Girls and Boys, Meet Nature. Bring Your Gun.


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Drizzt
September 19, 2005, 03:24 AM
Girls and Boys, Meet Nature. Bring Your Gun.

By PAM BELLUCK
Published: September 18, 2005

GREEN MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST, Vt. - Chomping wad after wad of Bubblicious Strawberry Splash gum and giggling as she tickled people's necks with a piece of grass she pretended was a spider, Samantha Marley could have been any 9-year-old girl.

A couple of things set her apart, though. She was cloaked in camouflage from boots to baseball cap. And propped next to her on the seat of a truck was her very own 20-gauge shotgun.

Samantha, a freckle-faced, pony-tailed fourth grader, was on a bear hunt. Not the pretend kind memorialized in picture books and summer-camp chants, but a real one for black bears that live in the woods of southwestern Vermont and can weigh 150 pounds or more.

She had won a "dream hunt" given away by a Vermont man whose goal is to get more children to hunt, and she had traveled about 200 miles from her home in Bellingham, Mass., and was missing three days of school to take him up on his offer.

"Almost everything you hunt is pretty fun," said Samantha, grinning and perfectly at home with a group of five men, the youngest of whom was nearly three times her age.

At one point, as the group crossed a wooden bridge, Samantha's father, Scott, who had accompanied her - and had filled out her application for the hunting contest - teased her that trolls lived under the bridge.

"Dad," Samantha said with bravado, "I got a gun."

The dream hunt - all expenses paid, including taxidermy - was the brainchild of Kevin Hoyt, a 35-year-old hunting instructor who quit a job as a structural steel draftsman a few years ago and decided to dedicate himself to getting children across the country interested in hunting.

His efforts reflect what hunting advocates across the country say is an increasingly urgent priority, and what hunting opponents find troubling: recruiting more children to sustain the sport of hunting, which has been losing participants of all ages for two decades.

"Forty years from now our kids will be learning about this as history," said Larry Gauthier, one of Mr. Hoyt's buddies on the bear hunt. "Hunters should be included as an extinct species because we're falling away so fast, we need to be protected."

This year, three pro-hunting groups - the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and the National Wild Turkey Federation - started Families Afield, a program to lobby states to lower the age at which children can hunt or to loosen the requirements for a child to accompany a parent on a hunt.

"We're trying to take down some legal barriers so kids can get involved earlier," said Steve Wagner, a spokesman for the shooting sports foundation, who said bills to those ends were being introduced in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The group says the 20 most restrictive states set 12 as the minimum hunting age and do not let a child accompany an adult on a hunt without completing hunter education training.

Vermont, by comparison, allows children of any age to hunt if they have passed a hunter's safety course and have parental consent.

Fish and game departments in some states, whose programs depend in part on the licensing fees hunters pay, are trying to entice youngsters with special hunting weekends. New Hampshire, for example, plans to have Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days this month for children 15 or younger, just before the start of the official waterfowl hunting season.

The number of hunting licenses in the United States dropped to 14.7 million in 2003, from 16.4 million in 1983, according to the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting advocates cite many reasons for the decline.

"Some of it has to do with habitat loss, urban sprawl taking away places where people used to hunt," Mr. Wagner said. "And people just don't have time."

He said that getting children involved in hunting earlier would be one way to turn the trend around. More than 90 percent of hunters are 35 or older, and nearly 80 percent of current hunters started between ages 6 and 15, the shooting sports foundation says. Hunting advocates say children are much less likely to become adult hunters if they wait until they are 16.

Mr. Hoyt, a father of five children under age 13, says he is committed to recruiting younger hunters.

"My youngest child was with me when he was 2 months old and I shot a deer with a muzzle loader," he said. "He was in a backpack. I was stuck home baby-sitting and I felt like hunting."

With his wife, Heather, supporting the family by working from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at a veterans' home and a Wal-Mart, Mr. Hoyt devotes himself to his mission, asking for donations of services from outfitters, taxidermists, hunting guides and others.

This month he plans to drive his camouflage-tattooed Toyota Tacoma truck to dream hunts for deer, elk, bison or pronghorn antelope in Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Saskatchewan. He intends to sleep in his truck in between hunts and not return home until Thanksgiving.

Mr. Hoyt sometimes tries to recruit sponsors by using an unusual talent: carving detailed pictures of elk, deer and other game on elephant ear mushrooms and sometimes sending samples to people he thinks may give him publicity or support (like the rock musician and hunting advocate Ted Nugent, who called to thank him but did not sign on as a sponsor).

