I've been schlepping up to Bothell on the north shore of Lake Washington all week to attend my first Hunters Education class. The day of the first session I called ahead to make sure the minimum 10 students had signed up and the class was a go. Toni, one of the instructors, gave a little chuckle and said yes, we were a go. Well, fifty other students of different ages, ethnicities, and gender joined me that first evening and the three evenings after that.
As has been widely reported in recent months (see this article from the New York Times) more than a few of the students were like me: would-be hunters of a certain age from the city. In fact, several of us were not legally obligated to take the class at all (the cut-off is January 1, 1972), but coming from urban environments and without family traditions of hunting, we felt it essential to absorb as much hands-on information as possible before marching off into the woods with our weapons.
A few takeaways:
There's a difference between and an accident and an incident; most deaths and injuries while hunting fall into the latter category. In other words, they're preventable.
Carelessness and ignorance account for the vast majority of hunting incidents.
The Golden Trifecta of Hunter Safety:
- Always point your muzzle in a safe direction.
- Keep your gun unloaded until ready to use.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot.
The first night we went over basic safety with a variety of talks and films. The second night we discussed ethics, with some wildlife identification thrown in. Night three was more hands-on. We practiced getting a rifle out of a pickup, carrying it up and down a hill, and placing it back in the truck. (Hint: When picking up a gun, after making sure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, always check the action to make sure it's open and not loaded.) Next, partnered up, we practiced getting in and out of a boat and crossing a fence. Good stuff. The third class concluded with a talk on first aid and outdoor survival. The fourth night we shot air rifles in the basement and took the test. I passed.
I still have a sense of vertigo about this hunting thing, like I've pitched off a ledge and am falling headlong into the unknown, but I figure a few trips to the shooting range will help. I still don't feel comfortable around guns. Maybe that's good. Maybe one should never feel too comfortable. And as for the actual hunting—or should I say killing—well, we'll just have to see, won't we?