If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to return to the theme of last week’s McKean Minute, this ground-breaking podcast in which I collaborated with Dylan Ray to bring hunter education to the audio masses.
The idea for the podcast, which is called Hunting 101 and can be found here (https://soundcloud.com/hunting101) is devoted to the foundational principles of various aspects of hunting. Dylan has podcasts devoted to hunting in general but will have episodes on turkey hunting, deer hunting, small-game hunting, and more as the year ticks by.
My collaboration was even more foundational – Dylan and I riffed, for six whole episodes, on the ideas behind our hunter education courses, required by every state in order to certify a hunter as ready to buy a license and take a gun or bow into the field.
Dylan and I talk a lot about the fundamentals of firearms safety, and we talk in detail about how guns work. But one element that may have been lost or overlooked in our conversation is the importance of becoming a crack shot. This is something of an antique term. If you asked your fathers of a certain age what it means to be a “crack shot,” they would waste no time with their answer: Someone who is comfortable with a gun or bow, knowledgeable with its capabilities, and proficient with its use in a wide range of situations.”
Annie Oakley was a crack shot. So was Bat Masterson. So was your uncle Lenny and that somabitch from Centerville who stole all those trap titles from under my chin.
The idea, when it comes to hunting, is that all the knowledge of wildlife identification, and how to tell the difference between a gauge and a caliber and all the field skills in the world won’t matter a whit if you’re a bad shot. Our obligation to the animals we hunt is a quick and humane death. That means a good shot well-placed in the vitals, in order that the animal won’t suffer overlong and that we can feel good about taking its life in the most painless way possible.
Wildlife conservation is only a pair of pretty words unless you can place a bullet or an arrow where you’re aiming. You’re not really a hunter until you get that final action right – shooting where you’re aiming, and minimizing the time an animal feels the pain of your bullet or the sting of your arrow.
Why do I mention this now? Because this is the season to pick up your bow or your rifle, to visit your gun range or 3-D archery course. To become as proficient a killer as you are a hunter. You owe the animals we pursue that simple grace, to be as good with your gear as you are with your heart.