Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The marksman

Okay, so we have a definite Y chromosome thing going on here lately. The boy wants archery supplies -- a recurve bow and arrows -- and then this week he got all pink and trembly over the prospect of learning to fire the air rifle. Our bear problem has resurfaced. This time a bear is after apples, not chickens, but we don't want it around in any case. We have our hearts set on apple cider, and the apples need to sweeten up with the cooler nights. So we've had the air rifle out a few times to scare the bear off. The pellets are enough to give the bear a little bit of a startle and maybe a little bit of a sting, and usually it will run off, if not with the first hit, then with the second.

Noah asked to learn to use the air rifle. He's not one to overstep his capabilities; often he needs to be nudged into trying potentially risky things. So I knew he'd abide by safety rules and take the responsibility seriously. Yesterday the bear was here while I was out and the kids were here with my sister. Noah, who had just has his first instruction, loaded up the air rifle to take a shot. Alas the bear ran off before he could zing it, but he was pleased that when he blew off the pellet he managed to hit the tree trunk he was aiming for.

And then today we went out for some proper practice. He seems to be a bit of a natural. His first four shots produced one bullseye and one near bullseye, and nothing outside the orange zone. Next time the bear shows up, I'll let him take the shot. I'm not bad, but I think he's better than I am.

For the record, my gentle pacifist has no interest in killing anything. But he loves handling that air rifle and would love to nail a bear with a pellet and send it running off in surprise from the sting.


  1. We have bows and arrows...real ones. Although no bears in Manchester, England! Jules (9) was shooting arrows with a friend who suggested they might shoot a rabbit, saying that "there are so many rabbits, no-one will miss one." Pacifist Jules (like Noah) replied solemnly that "the rabbit's family would miss it." Think these guys have a good measure of the meaning of life.

  2. I thought that depending on the power of the rifle a pellet CAN couldn't it theoretically nick an artery or just lodge & become abcessed? I'm not so certain that shooting pellets at animals is benign. Certainly our old bb rifle would have a hard time producing enough power to penetrate a paper bag at 20 paces but the new ones are considerably more powerful.

  3. I think you're right, Hornblower, that it's theoretically possible to cause injury. An air rifle could certainly do in a squirrel or even a raccoon. And we could certainly put out a bear's eye with it and maybe, even though their hide is very thick, we could get through the skin at close range. But the reality is that we're never at close range, nor do we pump the thing up to max as a rule (not unless the bear is very far away). And the final reality is that if a bear doesn't learn to stay away via this negative reinforcement, and gets habituated to human dwellings and human presence, it's going to end up being destroyed by wildlife officers, as was the case with five bears in our village last summer. So a small risk of real injury from a pellet is the lesser of two evils for the bear I think.

  4. Impressive! He is growing up and venturing out...and yet responsibly. I am glad to know he wishes the bears no harm, some boys tend to have that aggressive streak in them, and it always startles me--even with three boys of my own LOL

    And what a shot!!! That is great! Great hand/eye coordination!


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