In September my daughter, who will turn 12 in February, and I attended a hunter safety course at the Middlesex Conservation Club on South Hill. When she first expressed interest in learning to hunt, I was pleasantly surprised. I used to hunt frequently when I was a teenager and into my early 20s, but I had fallen away from hunting during the past 15 or 20 years. Despite my lack of time actually spent hunting, my enthusiasm for the sport must have rubbed off on my children. I will always treasure my time in the woods and the good experiences that go along with the sport. My son, who is 8, also wants to go out in the woods with us when it’s time.
I had taken a hunter safety course in Pennsylvania when I was 12, and have since held both Pennsylvania and New York State hunting licenses. I figured I would take the gun safety course with my daughter to brush up on any new hunting laws and especially to relearn safety, which is one of the most important aspects of hunting.
A variety of people attended the course, from young boys and girls to adult men and women. It was good to see how much interest this outdoor activity generates among the general population.
After a little more than 10 hours of instruction during a Friday evening and a Saturday, we all took an exam. Most of us passed, some without making any errors (I was not one of them), and then we acquired a certificate that allows us to purchase a hunting license.
I came away from the two-day course with one major point sticking in my brain. Each time a hunter takes to the woods, he (or she) represents me and every other hunter out there. If a non-hunter sees irresponsible behavior from even one hunter, that person tends to come away from the experience claiming that all hunters are dangerous individuals. This is not fair to the vast majority who do take the safety and ethical issues of hunting to heart.
The hunter safety courses stress how very important a hunter’s behavior is, and how hunters can indeed change people’s minds about the sport if they see good things happening. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, hunters and fishermen contribute $200 million per year for wildlife conservation through license fees and excise taxes on arms and gear. Hunting is a tradition passed down from generation to generation, a sport engrained in American culture. We hunters need to act responsibly and safely in order to carry on this tradition for future generations. Enough said.
But before I end my editorial, I’d like to thank all the individuals who entered our photo contest this year. It attracted more fantastic entries then ever for an increase of almost 30 percent over last year. As usual, we can’t print every single image we like, but I’d like to take this opportunity to give you my Editor’s Choice award, a wonderful image of turkeys by Roger Bailey of Branchport. Readers, thank you for your continued interest in our magazine. We do our best to give you the best of the Finger Lakes.
by Mark Stash