Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Rite of Passage

My father hunts, and so did my grandfather. I started hunting when I was 12 years old and have been hunting now for 32 years.

Before I could hold a hunting license, I had to take the PA Game Commission's Hunter Safety Course.

From what I remember, it was 2 nights and you took a pretty logical test at the end of the second night. I do remember that I passed with a score in the high 90's.

Well, my younger son, Jesse, turned 12 in January of this year. Jesse wants to hunt and we took day one of the Hunter Safety Course (HSC) yesterday at the Lower Pottsgrove Sportsman's Club, just outside of Pottstown, PA.

Whoa, man, I don't remember the course being like this!

I was greatly impressed by what the HSC has become over the last 32 years. They didn't just "touch" on anything, they delved into it fully head-on and made sure that the students (boys, girls, young women, young men and old men, like me) knew every part of every style of sporting arm, knew how to engage and disengage the safety, load and unload the firearms and, most importantly, handle them with safety and confidence. All of this without firing a shot.

The instructors were knowledgeable, intuitive, and very good with children. I give them a boatload of credit, as some of them have been teaching the course for over 35 years. They fielded even the most uninformed question with patience and professionalism. Anecdotal analogies rounded out the instruction, making the course more personal.

Jess and I take the second portion of the course on Monday, and I will take my son to the county courthouse on Tuesday to get his hunting license. Hopefully, we'll be hunting within a week or two and he'll catch the bug that I caught over 30 years ago.

Jesse will then get to experience something that I never was able to...I never got to hunt with my grandfather and my father, as my Pop-pop quit hunting long before I ever picked up a rifle or shotgun.

Jesse's Pappy (my dad) still has a few good years left before he stops going afield in the autumn, carrying on a tradition we have built for over 30 years, so Jesse will get to hunt with his dad and grandad...three generations in the field at the same time, as it was when my older son, Ryan (who no longer hunts) did some time ago.

I so envy him!

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