I grew up camping, hiking and fishing. Mostly through Scouting but my father made sure that I had a fishing pole in my hand by about the time I could walk. However one aspect of the outdoors that I had surprising little exposure to was hunting. This is for a variety of reasons but mostly it was just about not having any adults in my life whom hunted. Then about 5yrs ago I was invited to go hunting with a few buddies of mine. It was a pretty simple task, I packed up my Mosin M44 (the only center fire rifle I owned) bought some cheap Walmart camo and hit the road with them. I learned a lot that weekend, mostly that I am not by nature a quite person. Its amazing how easy it is to make a lot of noise when nothing around you is making noise. I also learned that the ability to nail a 100 yd paper target from a bench really has very little to do with shooting with your rifle resting on a half-rotted stump while your leaning in between two other tree’s.
So in short I knew almost nothing about hunting other than what was legally required. I knew my gun safety from years of shooting but I kept looking at hunting as a shooting sport which it is not. I knew my hunting rules/regs but that was more out of a sense of not wanting to lose my license or gear.
Then a little over 2yrs ago I moved to Washington and become fast friends with a man that is essentially my wife’s grandfather. He is a great guy whom I spend a lot of time with at the trap range, he and I see eye to eye on pretty much everything and I have learned a lot about a lot of things from him. To say that he hunts is an understatement. The proper way to put it would be that he has an unbroken track record of something like 35yrs of continuously having a hunting license and has hunted everything from moose in Alaska to pests around the property. But mostly he is a deer and elk hunter. Logic would have it that if I want to learn how to hunt, this would be a damn good source to learn from. Only one problem, in Washington I need to attend a hunters ED class to buy my license. Again this should of been simple spend a weekend in a class take the test and be done with it. Well except for the fact that the vast majority of my work hours come on weekends. So last year I decided to take the online Hunters-ed course, that WA state offers. Frankly it was VERY boring. Each of the slides has a minimum timer on it and the timers are LOOONG so you end up reading each slide and answering the questions and then having a few minutes to do anything else before you can click, NEXT. Because of this and because I got bored with it for a while since about 1/2 of the online course is identifying parts of a firearm and firearms safety I plugged away at that online course here and there but never just busted it out until last December.
After the online course you are required to do a 4hr field skills evaluation, essentially the practical test of what you learned. No problem, except for that WA state has way too few of those classes so they fill up FAST. Its very difficult to get into one and about 90% of them happen on Saturday’s which normally means losing a days pay to take the class.
But I got lucky I found one class that was offered on a Sunday (my day off), it happened to be about 75miles away from my house but that’s ok it was worth the drive. An added bonus was that it was hosted at a Boy Scout camp. For me there is something special about spending time at a Scout camp. Many of my best memories were formed at camps like that.
So this morning I drove out to Camp Pigott Boy Scout camp and attended the field course. The first half of the course is a 2hr review of the printed material mostly centered on basic firearms safety and basic hunting rules/regs. Actually a very good fundamental firearms safety course in itself. Then we moved out into the field where each student is handed a firearm, you properly show how to load/unload the gun and how to maintain proper muzzle control. You then take the gun and group up with 2 other people and 2 instructors. The 5 of you walk around a trail course of decoys set up as animals. As you come to each animal you have to determine if they are safe, legal, and ethical to shoot. I liked the fact that there was a big variety of setups. We practiced everything from how to cross a fence with a firearm to how to get in and out of a boat with the firearm. We even spent some time talking about animal ID and shot placement.
Overall the class was informative and I regret stalling to long to take it. I will definitely be sending my future children to it even just for the fact that it is one of the best firearms safety classes I have seen in a long time. It was informative and had a lot of actual gun handing, we did fire 3 rounds each from a .22lr rifle where you had to show basic order of operations and how to load and unload. I was pretty happy with myself putting all 3 rounds into the same hole but then again I was using a scoped .22lr at 20yds so it wasn’t exactly a sniper shot.
I want to give a big thank you to the 15 instructors of the course, all of whom where volunteers they did a great job at running a really well organized class with very few hiccups over the course of the day.
Also I wanted to add 2 unrelated notes, first all the guns we handed where Mossberg brand rifles and shotguns fitted with bright orange stocks. It was very interesting to see how different people react to different guns. Because the students in the class ranged from an old man who has hunted for many years but not in WA and never took a hunters ed course to an 8yr old girl who looked like she weighed about the same as the Mossberg 930 I selected to carry around. Many of the students where not “gun people” but ended up asking a lot of good questions about the guns that they were holding, my thought is that this could turn into some really good marketing for Mossberg since they are the ones offering this 5 gun set specifically for Hunters-ed classes.
Secondly, after talking with a lot of the other students MANY of us had driven quite a distance because this really is the only Sunday class offered within quite a good geographic area. I will be bringing this up with the guy that runs Hunters Ed at my local range and see if we can get a Sunday Class scheduled since this one seemed to be very successful.