Are you a new hunter or angler? Are you interested in learning how to hunt or fish but the stars just haven't lined up for you to take that leap of faith.
Well, you'll be excited to know that there's a new podcast designed to demystify the sports of hunting and fishing, as well as share stories of the ones that didn't get away.
Canada's Cast & Blast Podcast aims to encourage new and aspiring outdoors enthusiasts to take up the ancient pastimes of hunting and fishing.
The show is hosted by Cast & Blast Expert and Outdoors Writer, Brian Glassey.
Excited? Stay tuned for more information or email us for sponsorship opportunities.
Pictured above, Brian is a seasoned angler and hunter who works in the outdoor sporting goods industry. He is also an outdoors writer and contributes content to the Etobicoke Lakeshore Press.
"Dear Mike" is a series of articles that is a fictionalized account of my journey from non-gun guy to hunter, written as a bunch of letters to a buddy. - Brian Glassey
Well, life seems to have gotten in the way again. Seems like every time you and I try to connect on the phone we miss each other or something comes up. It’s been frustrating for both of us and we haven’t managed to catch up, so I thought that I would try a different approach. I thought I’d do what my parent’s friends all did at Christmas and write you an update letter so you’ll know what is going on in my life.
Life has been a rollercoaster for me since the last time we talked! I think I was still working downtown doing that corporate sales gig when we last spoke. Grinding it out on the two-hour commute into the city every day, surrounded by corporate drones. I was making great money, but MAN did I hate my life. I’d lie there in bed every morning, staring at the ceiling, thinking “I can’t go. I can’t do this again. This job and these people are sucking the life out of me.” It was time for a change.
So, without a plan or much more thought, one morning I walked into my boss’s office and handed in my resignation. That was it, done. I couldn’t do it anymore, Mike.
For the first few weeks, all I did was get out in the boat and fish, and try to de-stress, and think. I started to try to look at my life in more detail than I ever had in the past, to try to really analyze what I was most passionate about. What fired me up and made me excited? What could I do all day, every day that would never get boring to me? And the one thing that I kept coming back to was fishing.
I could fish all day, every day. I could talk about fishing all day, every day, and be happy doing it! That was it – I needed to be in the fishing industry!
As it turns out, the fishing industry in Canada is actually quite small in terms of the number of jobs available. Unless I wanted to work in retail, it was going to be tough to find something, even with my great resume. I cold-called every fishing company I could find – manufacturers, distributors – you name it, but none of them had any openings. Just as I was getting disheartened and considering looking at another corporate job, I saw a little postage stamp-sized ad in the local newspaper looking for people who were interested in fishing. I responded and you’ll never believe what company it was.
Remember that little fishing wholesaler near my house growing up? They had a showroom and we used to ride our bikes over there and buy our tackle. It’s them, and they were looking for a sales person! Needless to say, I was all over that one. It would be a huge pay cut, but I’d finally officially be in the fishing industry! After a couple of interviews, they called me to tell me that they wanted me to come aboard! HOLY CRAP! I’ll deal in fishing stuff professionally!! This was literally a dream come true, Mike. There was only one little catch. See, I didn’t know this, but this distributor also sold guns.
They hired me to be their Fishing Specialist, but they wanted me to know about guns, and to go and get my gun license. I didn’t know how to feel about that. I mean, guns are bad, aren’t they? Look at what’s been happening lately in the news all across Canada. Did I really want to be a part of that? At the very least, this company only really sells hunting rifles and shotguns, but still. Was I compromising my values for my dream job? I was conflicted to say the least. Still, I guess guns aren’t all bad.
Remember that time you and I went up to my cottage and shot my Uncle’s .22? You shot that piece of gum dead centre from like 50 yards away! That was fun.
After much deliberation, I decided to accept the position. I thought that I would try to be open minded and go and do the Firearms Safety Course, which is required if you want to get a Firearms license in Canada. If I still felt uncomfortable after the course, I would tender my resignation.
And that kind of brings you up to speed on what I have been up to. I started this new job just last week, and they have me scheduled to take the Firearms Safety Course this coming weekend. I am a little nervous, but it should be interesting!
I am going to do my best to start updating you like this on a more regular basis. I will shoot for weekly, but let’s be honest – it will probably be more like monthly.
Give my love to the family, Mikey.
Talk to you soon,
As I suspected, it’s been almost a month since my last update letter and a lot has happened in that time! As I told you in my last letter, I was about to take the Firearms Safety Course, and I have to tell you all about it, because I had no idea how extensive this process would turn out to be.
