Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bringing new hunters into our ranks

© Othmar Vohringer

The biggest challenge we face in the hunting community is to retain and improve our numbers. With urbanization and the aging baby boomers retiring we lose more hunters then we currently gain. However, there is a silver lining on the horizon and that became clearly visible to me this weekend.

During the past week we held our annual mandatory hunter education course at the Nicola Valley Fish and game Club and as always, I was proud to be part of the education team made up of four instructors and two wildlife officers. (I am a provincially licensed hunter education instructor in British Columbia.)
Here in British Columbia the course is held over four days with lessons of about five hours each. The first two lessons take place in a classroom setting where we instruct students about game laws and hunting regulations, hunter safety, conservation, firearms safety, hunting ethics and survival among other things such as mammal and bird identification.

The only difference between a normal school classroom and ours is that we have lots of hands-on illustration such as fur, feathers, antlers, images and videos that make for interesting and entertaining learning. The C.O.R.E. course devotes an entire lesson, the third, on proper firearms handing, firearm law and firearm identification. For this we use disabled firearms of every imaginable type and configuration that are given to us by the government for the purpose of teaching. The students have to learn the difference between the different calibers and ammunition using dummy ammo.

On day four of the course, the last day before the examination, we take the students out on the shooting range where many of them are confronted with real guns and live ammunition. Before the students are able to shoot a variety of guns the shooting range master explains all the rules of the range as well as range etiquette. After this each student is assigned an instructor who will closely monitor and aid the student at the range.

The things we look for are proper firearm handling and ammunition identification. For me personally this is always the highlight of the course. I can’t begin to explain the feeling I have when I see the students excitement when, many of them for the first time, hold a firearm in their hands, aim carefully as instructed and then send a bullet on its way hitting the target smack in the middle.

Today (Sunday, April 5) was a perfect day for this in-the-field lesson. The sun came out for the first time after a long and cold winter and with that we quickly had a happy spring camp atmosphere going. After the shooting lesson we all gathered around the campfire to cook hot dogs on the open campfire and answered student’s questions and discussed the upcoming spring bear and turkey hunts.

It should be mentioned that we had an interesting and humorous encounter on the range. About a half hour into the shooting one of the students shouted “Ceasefire”. As they had been instructed everybody quit shooting and looked around to see what was going on. The student who called ceasefire pointed up the range toward the targets and said, “There are a few deer out there.”

Sure enough, there were two deer standing in the middle of the firing lane and two at the edge of the woods. One of the deer stood right next to the 200-yard target that just seconds before had been struck by a bullet. Another deer walked without a shred of concern back and forth between the 100-yard and 200-yard targets looking for the first tender shoots of tasty grass. The third and fourth deer stayed close to the woodland edge observing the shooting lanes.

It was quite astonishing to see these deer without any signs of alertness staying out in the shooting lane enjoying the warming rays of the sun before they slowly meandered back into the woods. Yet there was no doubt that these deer had seen us and most certainly they had heard the shooting from more than ten firearms yet all that commotion didn’t faze them one bit. Amazingly they remained on the range for nearly 10 minutes allowing for my wife to shoot them - with her camera!

This year’s student group consisted of ten people between the ages of 12 and 45. I noticed that there were more women present than on previous C.O.R.E. courses. In fact this year the ladies outnumbered the men. That is an encouraging trend and I hope it continues. Those that know me also know that I am an avid supporter of getting more women involved in hunting and fishing. My thinking is that if we get more women into hunting it truly will become a family affair and that is exactly what we need if our hunting heritage is to survive and progress. Besides that, women are much better at getting children to do something than men and we need to get more children involved too.

Speaking of women: due to my wife having expressed an interest in taking up shooting I decided a few months ago that my newest rifle would be a novice-friendly Savage Mark II .22 LR; a perfect firearm for small game and target practice.

It turned out that my wife had a natural talent for shooting. After a short introduction on how a firearm functions and a brief lesson on firearm safety and pointing out the features on the rifle it was time to for her to shoot. The very first shot hit just shy of the bulls-eye but the second shot hit smack-dab in the center. Of about twenty shots she missed only two or three and that made my day too.

Today has been a truly great day for me. I was fortunate to welcome new hunters into our ranks, spend a pleasant day in the company of like-minded people in beautiful spring weather and then topped it all by watching my wife thoroughly enjoying herself shooting a “real” gun. What a great day to be a hunter.

Edit: Yesterday evening was the final exams and I am proud to say that all ten students passed the tests with flying colors. Congratulations to all.

To find more information on the C.O.R.E. and other courses available through Othmar Vohringer – Smart Hunting Strategies go here.

Images in this post have been provided by Artemis Graphic & Design Stock Photography and Othmar Vohringer Outdoors Stock Photography

Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
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SimplyOutdoors said...

That sounds like a great day, Othmar. I agree that getting women involved in the outdoors is one of the best things we can do to help promote our hunting heritage. I'm proud to say that my wife hunts, and hopefully one day - once my daughter is old enough - that hunting becomes a family affair for us.

I do have to say one thing, though. Those have to be about the stupidest deer I think I've ever saw:):)

gary said...

I know what you mean about a good feeling when the little lady not only understands but enters into something that means alot to you, and she enjoys it too.

Suz kind of did it in reverse as she hunted and made her first kill with the bow first, then got into rifle hunting. I think she was kind of intimidated by the rifle at first. Either way, we have great days in the field now.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Arthur – Getting other to join our heritage is almost as much fun as going hunting and fishing. I don’t know if the deer are stupid or just confident because we go out of our way to protect them at our range.

Gary – I don’t know if my wife ever will pick up a bow or go hunting, but she loves fishing and shooting guns for the sport and to me that is good enough. Should she ever decide that she wants to hunt it would be icing on the cake.


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