Ring the church bells. Scatter the rose petals. Your Blaska Blogger is the proud possessor of a blaze orange Wisconsin DNR Hunter Education graduate badge.
It was earned in one of the wisest endeavors of a wayward life. I completed the DNR hunter safety course. The course requiresstudying online at the International Hunter Education Association website before devoting a full day of hands-on, personalized instruction.
Our class met two Saturdays ago at the North Bristol Sportsmans Club in the fertile countryside between Sun Prairie and Columbus, not that far from my old stomping grounds. (I was the scourge of sparrows with my B.B. gun. In early teen age, I grabbed the Old Squire's 12-gauge and blasted away at the fence rows without really knowing what I was doing. Now I've decided to do it right.)
Former co-worker Ray Anderson led a crew of about a dozen Wisconsin DNR-certified safety instructors, including former TV-3 anchor John Karcher and new friend Ken Heim, who has invited me to go out trap shooting.
In a class of 29 it was heart-warming to see so many boys and girls accompanied by their proud fathers, including a 17-year-old Hmong boy and his dad from Milwaukee. Many were as young as 12. Your faithful blogger may have been the oldest student but he can still learn new tricks. We intended to take the course with Number One Son but he was called away to work at the last minute. (In this economy, you take your hours when you can get them.)
Two of my classmates were handsome ladies closer to my age; they destroyed some orange clays at the trap shooting range while your Squire came up empty in his three attempts. Wisconsin's waterfowl and upland game birds are safe from Blaska. (He did demolish the stationary targets.)
Shotguns were provided for students who had none. (Note to self: Must acquire a 12-gauge; the loads for the trap-shooting shells are way lighter than the deer slugs I have fired using friend Paul's weapon.) Even so, my right shoulder shows black and blue even today. (That's as much a result of the prescribed blood thinner as any kick back.)
Over a bag lunch, the DNR warden for eastern Dane County gave an instructive talk. The young warden, Eric Grudzinski, trim in his uniform, is a dead-ringer for Keanu Reeves. I imagined more than a few young minds contemplating a career in natural resources.
Our class learned how to safety cross a fence while armed, how to use a tree stand, tracking a wounded deer, loading and unloading one's weapon safely. The course was heavy on conserving our natural resource and ethical behavior, defined as doing the right thing when no one is looking. What it comes down to is this: assume the gun is loaded; be certain of your target (and what is in front of and behind); keep the muzzle pointed away from people, and keep your finger out of the trigger guard until ready to fire.
I may have missed all three orange clays but at least I am safe. I scored a perfect 100 in both the written and the field test, thanks to a little coaxing from my field tester.
Act 35 states the course qualifies for concealed carry but Ken recommends a course specifically designed for same. I intend to apply for the permit at the very least.
I do wish I had brought a camera with me. (I blame poor staff work.) It was rewarding to see those young people seated across from an elder and proving they can handle the responsibility of a live firearm while gaining an appreciation for the bounty of Wisconsin's natural world. Character was being built in North Bristol -- on the firm foundation of family. Wisconsin is a better place today for it.
Check out upcoming classes here.
The volunteer instructors deserve to be named. Led by Ray Anderson they are: Julie Blaney, Connie Bowes, John Glennon, Mike Hay, Ken Heim, John Karcher, Chad Kruger, Rhonda Ledvin, Nels Swenson, Gary Turk, Keith Waier. Ray credits two more behind the scenes: Dawn Hay and Mike Beckwith.
Thanks, guys. It was the best $10 I ever spent.