Eight tips for kids this hunting season
Sept. 22, 2012 at 4:22 a.m.
She's walked the stage at beauty pageants and tumbled though gymnastics, but sometimes, Avery Bartay said, the great outdoors is the place to be.
The 6-year-old brunette with the camouflage "hunting diva" T-shirt said she enjoys taking to nature with her rifle and bow.
"It's fun, and I get to be outside," she said, explaining she practices aiming at boards and barrels. "I love to go out to the deer and put corn out."
Avery began shooting about age 3 or 4, with guidance from James Bartay, her father and the area chief for Texas Parks and Wildlife hunter education. While a bit intimidating at first, she said it's among her favorite pastimes.
And it's important to take special precautions outside.
Hunters should keep their gun safeties on, she said, and should never point a gun or bow in an unsafe direction. They might risk accidentally shooting at something they didn't mean to.
Still, just because she's hunting doesn't mean Avery can't flaunt a bit of femininity.
Her handy tools - bow, binoculars and rifle - are all light pink camo.
"It's the only one that looks pretty in the book to me," she said of the design.
Here are some tips on playing it safe while hunting.
Treat every firearm as if it were loaded
Point the muzzle in a safe direction, away from people, animals or objects you might endanger. Keep your finger away from the trigger guard and keep the safety on until you're ready to shoot. Any time you pick up a gun, check to see if it's loaded.
Hearing and eye protection are important when it comes to shooting. Firearm blasts and vibrations can bring hearing loss and glasses can protect your eyes from gunpowder, debris and more. Don't forget to dress in daylight fluorescent orange, a bright material that helps others see you from far away or when you're under a heavy cover.
Don't even raise your weapon until the target is fully visible and in good light. Also, know what is both in front of and behind the target. Never shoot at flat, hard surfaces, such as rocks, in case of a ricochet. Stick to a safe zone-of-fire.
Take a hunter education course
Every person who hunts must be licensed but, beginning at age 9, hunter education classes are available. Courses not only offer safety information, but also teach conservation, first aid and other things that will help in the field. The course is mandatory for those age 17 or older - if they were born on or after Sept. 1, 1972 - but people can apply for a one-year deferral. The good news is, once you've taken a class in Texas, other states will recognize you've completed the course.
Remember to keep it ethical
Ethics are what you do when no one else is around, and instructors encourage hunters to do the right thing. If an animal is visible in the brush but you can't see what might be around it, for instance, don't take the shot. The same goes for an animal that is running.
Don't hunt alone
Kids can hunt with a licensed adult who is legally able to do so. Just be sure to be within normal voice range. Not only is it safer to go out with someone else, but it's more fun to have a friend along.
Know that hunting isn't just about taking the animal
It's about the experience in general. Enjoy being outside with friends or family, learning something new and taking in the hunting heritage. Hunting trips can teach children a variety of life skills if they take time to notice them.
Remember that, when you're in your hunting gear, you represent all other hunters
If you go into a store wearing camouflage and start behaving badly, that might reflect poorly on others who enjoy hunting. Act in a way that represents both yourself, and the sport, in a positive way.
SOURCES: JAMES BARTAY, AREA CHIEF FOR TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE HUNTER EDUCATION, REX MAYS, DISTRICT SUPERVISOR FOR THE TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT, TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT WEBSITE