New hunters put book knowledge to a field test

Six young hunters practice aiming their rifles from a kneeling position during the Hunter Education Safety Field Day on Saturday at the Shooting Complex. Upon completion of their field practice, the hunters became eligible for a hunting license.
Photos by Doreen Heintz

Keiran Netburn (left) carefully hands his gun across a barb wire fence to his partner Justin Maier.

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

For the past two weeks, over 60 Central Montana youth hunters gained knowledge about hunter safety during their annual hunter safety class held at the FWP building. The new hunters spent two hours a night, three nights a week, learning how to be safe hunters.
On Saturday, March 25, the field day was held with the new hunters to test their knowledge in actual hunting situations. The field day was held at the shooting complex north of Lewistown.
The hunters were separated into small groups. Each group had the opportunity to fire a gun at the family shooting range.
Then the hunters spent almost an hour testing their field knowledge. This reporter had the honor of accompanying William (Holt) Brown, Sean Zimmer, Justin Maier, Mason Brown, Keiran Netburn and Dalton Kjersem. Hunter safety instructors Bruce Luhrsen and Andy Oestreich accompanied the group.
The boys were all dressed in appropriate attire for a hunt. They each carried their own firearm.
The first instruction the boys were given was to “keep your finger off the trigger.”
Sean volunteered to be the leader of the group. His first job was to ask the “land-owner” for permission to hunt on his land. The landowner obliged, but with some restrictions. He only wanted them to shoot bucks with antlers longer than 4 inches in length and “to let him know if they found a couple of stray yearling cows he was missing.”
It was then Sean’s job to report back to his group of hunters exactly what he had been told by the landowner.
At their first station, the hunters learned the different positions from which to shoot: kneeling, sitting, prone and standing.
Up next was “how to approach an animal after it had been shot.”
Make sure you approach the animal from the rear,” Luhrsen told the young hunters. “When you approach them, look for eye movement from the animal to see if it is dead.”
Luhrsen also explained what to do if the animal was not dead.
The hunters eagerly told the instructors to tag the animal and where to locate the tag on the animal.
Luhrsen explained to the hunters they should take four photos of the animal before beginning to field dress it. His second piece of advice was to “keep it cool, dry and clean.”
During most of the hunt, the young hunters walked in a single file, but they also learned how to hunt birds while walking abreast of each other.
With Oestreich throwing Frisbees as “pretend” birds, Luhrsen reminded the boys to stay in a straight line. Whoever saw the “bird” first called out, “it’s mine.” Luhrsen urged the boys to always be good hunters by letting the person calling out have the first shot.
As the boys continued on their field trip, an animal was seen close to a fence and by a ditch in the road.
“Who has a shot at that game,” Luhrsen quizzed the boys.
A couple of them responded they thought they might have a shot, until the group realized the animal could not be shot in that location because it was too close to a road and there were also farm buildings behind the animal.
This, the boys learned, was a “don’t shoot situation.”
Oestreich reminded them “to always be sure of your target and beyond, be quiet and patient. The animal may move to a position where it could be shot.”
Moving up the side of a hill, the eager hunters spotted some elk in the distance. The  hunters crawled on their hands and knees and then on their “belly” to get a better look at the elk. But soon they learned those elk could not be shot due to a side hill behind them. 
Before the last lesson of the day – going through a barb wire fence, the hunters reviewed many of the lessons they had learned:
• keep the muzzle of the gun out of the ground,
• stay together as a group,
• always point your muzzle in a safe direction,
• always treat a gun as though it is loaded,
• always be sure of your target, and
• keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
Learning how to go through a fence safely was the last practice of the day. The six boys paired up. All of the boys opened the bolts of their rifles and put on the safety. The first hunter to go through the fence handed his partner his gun. Once he was on the other side of the fence, the other hunter handed both guns to his partner before going though a fence.
Oestreich also showed the boys how to safely cross a fence if they were hunting alone. Before heading downhill and back to the shooting complex, the boys once again opened the action of their rifles as “heading downhill can be dangerous particularly if there is snow or ice on the hillside.”
The grand finale for the six new hunters was receiving their hunter safety patches and now being able to go and purchase their first hunting license.

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