By DL PERRIN
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The Maplewood Nature Center was packed to capacity on Friday and Saturday for the final Indiana DNR gun safety course of the year.
The state hosts four classes a year and this was the last class for 2012.
Everyone who wanted to obtain a hunting license had to attend both of the classes, as well as pass the written test. Indiana law requires all hunters born after 1986 to obtain a hunting license by passing these classes once. Many other states require hunter education classes regardless of your birth date.
The attendees ranged in age from 7 to 40 and both genders were well represented. No age limit applies to DNR Hunter Education classes. Students as young as 7 years old have taken and passed these classes.
Parents were encouraged to attend the class with their children and many did.
“I learned something new since I took this course a couple of years ago,” said Ed Raper. “There is quite a bit of information and it is good to get a refresher.
Raper brought his 8-year-old son Quinnlin Raper.
“I am learning about safety with guns,” Quinnlin said loudly to the group. “I have a BB-gun and I already did something very bad with it. I got into a lot of trouble. Because I shot my sister in the leg so I am learning gun safety today.”
Loren Rhodes, 12, of Middlebury and her father Kevin were one of the father-daughter teams in the class.
“I have wanted to hunt for many years,” Loren said. “My brothers and Dad hunt and I enjoy going along for the hike.” She said she would encourage other girls to take up hunting as a sport.
Her father leaned over to her and said, “You will learn how to skin a deer too.”
In response she rapidly shook her head in disagreement. “Oh no, I’m not.”
Kevin said he, too, learns something new each time he has attended the classes with his children.
“Each gun is put together differently,” he said. “You have to know all about your gun and how it functions. These classes are great to get you thinking. Like today I learned about that spring clip you release to unload the pump shotgun.”
Gun safety is the emphasis of these courses. It prevails in all of gun instructor Scott Beam’s lectures.
“I have experienced only one fatality in all of my years of hunting,” Beam said. “It was totally preventable, if they had followed basic gun safety rules. The guys were crossing a fence. They did not unload, lay down or pass their weapons before crossing. After crossing the wire, the guy pulled his loaded gun over the fence barrel up. It caught on some brush and discharged, killing my friend’s brother. Follow the rules of gun safety, they are there for a reason.”