I started by having to take the Canadian Firearms Safety Course. (C.F.S.C.) That involved a full weekend in the classroom learning a proven methodology of how to safely handle firearms and ammunition.
Learning this method and practicing it has made me feel much more comfortable simply being around a gun. Prior to this I had virtually no exposure to them other than movies and video games, or worse, through the news media’s nightly onslaught of gang shootings in Toronto.
Guns were dangerous and kind or scary, and I didn’t want much to do with them.
The method taught at this course showed me that I didn’t need to be afraid of a firearm if I learned how to safely handle it and prove to myself it was unloaded and safe. The method starts by teaching you how to approach and handle a firearm that you haven’t been in immediate contact with. They use the acronym A.C.T.S. - Assume the gun is loaded, Control the muzzle, Trigger – don't touch the trigger until you are actually ready to fire the gun, Show – show yourself the gun is unloaded and safe. They went on to show us how to operate all of the different types of gun actions that we might encounter so that we were able to remove all of the ammunition from the gun and work the actions of the gun to eject any possible live rounds from it.
While we learned that, they introduced the second acronym – P.R.O.V.E. This is what you use once you have picked up a gun to “prove” to yourself that it’s safe.
Point the gun in the safest possible direction. Remove all methods of feeding ammunition. Observe the chamber (the part of the gun where the bullet fits inside the barrel). Verify the feeding path (that means work the action a few times to make sure there is no more ammunition in the gun). Examine the bore (that means look into the gun to ensure there is nothing obstructing the barrel). We learned that if we followed this method every time we touched a firearm, we would ensure that there would never be a safety issue or an accident. And numbers they showed us backed that up.
The number of firearms-related incidents in Canada since this program has been instituted have dropped dramatically. I can see why. I feel so much more confident being around guns now that I have this course under my belt.
Even though the actual firearms safety course was very extensive, the process to get my license was by no means complete. At the end of the weekend, I had to pass a practical exam where I had to be able to identify different types of ammuntion and firearms, and be able to safely handle those firearms and prove to the instructor that I could make a firearm safe by using the methodology laid out above. I also had to achieve at least an 85% score on a written exam on the same material. Once I did all of that, both the instructor of the course and I had to complete an application that got sent to the Chief Firearms Officer and the R.C.M.P. requesting my license. I had to send in a passport-style picture, and also provide the R.C.M.P. permission to run a criminal record check, a background check, and I had to provide them references that they would contact before they granted the license! Oh yeah, and there was a mandatory 28-day waiting period, too. Which means even for someone like me who was getting their firearms license for work purposes, there was no way to get it quickly in Canada.
Mike, I had NO idea that Canadian gun owners had to jump through so many hoops to get a license. Honestly, I was shocked, and even a little relieved. It SHOULD require a lot to prove you are capable of handling such a responsibility. But I think we see what goes on in the United States and think that is what happens here, too. I am happy to report that is not the case.
One of the things I liked most about this course was that it made me look at firearms from a different perspective.
I was born and raised in the GTA. I had no exposure to guns other than being appalled when another neighbourhood close to mine got shot up. In that world, nobody needed a gun. The only people who had guns were the criminals. But the part that I had never considered was that outside of the GTA, people live differently and see firearms differently.
There are thousands of farms, hunt camps, and mining operations in Ontario, and most of them have at least one or two guns available at all times.
For a farmer, a gun is just another tool – a tool to shoot a rabid fox or racoon. A tool to put diseased, injured, or dying livestock out of their misery. Did you know that the Mennonite community is one of the highest per-capita gun owning populations in Ontario? Yet, we never hear of Mennonites shooting each other.
I also had no idea just how many people in Canada owned guns. I learned on this course that according to a Justice Canada report, about 26% of Canadian homes had at least one firearm and that over THREE MILLION Canadians owned firearms! Not only that, but ALL of them had to go through the same process I just did. Wow. I had no idea.
When you consider how many homes in our urban areas don’t have firearms, that must mean that most of the homes outside of those areas do. When you also consider the almost complete lack of gun crime happening outside of Canadian urban centres, it makes you wonder. How is it that the places with the most guns don’t have any gun crime, while the places where almost no guns exist have rampant gun crime? Have I been looking at things wrong?
Maybe the problem isn’t the guns.
Maybe the problem is the way people think. Maybe the solution is more nuanced and complex than just “Let’s get rid of all guns.” Hmm.
So that’s where things stand. I am in the mandatory 28-day waiting period to receive my firearms license. It’s actually called a P.A.L. - a Possession and Acquisition License. Once I get it, I will be able to go to any licensed gun store and buy any non-restricted firearm and ammunition that I want. Non-restricted is the first “level” of gun ownership in Canada, and it will allow me to own most long guns, primarily rifles and shotguns.
