By RENE J. ROY
PORT AUX BASQUES – On a mild winter weekend, Jan. 16 and 17, the Port aux Basques chapter of the Sou’ Wes NFLD Delta Waterfowl association hosted a firearms training session for youth. The cost of the course was covered by Delta Waterfowl at a relatively low cost of $750 and was held at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA) campus in Port aux Basques.
Chair Mark Lomond said that he believes in teaching kids gun safety at a young age.
“They soaked up everything and I think the earlier you teach them the better.”
In accordance with provincial COVID-19 regulations, the class was restricted to a maximum of 10 participants. Students followed all of the CNA and provincial pandemic protocols.
“We sponsored the course as a way to invest back into the community. Whether they hunt or not, they will have knowledge of firearms and safe handling,” said Lomond.
Lomond places high importance of firearms safety.
“For the sake of our heritage, the Sou’wes Delta Waterfowl is a big supporter of recruiting new waterfowlers and passing along traditional hunting practices. Completing the hunter safety course is the first big step to being a part of this long standing Newfoundland tradition.”
Lomond explained, “Over the duration of the course, which took two days, the participants learned about firearms, safe operation and handling, survival skills, compasses/navigation, hunter ethics, history of hunting in our area, and more.”
Among the students participating in the course was Cohen Cook. At 11 years old, Cohen is still too young to legally hunt, but that didn’t prevent him from becoming the youngest person in Newfoundland and Labrador to ever complete the firearms safety course successfully.
Greg Cook, Cohen’s father, said that he had some reservations initially, but after seeing a Facebook post asking for photos of young hunters, Greg submitted a photo of his son.
“I thought he was too young, because it started at 12 years old, and he's only 11,” said Greg.
After learning that the firearms safety course was being offered to interested youths, Greg gave the go ahead.
“I asked if Cohen could do the course, and they looked into it, and said yeah he can.”
Cohen wanted to do the course “because I really like to go hunting with my Dad, and do other stuff, like out and around.”
He said the best part was just “knowing that I passed.”
“He did it all on his own,” said his father. “I’m very proud of him.”
Cohen plans to go hunting for moose with his father next year, and a rather big smile crept over his face when the idea of bird hunting was brought up as well.
“Ducks, maybe some Turrs,” are apparently also on his list.
But the main reason he loves to go hunting has nothing to do with the actual harvest. It boils down to something we all relate to, especially given the ongoing pandemic restrictions.
“Spending time with family that I barely get to see,” said Cohen.
Along with other groups, Delta Waterfowl pushed to have the minimum age limit for youth hunter training lowered, and in 2017 it was announced that it would be lowered to 16 for big game and down to 12 for small game. That means as of next year, Cohen and his father can spend all the time they want together in the woods.
Sou’wes Delta Waterfowl wants to train more youths like Cohen.
“It was a great success and the local chapter hopes to sponsor a class of youth annually from now on,” said Lomond.