than be limited to them. I’m excited to explore the future with him next to me and see what he can do when he doesn’t need me anymore.

  3. A great story, to be sure. My stepson has fastidiously studied every element of firearms safety and manipulation, and is a crack shot at the range. He is dying to go hunting. Unfortunately time is short these days and I don’t know where we’ll fit a hunting trip in between my two jobs and his academic/athletic responsibilities. Sucks even worse because I think I want to go even more badly than he does.

  4. I’m older than 40 and younger than 51. I’m going hunting for the first time this fall. First turkey, then whitetail.

    • I went duck and goose hunting for the first time at age 35 and then dove hunting the next year at 36. I bought a Benelli Nova for that duck and goose hunt, killed one of each and have since killed and eaten 2 dozen doves. I’ve blasted a few hundred clay pigeons with it too. In short, I love fowl hunting and the Benelli is awesome. Yes, Welcome to the group!

  5. Well done Dean. Hopefully, this young man’s life will be enriched by this passed down knowledge.

    If I’m not hunting, I’m thinking about hunting, planning my next hunt, shooting to be more proficient for the next hunt…
    I have also mentored a young man, at the request of his dad.
    It’s very satisfying to watch them grow into their own.

    • This WAS America – and it made sense when people had to hunt to put food on the table. Fortunately, society takes a dim view of people who simply like to kill defenseless animals for the sake of killing and eventually this crap will be legislated away.

  6. Less than a week left my fellow Wisco hunter! I have been dreaming about this Saturday since last January. Planting plots, strategically placing cameras and downloading the goodies it contains throughout the summer. There is one massive big boy calling me right now. See you out there Badgers!

  7. So how does one get into hunting?
    I’ve been shooting for about a year and want to give it a try. Is there a good beginners guide somewhere? It really doesn’t help that I’m in southern California though. Finding land to shoot on is hard enough, I imagine hunting is worse.

    • I may not be from southern California, but I know exactly what you mean. Here I use the Kansas department of wildlife and parks website to find public hunting land. After a quick search it seems that in Cali it would be department of fish and wildlife. We also have the walk in hunter access program and a quick look at Cali’s sight makes it look like the same thing is available there. Most federally controlled land also allows hunting as well so you should look at the national park service website. We only have one national park here it does allow hunting, but it’s half way across the state and I would only consider it if I was hunting pronghorn since I would have to travel that far anyway to find an area open for those. I hope this helps some of you aspiring hunters.

    • This x100

      For somebody who has no history- I’ve found it’s no easy thing to break into the group. Not that you guys aren’t welcoming in general – but there is something odd about the idea of taking a stranger to hunt. Or for there to be older people who haven’t.

      Actually that’s somethinh TTAG ought to do: How to begin hunting. Without just saying “find someone to show you”

      • @kevin. Thanks. I haven’t started looking seriously yet but that does give me a starting point. The more intimidating part for me is the tracking the animal and then prosessing the meat. I’m even ok with starting with rabbits and squirrels or whatever.
        @data. X2 on the begginer as guide to hunting on ttag. I haven’t tried it myself yet but try a local shooting forum and just ask nicely. I know Calguns is a great resource here in CA. If you have cash to blow you can go on a guided hunt but I’d rather get another gun for that cost.

        • you don’t actually have to do much tracking unless your doing spot and stalk hunting of big game, and I don’t do that because I prefer to just sit in a blind or tree stand because dragging a deer to the truck without a game cart is hard enough when you don’t tire yourself out first.

          For small game you might have to stalk but not actually track. you just walk quietly through the woods till you see something you can sneak up on or if you’re using a shotgun till it jumps out and you shoot it on the run or in the air (upland birds are popular here).

          I assume you mean field dressing when you say processing meat and that’s not hard at all. there’s nothing to be intimidated about in field dressing and you can find plenty of demonstrations of that on youtube. processing, on the other hand, implies big game which I leave to the pro’s at the local locker/butcher. It doesn’t really cost that much ,at least when your talking about deer, to get that done for you. I had one done last year for around 200 and that included extras like making sausage and summer sausage out of it.

          The point I’m trying to make is most things are only as hard as you make them. Just go out, have fun and remember it’s called going hunting not going shooting. You don’t have to be davy crockett or daniel boone to have a good hunt.

  8. Lucky kid, wish i had a mentor. 24 and still have yet to go hunting. Though i do have the rifle for it.

  9. I’m in WI. Still gotta get my license and all that. Getting some emails would be awesome. Appreciate the help.

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