Youngsters Shooting and Gun Safety
By Frank Jezioro
Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – -(Ammoland.com)- In most West Virginia families, someone hunts and or fishes.
My grandchildren are like most youngsters across the state and most of the nation — they are fascinated by shooting.
Because of this fascination, we have an obligation to do a couple of things. The first is to decide if we want our children involved in hunting and shooting.
If the answer is yes, then the second thing we need to do is to prepare them properly. We must teach them gun and shooting safety. I started our children and grandchildren with basic safety instruction and with a pellet gun.
Like all sports, kids like action. If they are playing baseball they want to bat. If they are playing football they want to run the ball or tackle someone who has the ball. They lose interest quickly if they never hit the ball or if they are not part of the plays. With this in mind, I started our kids shooting with the silhouettes made for shooting with a 22 caliber rimfire rifle. Setting them in front of a proper backstop on a small board, they are able to shoot and see the targets get knocked down when hit. This type rifle practice prepares them for shooting the larger rifles when it comes time to go varmint or deer hunting.
Stressing good trigger control, breathing and sight alignment are lessons that will carry on into all of their hunting and shooting sports. One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to teach shooting skills to children with a gun made for an adult. The better practice is to use a gun scaled down to the dimensions of a child. This usually means a gun with a shorter stock and shorter barrel. If the child is straining to reach the trigger or to see in the scope or iron sights, then he or she will not be able to concentrate on holding the gun properly.
When teaching any of the shooting activities, safety and protection of the child is uppermost in our minds. Make sure that everyone involved in the activity or around the activity has safe eye protection and good hearing protection. Above all, make sure you know where everyone around the activity is located when the shooting lessons begin. With our grandchildren I insist that all are seated with me and behind the gun or in the house. What you don’t want is for one of them to be wandering around and walk out in front of the gun barrel. I have seen instances where the shooter was concentrating so intently on what he was looking at through the scope that he never saw the person walk out in front of the gun until he saw them in the scope.
If you are able to shoot on your own property, make sure you have a good, earthen backstop for the bullets. You want as much dirt and as little rock as possible as the backstop. If you don’t have a safe place of your own to shoot, go to one of the many shooting ranges provided by the West Virginia Division Natural Resources. These ranges were built with this very need in mind for our hunters, and the ranges were built with dollars from the sale of hunting licenses and conservation stamps.
Lately, we have had some problems of littering at the ranges but, hopefully, we are getting this under control. If you treat these ranges as you would treat your own land then much of the problems will be avoided. I am sure you wouldn’t leave broken bottles, pop and beer cans and any amount of cardboard and paper on the ground at your own land, so don’t leave it behind at the ranges the DNR provides for your shooting needs.
Whether recreational shooting or teaching a youngster to shoot in preparation of their first hunt, please abide by the rules posted at the ranges. Shoot only paper or clay birds if shooting with a shotgun. Take out everything you bring in to the range except what goes down the gun barrel in the way of bullets and or shot.
The fall hunting season is fast approaching with an early start to this year’s general bow season the bowhunters are already preparing. As you drive around the countryside and see bow targets, block targets and 3-D lifelike animal targets springing up in backyards like so many mushrooms, you know hunting season can’t be far behind. Take time now to teach proper gun use and safety and you will feel much more comfortable when that youngster ventures out with you for his or her first hunting adventure. And, don’t forget those little girls, they also like to shoot and hunt.
NOTE: The WVDNR offers Hunter Education Classes for all ages across the state. Visit www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/education.shtm to find a class near you.