"It's a way to get a foot in the door," Mr. Hoyt said. "If I meet them and give them a mushroom, they seem to remember me."

Mr. Hoyt also tries to speak at schools, but he says that of 114 he has contacted, only 10 have invited him in.

"When I contact the schools they say, 'Is this to promote hunting?' " Mr. Hoyt said. "And actually I lie right through my teeth. I say, 'No, it is to explain hunting.' "

He added, "I hate to stereotype, but most teachers are liberal, tree-hugging, and they're not real sympathetic to the cause."

Dana Calkins, principal of Boltz Junior High in Fort Collins, Colo., said she never returned Mr. Hoyt's calls because "it's kind of like religion to me: whatever the family value is around hunting, that's their own business."

"I just think it has all the makings of a controversy," Ms. Calkins said. "I guess I just feel like there's enough violence in the world."

But John Cook, the principal of Center Street Elementary School in Oneonta, N.Y., has booked Mr. Hoyt to speak.

"I thought it was a great idea," Mr. Cook said, "if people are at least given the opportunity to look at this as a sport. Some people have an aversion to killing anything, and some people have an aversion to guns. All we're saying is that people should have the choice to choose." (Yea, Principal Cook...)

Animal rights groups and other hunting opponents denounce these efforts in part out of concern for the children's safety.

But Mr. Hoyt and other advocates say they take careful precautions and argue that hunting builds appreciation for nature. They also say that hunting fees pay for restoring animal habitats, and that if the animals were not hunted, some would die anyway from sickness or hunger.

"Isn't it better to kill them than to have them die of disease or starvation?" said Chris LaFlamme, who let Samantha and the other hunters sleep in a cottage he owns and supplied dogs trained to sniff out bears.

In two years, Mr. Hoyt said, he has received hundreds of requests for about 30 dream hunts, with many initiated or endorsed by fathers who have taken their children hunting and want to encourage their interest.

Last fall, when he was 12, Taylor Nicholson of Hanover, Kan., shot his first deer on a hunt with Mr. Hoyt. Taylor's father, Larry, who went along with another son, Hunter, then 8, had grown up hunting but had not done much as an adult.

"I even learned a lot," Mr. Nicholson said of the hunt with Mr. Hoyt, "like how to wash your clothes in a special detergent to knock out your scent, and to spray some kind of musk on your feet to cover the smell of your tracks."

Mr. Nicholson said that since the experience, hunting has "become a real interest" of Taylor's, and Hunter has asked to go again.

"We did buy a tree stand," he said, "my first hunting investment in 20 years."

Codie Caron of Pownal, Vt., was 10 last year when he sat still in a tree stand for seven days on a bear hunt in Maine with Mr. Hoyt. Although it poured rain and their shots missed the only bear they saw, Codie said he liked "just being out there in the woods."

Ron Caron, Codie's father, an avid hunter, said hunting ensures that children are "not couch potatoes; they get out, get exercise."

Samantha Marley's father first took her hunting at age 6. When she was 7, during a New Hampshire youth hunting day, she shot her first deer, and Mr. Marley welled up with tears of pride. Later that year, she shot her first turkey. Both animals now hang on a wall at home, the deer wearing silly glasses and a camouflage hat.

The bear hunt involved sending dogs to track and tree a bear (special dog collars emit a signal when that happens, triggered by the posture of the dog looking up the tree), then following the dogs for miles on foot to reach the animal. Mr. Marley, who had never killed a bear, said, "I was hoping Samantha would get one before me."

But after four days, Samantha had not even seen a bear.

"Only thing we found is a frog," Mr. Hoyt said.

"And a dead snake," Samantha chimed in.

Samantha said she relished the experience, although when she returned to school, she tempered her excitement a bit.

"Everybody wondered where I was and I was just like, 'Oh, I was sick,' " she said. "There's this kid that doesn't like hunting that much, and he was sitting right behind me."

