Hunting class worth it

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2004

To be honest, the thought of a hunter education class wasn’t all that appealing to me when I first realized I would have to complete it before buying an Alabama hunting license.

It was probably a mix of me thinking I already knew enough to be a responsible hunter and bitterness over the fact I just missed the cutoff to be grandfathered out of the course requirement.

The state requires completion of an approved hunter education course for any hunting license buyer born on or after Aug. 1, 1977.

My date of birth happened to fall a year and two days too late.

I already had a mental picture of waiting in my car while mini-vans dropped off loads of teenagers in an improvised carpool lane (these classes are usually packed with teenagers, the majority of first-time hunting license buyers).

We would then sit in a big room while some staffer from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources office (who was surely being made to teach the course as punishment for misplacing some files or showing up late to work too many times) went over common sense points about hunting and the great outdoors.

&uot;Here is a gun. This is the dangerous end.&uot;

My expectations for the class were shattered like the watermelon shot by a 30-06 rifle in the video we watched the second night.

For starters, the class was held at Oak Mountain State Park &045; not in some elementary school cafeteria.

Just driving to and from the cabin where we met each night was a visual lesson in wildlife.

The state park, which has seen a good deal of attention lately for its out-of-control deer population, closes at sunset. Last week was the first time I’d driven the park at night. And if you think you’ve seen lots of deer during a daytime drive, you’d be stunned by the after-hours trip.

My brother and I counted close to 20 deer in the four-mile trip from the gate to the cabin one night.

And the course itself was taught by Shelby County’s game warden, not just some office assistant.

This was particularly beneficial because he was able to discuss practical application of wildlife regulations and game laws.

It was nice to hear explanations on some of the finer points that might be a little tricky or confusing. And it’s good to know exactly what he’s looking for in case he happens to drop in during hunting season.

While most of the material wasn’t new to me and probably wouldn’t be to many hunters, there were some new things I learned. And you can never have too many lessons on gun safety.

The hunter education course is a great tool to introduce new hunters to some of the basics of gun safety and the outdoor experience. It’s also a great refresher, even for the &uot;expert&uot; hunter, of which Alabama seems to have an enormous surplus.

So if you haven’t gone through the class, go ahead and sign up. The department should offer at least several more opportunities before next year’s deer season.

You might even be able to catch a ride in a mini-van.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at