Essay on hunting wins teen-ager a trip

March 09, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

For Jeffrey T. Painter, ethical hunting is more than obeying game laws; it is following his conscience about what's best for the animals and the environment.

That opinion, voiced in a 1,200-word essay with some research on pronghorn antelope, has earned him one of two big-game hunting trips this fall in Wyoming.

"It's so cool," said Jeffrey, 14, an eighth-grader at North Carroll Middle School. "I never win anything. I'm real excited, and I can't wait to go."

For three days in September, Jeffrey will be hunting pronghorn antelope on a trip sponsored by Safari Club International, a nationwide hunting organization devoted to preserving wildlife and hunters' rights.

Andrea Wilke, 16, of Edgerton, Wis., won the other trip. Contest organizers, who received 15 entries, had reserved one trip for a girl and one for a boy, ages 14 to 18.

"We're not sure how many people were actually involved in the contest," said Don Brown, director of education for Safari Club International. "A lot of teachers said they were going to run contests, having the kids write essays in class and send in the best one."

Essays were judged on content, originality, presentation and the accuracy of the facts about pronghorn antelope, Mr. Brown said. For Jeffrey, his creativity is what put him over the top by one point.

"He put in some of his own thoughts," Mr. Brown said. "His essay is not just, 'Here's what somebody else said what an ethical hunter should be.' "

In his essay, written in about a week during December, Jeffrey said hunters should obey game laws and make sure their companions do also. Any violations should be reported because unethical hunters give the sport a bad reputation, which encourages nonhunters to ban it, he said.

"You've got to obey the game laws," Jeffrey said. "That's still a part of ethics because the game warden isn't going to be hanging over your shoulder the entire time watching every move you make."

Hunters should also support conservation efforts, teach others how to become good hunters, and acquire good marksmanship and hunting skills to ensure a clean kill, he said.

"I'm not an animal-rights activist, as you can probably tell," Jeffrey said. "But I don't think the animal should suffer just because you made a lousy shot."

In researching the pronghorn, Jeffrey said he found out a "lot of cool stuff."

For example, pronghorns have their own classification rather than being placed with deer as antlered game or with sheep and goats as horned game. The pronghorn is not technically an antelope either, he said.

"Biologically, what they have is a horn," Jeffrey said. "But they shed them each year, like antlers."

At 14, Jeffrey will be one of the youngest members of the hunting party. But that doesn't seem to faze him.

"It makes no difference," Jeffrey said. "I could win just as easy as an 18-year-old."

Jeffrey, who lives between Finksburg and Hampstead, has been a member of the Carroll County 4-H Hot Shots Club for two years and said he hunts often with his father. During Maryland Hunter Safety Challenge last year, he took second place and earned a first-place ribbon in the team competition.

"We were supposed to go to nationals, but the trip got canceled," he said, noting that officials were concerned about a disease being transmitted to humans by rats and field mice last fall. Team members were supposed to camp out at the competition.

His first big game hunt was for deer this winter on his uncle's farm in Pennsylvania, he said, noting that he paid for the $40 out-of-state hunting license himself.

"I didn't bag anything, though," he said. "I haven't gotten anything this year."

Jeffrey admits that not everyone in his family is thrilled with his avocation.

"My sister is an animal-rights activist, and my mom doesn't like the shooting," he said. "She's sort of leery, thinking it's unsafe. I saved up for a shotgun, a rifle and a bow, and I think she thought I could have put the money to a different use."

However, Jeffrey maintains that hunting is safer than most contact sports.

"In soccer or baseball, you have sprained ankles or broken legs," he said. "It's just [in hunting] when there is an accident, it's not a minor one."

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