Joe Gonzalez, SCWA Camp Leopold Director of Operations/Hunter’s Safety Instructor
Do you remember the first time you pulled the trigger on a firearm? Whether it was your dad’s shotgun, or grandpa’s rifle, or maybe your very own that was given to you as a gift, that moment marks a milestone in the life of any outdoorsman or woman. The anticipation of trying something new, the exhilaration, and of course the timeless question, “Will it kick?”
With 865 youth visiting Camp Woodie this summer, there were a large number of “first-timers” in every session. Each week, campers who had never fired a shotgun, broken a clay target, aimed a rifle, or drew back a bow opened the door to the simple yet unique aura of the outdoor world. However, there is more to it than just pulling the trigger or letting arrows fly.
As outdoorsmen and women, we have a responsibility to ourselves, other hunters and non-hunters alike, and the game we pursue. This is where our Hunter Education Certification course at Camp Woodie plays a huge role. The course develops a seamless integration with concepts learned at each shooting venue, and reiterates their importance and application in the field.
During the course, campers receive a brief history on firearms, beginning with muzzleloaders and moving on to modern shotguns and rifles. They learn the different components that make up a firearm, and the step-by-step process of what occurs between loading, firing, and ejecting ammunition. Campers learn about the parts and operation of a bow, as well as proper tree stand safety etiquette.
The course concludes with units on Hunter Responsibility, Wildlife Conservation, Survival, and of course an exam to ensure the material has been adequately comprehended. This summer, 327 campers (more than a third of the total that attended Camp Woodie) received their certification through Camp Woodie’s Hunter Safety Certification program. Each and every one of these enrollees gained hands-on field experience with rifles, bows, and shotguns, and then learned about them and their application to hunting situations. The knowledge and experiences these youth gained through this program are invaluable. We could not ask for a better set up.
So remember back to that first time you smelled fresh-burnt gunpowder, or saw the arrow quiver in the target you just ten-ringed for the first time, and think about what those experiences have led you to enjoy since. And that’s what it’s all about.