The Hunting LinePosted on September 28, 2022
I learned to hunt in the sandhills of southeastern New Mexico with my dad and his brothers. My father was very strict about firearm and hunting safety and in particular, there was one test I had to pass before I could join in an actual hunt with a live firearm. While at the time I thought it was kind of unfair and frustrating, adhering to his rules and passing that test are what have allowed me to safely enjoy hunting as an adult.
I’ll list my dad’s rules later, but the test was pretty tough. I had to be able to walk in the line with him and my uncles, not lose focus, keep up the whole time and not get careless with my firearm, even if I got tired. The challenge was that in the sandhills, we didn’t hunt dove the way they are hunted on the High Plains. There weren’t any grain fields or waterholes we could set up at and wait for the birds to come to us. We had to walk them up in deep sand, and for a six-year-old that was a challenge.
The adults in the line walked slow so even as a child I was able to keep up. However, I would eventually start to get tired and that is when I would run into problems. As I proved that I could keep up, my father bought me a toy cork rifle. I had to prove that I could carry it in the proper fashion and handle it safely. That included “shooting” at the birds when the flushed without carelessly sweeping anyone with my cork gun as I brought it into position and took aim.
It was a big challenge for me because I tend to get excited, and I struggled to not do something wrong. It got frustrating and I didn’t think I would ever pass the test. My father never said much about my progress other than to tell me I had done okay but still needed to work on things.
One night, he brought a black gun sleeve with red diamonds into the living room and began telling my mom that he had bought a new shotgun. He then handed it to me and told me to unzip the sleeve. As I did, I pulled out a beautiful Mossberg single-shot .410 shotgun. His smile told me I had passed the test.
To this day I can hear him go over the rules:
Treat every gun like it is loaded, even if you think it isn’t.
Never point a gun at a person.
Always look at what is on the other side of what you intend to shoot (you don’t want the shot coming back at you after ricocheting off of an old farm implement).
Always unload the gun before getting into a vehicle, even if you are just going down the road to another site.
Always keep the gun on safety until you are ready to shoot.
And remember, guns are not toys. They can cause serious damage if they are not treated with respect.
Article written by Richard Porter
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