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/09/17/national/18hunting.xlarge1.jpg

...and in the New York Times, no less....
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/18/national/18hunting.html?pagewanted=1

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4570Rick
September 19, 2005, 04:00 AM
Also read this in The Orange County Register this morning. :eek: :D

LaEscopeta
September 19, 2005, 08:48 AM
My fav part:
At one point, as the group crossed a wooden bridge, Samantha's father, Scott, who had accompanied her - and had filled out her application for the hunting contest - teased her that trolls lived under the bridge.
"Dad," Samantha said with bravado, "I got a gun."

skidmark
September 19, 2005, 09:49 AM
+1

My fav part:

Quote:
At one point, as the group crossed a wooden bridge, Samantha's father, Scott, who had accompanied her - and had filled out her application for the hunting contest - teased her that trolls lived under the bridge.
"Dad," Samantha said with bravado, "I got a gun."

Henry Bowman
September 19, 2005, 10:43 AM
"Everybody wondered where I was and I was just like, 'Oh, I was sick,' " she said. "There's this kid that doesn't like hunting that much, and he was sitting right behind me." Must lie to hide this taboo behavior. :(

TallPine
September 19, 2005, 12:09 PM
With his wife, Heather, supporting the family by working from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at a veterans' home and a Wal-Mart, Mr. Hoyt devotes himself to his mission,
Now, that's my kind of woman .... :D

NineseveN
September 19, 2005, 01:05 PM
I guess I don't get it. Good story, the girl seemed particularly charming...but is 12 years old too old? Do we really need 8-year-olds out hunting? There was a sense of urgnecy to get more children to hunt that I just didn't get.

Oh well, good story I guess.

MechAg94
September 19, 2005, 02:36 PM
8 years old is fine with supervision.

BlackJack
September 19, 2005, 03:01 PM
Depends on the kid. And should depend on the parents judgement.

The state gets involved in WAY too many things. This might be an issue that parents can decide for their own children better than lawmakers can decide for all children.

NineseveN
September 19, 2005, 03:18 PM
Good points, was just wondering what the urgency was to do it. The state shouldn't have any say really.

Skunkabilly
September 19, 2005, 06:31 PM
Too young for me! Hahahaha

UberPhLuBB
September 19, 2005, 09:01 PM
Black bear hunting with a 20 gauge?

Byron Quick
September 19, 2005, 09:13 PM
but is 12 years old too old? Do we really need 8-year-olds out hunting? There was a sense of urgnecy to get more children to hunt that I just didn't get.

I had been hunting for a couple of years when I was 8.


Depends on the person. I know 8 year old girls who can hunt with me. I know 30 year old men whom I will not allow to hunt with me. Nor will I remain in their company to teach them how to shoot. Idiots come in all ages.

Burt Blade
September 19, 2005, 09:16 PM
20 gauge slug approx = 1800 foot-pounds. Plenty for bear, I would think, if decently placed.

nfl1990
September 19, 2005, 09:16 PM
He added, "I hate to stereotype, but most teachers are liberal, tree-hugging, and they're not real sympathetic to the cause."

It's not a stereotype- It's true

Standing Wolf
September 19, 2005, 11:05 PM
Good for the lass!

aaronrkelly
September 19, 2005, 11:39 PM
At the age of 25 this weekend I finally decided to take my hunter safety course which is required by Iowa law for anyone born after a certain date in 1972 before hunting. I spent 3 days with about 20 other students - mostly younger kids. In Iowa I can say there is still a push for the younger ones to go hunting. There were some as young as 11 and alot of them were in the 12 to 14 yr old range.

The last day required actually shooting - go Hunter Safety Class!!!

Anywho, it wasnt extensive but:

5 shot from a 20ga at clay pidgeons
1 shot from muzzleloader at target roughly 10 feet away
15 shots from .22 bolt action from roughly 20 feet away (5 standing, 5 sitting or kneeling and 5 prone)

Safety was well covered and in my group of 5 everyone followed the general safety rules. Considering they were all 12 I was impressed for the most part. Alot of the kids were handling a gun for the very first time - made best shooter pretty easy to get. Yeah I wupped up on some 12 year olds :evil:

Tom Servo
September 20, 2005, 01:00 AM
That little girl has better trigger-discipline than I see in alot of adults! :D

Mulliga
September 20, 2005, 01:05 AM
5 shot from a 20ga at clay pidgeons
1 shot from muzzleloader at target roughly 10 feet away
15 shots from .22 bolt action from roughly 20 feet away (5 standing, 5 sitting or kneeling and 5 prone)

Basically exactly like my hunter safety class. We got some archery in, too.

aaronrkelly
September 20, 2005, 01:16 AM
Same here but I was allowed to bail before the archery as I had to go to work - the instructor was my boss so he wanted me out of there ASAP.....I missed out on the chance to lose some arrows, maybe next time.

