Last weekend, a friend of ours, who is an avid hunter, invited me to practice target shooting with him and his son. My dad is not a hunter, although most my uncles do hunt. I became interested in learning the sport by listening to all of them tell enthusiastic stories about their past adventures in the woods.

Sunridge Middle School students are allowed the opportunity to obtain their hunter's safety license through a spin class (special interest) or an elective class for their first term. In this class you are taught gun safety, such as - always treat a gun as if it were loaded. Ethics are stressed - always ask before hunting on someone else's land. And procedures, important things like when you shoot a deer the first thing you do is to put your tag on it.

Our local police officers spend quite a bit of their valuable time to teach us students. They have a trailer that is used for the target test. You shoot right into the back of the trailer. They also provide a mock scenario with a decoy deer that has been downed and is hiding. Students walk with the officer telling him what you would do in a real situation. Then there is the written test that everyone has to take.

When my mom's friend Bill found out that I had my hunting license, he said, "Great, I can take you hunting with me." Saturday was my first opportunity to experience the excitement of handling my own gun. The first thing we did was Bill showed me all the different guns that he had and defined their use. Then we packed up and drove into the country, far away from civilization. I was taken to a remote enclosed area surrounded by hills and rocks. With us we brought plastic jugs, gourds, targets and lots of ammunition. I guess I did well except for one time when I missed the target and hit a rock, the thing exploded into hundreds of pieces. The most fun of the whole experience was targeting in on the gourds.

After our practice session in the frigid weather, we all sat down and ate cold bologna sandwiches. The opportunity to learn from an individual who possesses a wealth of knowledge about something that you are interested in is a real privilege. What a day. I was able to experience some of the things that I have been taught in the past but could only imagine, as well as learning so much more. It just doesn't get any better than that.

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Jake Hartley is an eighth-grade student at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton.

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