State course aims to teach bow hunting skills
Vineyard archers took to the woods Monday on the first day of the six-week deer bow hunting season. Many are new to a sport that has grown in popularity along with the state's burgeoning deer herd.
Traditionally, people did not acquire hunting skills through a formal process but relied on older family members or friends for instruction. Some people were self-taught.
An increasing emphasis on hunting safety and a desire for more uniform standards led to the development of formal courses and minimum licensing requirements in states across the country.
Massachusetts offered its first hunter safety course in 1954. The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Hunter Education Safety Program offers courses throughout the year on firearms and hunter safety.
Participants in a state sponsored bow hunter safety class listen to instructor Larry Genander of Falmouth. Photo by Nelson Sigelman
According to its mission statement, the program is designed "...to protect the lives and safety of the public, promote the wise management and ethical use of our wildlife resource, and encourage a greater appreciation of the environment through education." The program is funded from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses, and from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment.
In September, several volunteer state instructors conducted a daylong class at the Otis Fish and Game Club in Bourne for a diverse group of students from the Cape and Islands. Some were newcomers, others were experienced hunters like Ned Casey of Edgartown who needed a state certificate in order to meet the out-of-state licensing requirements of New York, which requires bow hunters to have completed a course in bow hunter safety.
Julie Hamblin of Marston Mills, the only woman in the class, said she liked being out of doors and hunting with her husband, nieces, and nephews. Her brother, Chris Reedy, owns Reedy's, a well-known archery shop in Middleboro frequented by Islanders.
The purpose of the course, according to Sue Langlois, state director of hunter education, is not to teach people how to shoot a bow but how to hunt with a bow ethically and safely. That includes proper shot placement, shooting within one's effective range, and tree stand safety.
Participants in the course received a copy of "Today's Bowhunter, the responsible bowhunter's guide," a publication of the International Bowhunter Education Program.
The publication stresses the importance of hunting ethics, practice, safety, and outdoor preparedness. One of the chief complaints of responsible Island hunters is that some people take to the woods without putting in the time that it takes to become an accurate shot.
State regulations allow hunters on Martha's Vineyard to take an unlimited number of does and two bucks during the bow, shotgun, and blackpowder seasons ending on Dec. 31. Hunting is allowed from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, Monday through Saturday. Deer must be checked in with an authorized agent.
Bow hunters make use of much specialized equipment. Coop's and Larry's, both in Edgartown, make the transition each season from fishing to archery. Larry's manager Steve Purcell said the shop is authorized to sell PSE bows and makes every effort to meet catalog prices.
For more information on state-sponsored hunter safety programs and classes, go to www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/dfwhecl.htm.