entropy
September 20, 2005, 07:10 PM
She must be a very mature 9 year old. My 11 year old son has Gun Safety class in about an hour...he been going with me deer hunting the last 5 years, has witness me getting two deer. Hope she got her bruin. :)

nfl1990, I know a teacher who has a Barrett .50 and several M1A's. He worked with my uncle, who owns a more than a few guns himself, and is a 23 average trap shooter. I had several teachers while in school that hunted, and one that was staunchly pro-2A....his parents survived Bergen-Belsen.

scout26
September 20, 2005, 08:20 PM
We just finished up a Hunter Safety Ed class at my club this weekend. In Illinois it's required for anyone born after 1 Jan 1980.

132 students, of which 104 were kids <18 yo. Yep, it was SRO for the parents.

Keep in mind that this is in Northeastern Illinois just outside the Peoples Democorruptic Kickback of Chicago.

This was our third class this year and and the smallest was in the spring when we had 54 students. We had 98 in the summer class, when we also do the live fire; Trap with 20 ga shotguns, .22 handguns both revolvers and automatics, and .22 bolt action Rifles. The vast majority of these classes are kids.

Were not the only place around here to offer Hunter Safety Ed, and they fill up fast. (Gander Mountain offered 5 class but added 2 more because of the demand). I think it should be taught in all elementary schools to all 4th grade students just to combat/refute the blissninny/bunnyhugger cr@p that is currently being passed off as Environmental Education in the Science classes.

nfl1990
September 20, 2005, 11:04 PM
Entropy-
I'm currently attending high school, and the majority of my teachers are very liberal as well as the adminastration.

MachIVshooter
September 21, 2005, 12:42 AM
I know a teacher who has a Barrett .50 and several M1A's. He worked with my uncle, who owns a more than a few guns himself, and is a 23 average trap shooter. I had several teachers while in school that hunted, and one that was staunchly pro-2A....his parents survived Bergen-Belsen.

And I had a couple of teachers who were avid hunters, but they are the exception, not the rule. I would venture a guess that more than 90% of teachers and college professors are liberal and, at very least, have a distaste firearms and hunting. More often than not, they are rabidly anti gun and quite socialist in their veiws. My mother is a school teacher, and if not for me and my sister, would be in that latter group. Having brought her up right ;) , she is accepting of the presence of firearms in her home and appreciates the fruits of my annual adventures. Consider also that she lives and works in rural Eastern Douglas county, which means the exposure is far greater than in urban areas. The county is dominantly (~67%) Republican and I would bet 15% or more of the adult residents are hunters. Out in my neck of the woods, the GOP claims nearly 80% of the votes, and the hunting population is likely closer to 30%, if not higher. But then, it is an 1860 sqaure mile county with a whopping 23,000 residents.

Don Gwinn
September 21, 2005, 12:55 AM
I was 9 when I took my first whitetail. I was taking squirrels and shooting at doves and rabbits (without apparent effect ;) ) much earlier, but I don't remember my age when I started. Probably 8 or so.

I know I was 9 when I took my first whitetail because the next year I was in the hospital having my appendix removed during deer season, and I was ten when that was done. Bad timing.

entropy
September 21, 2005, 05:32 PM
nfl1990, I merely provided a few examples of those who were pro-2A. I believe you'd find that more of them were pro-2A in a setting outside of school. Just like the liberal indoctrination camps they attended (college), some public high schools are also socialist training centers, as surely you are aware. And as such, many pro-2A teachers keep a low profile. Setting often determines this. A rural Wisconsin school, for example, will often be closed the Monday after deer opener, but even mention deer hunting in many Madison schools, and taunts of "Bambi killer" and such will often ensue. BTW, a majority is 51% or more; most would be a sweeping generalization. Often a vast difference. ;) A stereotype can be (and unfortunately often is) formed from observation of a small random sample of a set or subset. A good example of this, to stay on topic, would be the actions of a few slob hunters creating an image in the minds of the majority of people of hunters as a group. 99%+ of hunters do not fit this image, yet the >1% that do are what the general public thinks of when they hear the word "hunter".

nfl1990
September 21, 2005, 06:44 PM
Entropy-
I think you make some excellent points, espeicially about how a school setting, espeacialy in the area I live could be the reason many teachers hide there views on such issues.
Thank you for bring up these points, it showed me a differant way to look at this.

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