Blair County nonprofit focuses on hunting safety for young hunters

BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — With hunting season approaching in central Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization is emphasizing the safety of its young hunters.

The Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association is offering shooting lessons and tips for youngsters every Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. starting next Monday, September 12 through the end of November. Classes are open to children aged 6 to 16, with safety at the forefront.

“Teaching safety is our primary focus,” said President Tim Merrits. “We teach them how to hunt safely and how to handle a gun.”

The association said it wanted to embed safety practices into young hunters through the lessons. Merrits said he’s already found that in some situations, safe practices are always their first instinct.

This weekend at the Ox Roast event over Labor Day weekend, a kid pointed a Nerf gun at someone who wasn’t playing. This dangerous practice could result in a bad situation with a real firearm.

“Someone pointed a Nerf gun at someone [else], and the kid yelled at him,” Merrits said. “It’s the security thing. They learn that and we build that into the kids from the start.

But the association pointed out that holding and handling a real gun is very different from holding a Nerf gun. Merrits said he starts kids with lighter guns that have less recoil or kick when fired, and younger hunters progress to heavier guns that kick in the shoulder .

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Due to the potentially unexpected recoil, Merrits said proper form and preparation, such as keeping the gun secure until it’s ready to fire, is very important to keep everyone safe.

“Unless you know the gun is loaded or unloaded, you keep that gun pointed in a safe direction,” Merrits said.