Opinion: What My Dad And I Learned In Hunting Class : The Salt A father and son are part of the majority of Americans who don't hunt and didn't learn from their parents. So they take a class and learn a little about hunting and a few things about themselves.

Opinion: What My Dad And I Learned In Hunting Class

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We want to give you a heads up that for the next few minutes, we'll hear about the sights and sounds and even the smell of hunting. Nate Hegyi of member station KUER grew up in hunting country but never learned to hunt until recently when he took a three-day hunting class with his dad.

NATE HEGYI, BYLINE: It's kind of weird seeing my dad cut into the neck of a dead elk.

ERIC CRAWFORD: So again, we have a little bit of a separation on muscle groups, right?

N. HEGYI: My dad's name's Mike. He's a software engineer, and he's never hunted before. But now he's in a group class with me, and it's his turn to butcher the animal. His blue latex gloves are bloody as he peels fur and skin off the elk.

Do you feel grossed out at all?

MIKE HEGYI: No, it's a lot like - it actually looked a lot like getting ready for smoking ribs.

N. HEGYI: No way.

M. HEGYI: Yeah, yeah. You're separating out some pieces to it, so...

N. HEGYI: Even though there's this, like, giant elk's head right next to my foot?


N. HEGYI: My dad seems to be handling this way better than I am. I dragged him to the middle of Idaho for this workshop with a sportsman's group, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. So far we've learned hunting rules and regulations, how to track an elk and now how to butcher one. The elk is sprawled out on a tarp in a parking lot, and there's this rank smell coming from its neck. Instructor Eric Crawford smells it, too.

CRAWFORD: That - it's probably literally food still sitting there that's kind of partly decomposing and giving you that sour smell.

N. HEGYI: That's kind of gross. (Laughter) But it's OK.

These are the things I've got to get over if I want to do this. I grew up in Wisconsin. Kids used to take off opening weekend with their parents to hunt. But we didn't.

Why didn't we grow up hunting?

M. HEGYI: Oh, it was never really introduced to me by my father.

N. HEGYI: My dad's father is a refugee who escaped communist Hungary.

M. HEGYI: You know, I don't think hunting was ever top on his mind.

N. HEGYI: So we grew up buying our meat. But as I got older, I learned about beef and pork's carbon footprint. And that's got me thinking about eating local, way local. Katie Oelrich says that's a big driver for a lot of adults that want to learn how to hunt.

KATIE OELRICH: Having to harvest your own animal, knowing exactly where it came from, knowing that it isn't filled with any type of chemicals.

N. HEGYI: Oelrich is an Idaho state wildlife biologist and one of the instructors here. She learned how to hunt as a grownup, too.

OELRICH: Like, if your parents don't do it, it's intimidating to get into on your own.

N. HEGYI: That's why she got into teaching it. Right now, we're kneeling on the tarp as she takes the elk's head off like she's a '90s action star. It's shocking to me. But she and Crawford do stress the ethics of hunting.

CRAWFORD: I still have that sense when I walk up to an animal that I just shot of somewhat sorrow and deep respect for that animal, you know? And I think if you don't have that, then there's probably something more wrong with you.

N. HEGYI: He spends hours teaching us about conservation, not wasting meat or life and making sure that when you do pull the trigger, you kill an elk or deer quickly and humanely. That's the part I'm most nervous about. Around two-thirds of Americans have fired a gun. But despite growing up in rural Wisconsin, I never have. So we drive out to a shooting range. Crawford hands me a beginner's rifle. He helps me cycle around to the chamber.

CRAWFORD: There you go. Lock.

N. HEGYI: And then I look through the scope, aim...


CRAWFORD: Nice. How did it feel?

N. HEGYI: Great. I mean, it felt better. I don't think I hit the target.


N. HEGYI: I think every time - every time I was about to fire or it fired, I just, like, closed my eyes.


N. HEGYI: If I'm going to be a hunter, I need to be a much better shot. I may just stick with fishing. As for my dad...

M. HEGYI: If it is for harvesting meat, I think maybe I'm a little bit more open to it than I thought I was.

N. HEGYI: For NPR News, I'm Nate Hegyi in McCall, Idaho.


CORNISH: This story comes to us from the Mountain West News Bureau.

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