This week as part of our Gunshots series, we asked Vermonters about the role of guns in their lives. Last year, Commentator Deborah Lee Luskin became a licensed hunter and bought her first gun after decades of never wanting one.
Sure, I’d pulled the trigger on a dime-store water pistol when I was a kid.
Then, when I was forty and without ever wanting to own a gun, I inherited two rifles and a handgun.
I didn’t know how to use any of these firearms, or even what distinguished one from the other, except that the handgun looked especially lethal.
“That’s because it’s designed to kill people,” my husband explained.
It was a German P-38 that his father brought back from the war and was among his possessions when he came to live with us at the end of his life.
We hadn’t even known the gun and ammunition were in the house.
We gave it and a hunting rifle to a friend who’s a collector.
We held on to the twenty-two, but never used it.
Twenty years later, I was overcome with a desire to hunt.
I wanted to harvest wild venison, the ultimate, organic, local meat.
I needed to learn how to shoot a rifle, and then find one that was small enough for me to handle yet powerful enough to shoot a deer.
I signed up for a workshop in Rifle Skills and Marksmanship at Doe Camp, a women’s retreat for outdoor skill development.
There were just four students and two instructors, both knowledgeable, encouraging, and calm.
We started with gun safety and mechanics before advancing to target practice with a variety of arms, from dainty twenty-twos to an AK-47, neither of which is a deer rifle. Using my yoga training in mindfulness and breath-work, I discovered I’m a pretty good shot.
I decided to buy a rifle, but was clueless about how to do so, so I called up an old friend who’s been hunting since he was a boy and had a few rifles I could try, which helped me learn what fit me, what I liked, and what amount of recoil I could handle.
I bought a Roberts .257 with a walnut stock.
My friend helped me mount the scope and sight in the gun.
All the while, he told me hunting stories and gave me advice.
Another friend helped me scout out my hunting ground, teaching me how to read the landscape for deer.
Last November, I woke in the dark, loaded my rifle, and hiked up a ridge by moonlight, where I waited for daybreak and deer.
Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist, and educator.