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Captain’s Log: Taking a Shot and Making it Count

July is when hunting seasons open up and hunting for the table and the larder (or freezer nowadays) is a cultural treasure for Americans that we celebrate and use to teach our kids good lessons and give them good experiences and perspectives.

I’ll share a couple of experiences from my own family, and I’ll wager they aren’t that much different from the way some others grew up learning to respect and use guns for hunting.

Hunting families tend to start the lessons early, when kids learn best. They are taught about guns and — most importantly — gun handling safety.

Kids are taught about critters and interdependencies between critters and the land and between various species. Lessons include preferred habitats where various critters live and forage and how they prey on each other to live.

Kids of hunting families grow up learning how clean it is to eat meat of critters that lived their lives free in their natural habitat and lived on a diet of natural foods and with the physical toughness that comes from struggling to survive in a world of predators.

Sure, we all go to the grocery store and buy animals raised in feed lots where they were fed stuff to make them grow quick and thick, but the flavor and health of a wild animal is a world apart from the fare available in stores.

A classic example from the ocean is the difference in flavor between farmed salmon and wild-caught salmon. The difference for land animals is similar.

Once old enough to learn to hunt, lessons address how to study the land and find critters, how to stalk them or position themselves to intercept moving or grazing animals, how to prepare for a shot and how to be patient and take only the right shot.

My father had a good way to teach me. He would take me out on the land and bring along a single can of food that he knew I strongly disliked.

He would hand me a .22-caliber rifle and one single bullet, telling me that we both eat what I shoot or else we would eat the can of stuff we didn’t like.

That taught me patience, and I passed up plenty of shots until I was certain I could make one count and put dinner on the table.

I always remember a shot my daughter, Tiffany (now Capt. Tiffany Vague), took. We were out on the Cuyama Badlands rabbit hunting when she was a pre-teen.

I handed her a semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle, and we went walking. After a while, a tasty-looking rabbit flushed, and I told her it was hers.

To my chagrin she began rapid-firing with that semi-auto, missing by inches as that rabbit moved away like greased lightning.

That critter was better than 100 yards away and nearing the other side of a wide river bed when I said, “Stop! Aim, damnit!”

Tiffany stopped, took a breath, let half of it out and focused. Just as that rabbit jumped up the embankment on the other side of the river bed and at about 120 yards away, she pinned it to the bank with a perfectly-placed shot.

We ate tasty rabbit stew together that evening.

The lessons, skills and healthy meals that come with hunting are precious within our American culture. May it always be so!

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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