The Spokesman-Review

Safety, Fun First For New Shooters

Safety comes first when teaching a youngster to shoot - but fun should be a close second.

Instilling the basics of gun handling, Tom Gresham wrote in Sports Afield, does not have to be boring.

But first comes safety. Stay close to the shooter whenever he or she has a gun in his hands. You can reach in quickly should the muzzle begin to move in an unusual direction.

At this stage, reminders - not reprimands - are most effective. You don’t want to quash enthusiasm.

Ear muffs or plugs and shooting glasses are musts. You need to wear them, too - not only for protection but also to set a good example.

Success is vital to the learning process, so make shooting easy. To give the novice shooter confidence and make the experience enjoyable, set up targets at reasonably close range, and react visibly when the shooter hits one. Such immediate feedback rewards good shooting.

For plinking, it’s hard to beat a large empty vegetable can placed 10 yards away from the shooter. You can also buy metal targets that swing, spin or fall when hit.

Once the student is hitting the targets, resist the temptation to move them farther away immediately, or to set out smaller ones. Let the shooter tell you when its time for additional challenge.

Have your student begin shooting from a bench, with the rifle resting on sandbags, to increase his potential for accuracy.

If a bench isn’t available, put the shooters in a prone or sitting position. Both allow the kids to rest elbows, which helps them hold up the rifle.

To make that first trip to the range a memorable one, take a few paper targets along with the knockdown ones. Have your shooter punch holes near the bull’s-eye - move the target close, if you must, to get shots near the center. Then sign and date the target, write the shooter’s name on it, and put it in an inexpensive frame to hang on the wall as a “certificate of achievement” - and a reminder of how much fun shooting is.

After the first experience, encourage the young shooter to invite a friend the next time. Kids like to do things with peers. Have them shoot one at a time.

Use the same guidelines - simple, close and fun - to teach wingshooting. A straight-away target is the easiest to hit. Leave challenges to the future. If you don’t have access to a skeet range, use a spring-powered trap that can throw the clay pigeon on the same flight path each time.

Have the shooters mount the gun before calling for the bird. Remind them that there is no need to rush the shot.

Watch for the common mistake of lifting the head from the stock. Use light loads, and conclude the shooting session before recoil begins to hurt.

On a going-away target, have the shooter point the barrel right at the target to break it. Once that shot becomes easy, introduce a bit of forward allowance by moving the shooter a couple of steps to the side.

Always finish shooting while everyone is still having fun, which might be after only 15 minutes or it might be an hour. In general, keep it short.

xxxx Young shooters get hunt For the first time, young wingshooters get special hunting days before the general bird and waterfowl seasons open in Idaho and Washington this year. In Washington, hunters 15 years of age and under can hunt ducks statewide on Sept. 27. They can hunt pheasants and quail in Eastern Washington Sept. 27-28. In Idaho, kids ages 12 through 15 will be allowed to hunt ducks on Sept. 27. The kids must have a state hunting license but do not need the Idaho waterfowl validation or the federal waterfowl stamp. Washington youth hunters must have appropriate licenses, stamps or permits. The hunt will be boosted with releases of pheasants available from the new $10 East Side pheasant restoration stamp required of all East Side pheasant hunters in addition to a hunting license and upland bird permit. Pheasants will be released for the Sept. 27-28 youth hunt at Gloyd Seeps and Winchester Lake wildlife areas in Grant County, Linda Lake south of Othello in Adams County, Fishtrap Lake and Olsen-Dodd property (near Hawk Creek) in Lincoln County and along the Snake River in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties. Young hunters in both Idaho and Washington must be accompanied by a non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age in order to participate in the special hunts. They must abide by hunting hours, bag limits and other rules.

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