Sunday, November 29, 2015

Building Memories & Passing on Traditions - Iowa Firearms Deer Season

By Rod Slings
Retired Iowa Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Supervisor
CEO/ Founder Hunting and Shooting Related Consultants, LLC
Co-Author Blood on the Leaves

A couple of thoughts cross my mind as “Opening Day” approaches for the upcoming firearms deer season

  • First of all, remember the people we choose to hunt with are our family and our friends. These are very important people in our daily lives and coming together for this annual tradition makes SAFETY everyone’s responsibility. 
  • The old “plan your hunt and hunt your plan,” is key to everyone’s safety. Make sure you take time for all the members of your hunting party to know and understand the rules of the hunt. It’s everyone’s responsibility to know when and where a SAFE shot can be made. Understand that shooting at running deer is the number one factor of deer hunting-related shooting incidents.
  • Keep this in mind - before you pull the trigger; know the capabilities of your firearm and your ability. Know what is beyond your target, don’t let “target-fixation” take over, being so focused on your target that all else becomes a blur.

A number of years ago, some of my fellow officers and myself were checking deer hunter compliance on opening day. As we rolled up to an open gate to a field, a line of trucks loaded with blaze orange-clad hunters and harvested deer were coming out to the road. We stepped out to begin checking licenses, and there was a very young hunter that lined up, along with the hunting party. I began checking each hunter and eventually got to this young man. As he removed his deer license from his pocket, his harvest tag had been removed.

I said, “It looks like you had some success. Congratulations!” 

He lowered his head and responded, “Umm, no I didn’t get”…and before he could answer a large older man standing next to him interrupted.

“I had to shoot his deer for him this year. We’re meat hunters and I wanted to make sure we filled his tag!” 

Even though party hunting is legal here, which allows someone else to harvest your deer as long as it is “tagged” within 15 minutes and before it is moved, I could tell, on this day, this young hunter was devastated. My further discussion with the young man indicted that he had just completed his Hunter Education Course and had been practicing his marksmanship skills. He lost the opportunity to become a successful hunter on that day. This was a chance to gain the confidence and gratification of preparing for the hunt and being thankful for the gift of his harvest. The attitude and actions by the older hunter are NOT the kind of memory you want to imprint on a young hunter. It’s your responsibility, as a mentor, to be the best role model you can be, along with providing direct supervision. 

I’m not sure if this young hunter every hunted again after this experience. It’s not always about filling tags and filling the freezer. It’s about building tradition, passing on ethical behaviors and rules of SAFETY, and leaving the peer pressure at home. These are moments of building a lifetime of memories that we, as hunters, can be proud of. Hunting can tell us a lot about who we are and who the people we hunt with are.  Passing on our tradition, our heritage and being a SAFE, ethical, and responsible hunter is what we all need to focus on.

Hunt SAFE!


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