It’s been years since my first Hunter’s Safety Class. 43 years to be exact. 1972 in Newberg, Oregon. I was a senior in high school. I’d just moved that summer, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. My uncles, John and Don, had invited me to accompany them on their annual cross country hunting trip. They’d start out in Salem, Oregon, and drive and hunt their way across the state until they’d reached the Malheur area in Southeast Oregon. I had never had the chance for an adventure like that, so of course I was in!
There was a catch. Isn’t there always a catch? For a young man, just starting out hunting, you had to pass a Hunter’s Safety Class. No big deal. I loved anything that had to do with hunting, and at the time, I read Outdoor Life and Field and Stream voraciously. This I could do!
For me, Hunter’s Safety Class was a breeze. I was one of the older students, and the class was taught by one of the High School teachers there at Newberg High School, Dennis Streed. I can’t remember a question that was asked, or a topic that was brought up, that I hadn’t read and studied about. Unlike ‘Regular High School’, this was a breeze! If they’d been grading this class, I know I would have earned straight A’s.
So far, so good. My uncles checked in on me to make sure I was taking my Hunter Safety Class so I’d be able to purchase my first hunting license. They let me know about the date of departure, how long we’d be gone, and all of the other nitty-gritty details that go into helping a young man plan his first hunting trip. I’d even gone so far as to purchase my first firearm, an Ithaca double barrel 16 gauge shotgun (which I still have) from Ivan’s Gun Shop, for $50.00.
Now, comes the hitch. The Saturday that we were planning on leaving was set in stone, and that Saturday also happened to be the final day of Hunter Safety Class, and the most important class of them all. Range day! This was the day I had looked forward to, when we actually got to go out to the local rifle range at Chehalem Valley Sportsman Club in Dundee and fire rifles at targets, and receive our certificates, which were an absolute necessity before you could purchase your first hunting license.
I was stuck! Decision time! Either stay home from the hunting trip of my lifetime and take the last Hunter Safety Class to get my hunting license, or go along with my uncles on the hunting trip, but as a non-hunter.
For me, it was a no-brainer. And if you’d asked most anyone back then, you’d know what I was going to do. The opportunity to go hunting, and miss a week of school, whether I could actually hunt or not, was too great an opportunity to pass up – I was going hunting!
I’ve never regretted that decision. It changed my life, for the better. And for the record, I never did received my certificate.