Sportsman’s Corner: Amish hunter education

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/23/2018 6:57:08 PM
Modified: 11/24/2018 2:33:02 AM

Last Saturday, this writer took a step back in time. Bruce Bennet and I drove to a one-room schoolhouse in Ellenburg, New York, that morning to conduct a New York State Hunter Education course to eight young men from the local Amish community.

The course had actually been a couple years in the making as Bruce was approached by some of the neighboring Amish about how they could get hunter ed certificates for some interested boys. Bruce, who retired from the Massachusetts Environmental Police as the Inland Bureau Chief, has been spending time in New York for 30 years after building a hunting camp and later a lake house there. He has had frequent interaction with his Amish neighbors and asked me if I would be interested in being involved if a course were to be held. Bruce went through the certification in New York and they approved me after I provided my credentials as a Master Instructor in the Massachusetts Hunter Education program.

The curriculum is nearly identical in all states and the class required the students to do home study. They had to read the manual and complete a take-home test. We reviewed the test and did a chapter by chapter course review. The school had no electricity and there was a wood stove in the corner. The desks reminded me of my years at Cheney School in Orange. The students arrived walking or riding horse powered wagons and were all dressed the same and wore Muck boots. They removed the boots at the door and walked in stocking feet to their desks.

With no audio-visual equipment to show videos or diagrams, we relied on the manuals and worked hard to ensure that every student understood everything we presented.

A defining moment for me occurred when discussing the safety of hunting when compared to other common activities. For years, the example my teaching partner Al Mexcur and I would use would be to ask, “Which is more dangerous, hunting or bowling?” We knew that insurance actuarial tables provided data that shows that your risk of injury is much greater when bowling. With the Amish young men, there were blank faces. Then I realized that they had no idea what bowling was!

In many instances, we would take time to define terms. The two Amish adults who were there were a great help. We learned that Amish speak a Dutch dialect and do not learn English until they begin school. Given that scenario, their communication skills were outstanding. When we gave the test, every student passed the exam and one even posted a perfect score! It was all a very interesting experience for me, one that I am very glad I had a chance to be a part of.

This coming Monday will be the opening of the Massachusetts shotgun season for deer. All participants must wear 500 square inches of hunter orange material on their head, chest and back. Hunting hours start 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Any deer taken must have at least one antler that is three inches in length or longer unless the hunter possesses an antlerless permit for the zone in which he or she is hunting.

The season limit is two bucks and as many antlerless deer as you have permits to take. The daily possession limit is two. You must immediately place the signed deer tag from your license on the deer upon killing it. You have 48 hours to report the deer and during shotgun season that means bringing it to a checking station to have a metal affixed to the deer until it is prepared for food.

Hunters should always have safety as the most important consideration and be sure of your target before pulling the trigger. Respect landowners, other hunters, the public and the game. With what by all indications is a very healthy deer herd in most management zones and the snow cover, this should be a very good season for hunters and a chance to bring home venison for the freezer.

Locally, Grrr Gear will be open for both weeks of shotgun season and black powder season. Flagg’s Tackle will be checking deer during the second week of shotgun season and during black powder season. Good luck to all and be safe!

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