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Turkey hunt

Volunteer hunter education instructor Matt Firestone poses with his son, Alex, who bagged this turkey on his first turkey hunt last year.

I recently was asked why I decided to become a hunter education instructor for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. I was caught a little off guard and, at first, I wasn’t sure how to answer.

After giving it a little thought, I realized a lifetime of cherished hunting memories with friends and family prompted me to volunteer for this important program.

I thought back to the times as a kid I went pheasant hunting with my dad after school, walking fields together in pursuit of game birds. I remembered the first time I was allowed to carry a BB gun with me and with it the responsibilities that came with being a hunter. On the way to the field, I remember my dad instructing me how to properly carry the gun so it wasn’t pointed at others hunting with us, as well as the importance of walking at the pace of the group so as not to enter the line of fire of the others in our hunting party. I didn’t take a shot that day, but I still felt like a real hunter.

I remembered taking hunter education with a friend before our first turkey hunt. I can remember the excitement of the first night of class, walking into the classroom filled with boys and their dads at the Nebraska Game and Parks Pavilion in the State Fairgrounds.

In high school and college, I hunted with friends. From these friends, I learned how to trail downed game, how to hunt with dogs and how to clean and process the meat from the harvested game. However, I recall some of them not knowing how to handle a gun properly or how to be safe when hunting in a group. I was grateful for the solid foundation in safety I had received from my hunter ed course.

When I became a father, my son noticed when I came home with the rewards of a successful hunt. When he was 3 years old, he asked to come deer hunting with me. I knew as we left the house that we would most likely come home empty-handed. But I also knew the enjoyment of deer hunting came in sharing my passion for hunting with him, regardless of our success.

Since that first deer hunt, we have spent many wonderful hours in the duck blind with friends and family, or sitting quietly in the tree stand waiting patiently for the right deer to come into view.

When my son wanted to start shooting, we talked about safety and proper handling of the gun, how to aim and what the site picture should look like when he is on target. Last year, for the first time, we went on a father-son turkey hunt.

I cherish all of these memories because of the time we spent together, and because we all came home safe. Now that my wife and daughters are showing an interest in hunting and the outdoors, I felt it was important to increase my knowledge of hunting safety, wildlife management and regulations so that when we all go out as family we will be able to enjoy the time together and come home safely.

Knowing how to be safe in the field truly allows hunters to enjoy the sport to the fullest, ensuring that time spent hunting is time well spent.

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Sports copy editor

Rob Schlotterbeck is a sports copy editor.

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