I’m still not sure I want to own a gun yet, though. I’m not really sure what I would use one for. But one of the guys that works in the warehouse at this new job has invited me to come to the range with him now that I have taken the safety course. He thinks that having firsthand knowledge of what these guns are all about will help me to be able to talk intelligently to our customers about our products, and I agree.
So that will be my next adventure! I will fill you in next time.
All my love to the family. Miss you, Mikey.
As usual, life has been crazy and busy, and it’s been over a month since I have had a chance to sit down and write this letter. As I mentioned last time, one of the guys at my new job, Tim, invited me to go to the gun range with him, and just like taking the Firearms Safety Course, it was an eye-opener!
The range was located in a rural area northwest of the GTA. Tim had instructed me to call him when I arrived, and as I pulled up to the locked gate at the end of the driveway, I understood why. He came and let me in, and we drove past the security cameras and up to the clubhouse. We then went inside, and he had me sign in and record my (brand new!) gun license information in their logbook. Tim explained that they get periodically inspected by the Chief Firearms Officer. The Officer could show up unannounced at any time, and if anyone on the range at the time was not signed in, it could mean the end of his gun club.
After the quick sign-in procedure, Tim gave me a tour of this impressive facility. The club had around 100 acres of land, with lots of different areas set up for different types of activities. There was an archery “action range”, where they had dozens of targets set up along a path through the forest, where shooters would go from station to station and try to make shots from different angles and distances at each station. They had a trap range – a traditional shotgun sport where the shooter tries to shoot clay targets fired from a throwing mechanism, and they had 30-metre and 100-metre rifle ranges, which is where Tim took me so we could try shooting his rifles.
Before we got to shooting, though, Tim had to go through the extensive rules and safety procedures for the range. The rifle range was set up with a firing line, benches in front of the firing line to shoot from, and a flag system for communication with the other shooters on the range. There was also a rule that there must be a designated Range Officer on duty at all times while the range was in use. This was not at all like you and I shooting bottles with my Uncle’s .22 at the cottage.
The flag system was a formalized way to ensure that all shooters were following the same procedure. When we got there, Tim asked the Range Officer to go to a green flag, thereby showing that the range was on a cease fire. The cease fire command meant that the range was closed temporarily for shooting, and the rule was that all shooters had to unload their firearms, open the actions on their guns, and were required to stay behind the shooting line. Handling of firearms on a green flag was strictly prohibited and would result in expulsion from the range if violated. Lastly, the Range Officer walked the line and made sure that everyone complied with the cease fire rules and confirmed that we were safe to go beyond the firing line and head down range to set up some targets. I was greatly relieved to know that someone was making sure that we were safe when we stepped in front of the firing line.
Tim and I walked down range together. The range itself was essentially a valley, fully surrounded by 10-metre-high dirt berms.
Just in front of the shooting benches, there were also “baffles” installed – these were plate metal barriers hung just above the level of the benches. The baffles, combined with the berms, ensured that no stray bullets could leave the range area. Tim also made sure to warn me not to shoot the baffles – if the Chief Firearms Officer inspected the range and found evidence that a baffle had been shot, the range would immediately be shut down, potentially for good. It was very clear that the club took safety extremely seriously and Tim took great pride in telling me that shooting at a range in Canada was among the safest sporting activities available, with next to no injuries recorded. We set up our targets at 100 metres and walked back to the firing line. The Range Officer set the range to a red flag, meaning the range was “hot” and it was legal to shoot again. Tim carefully pulled his .22 caliber rifle out of its case and made sure I knew that the ONLY direction that the gun was to ever be pointed in was down range. At no time did he, nor anyone else on the range, point their guns at anything other than the targets that were set up, and the Range Officer kept a watchful eye on everyone to ensure these procedures were being followed at all times.
Tim had me set up behind his scoped rifle and try “dry firing” his gun so that I could get a feel for the trigger and make sure I was comfortable being behind the gun before actually shooting it. He then chambered one round.
The .22lr caliber is a small bullet. Maybe 3cms long, and the .22 in the name means that it is .22 of an inch in diameter. Despite its diminutive size, at close range the .22 can be lethal. Tim is a big proponent of the .22lr round as a practice round, because it engrains all of the same skills and safety procedures as the larger centrefire rounds, but with less expense and recoil.
He started me with a single round to make sure that I was following all of the best practices when it came to shooting. I am sad to say that I failed on that first round, because the first thing I did as I set up was to put my finger on the trigger. Tim gently corrected me, reminding me to keep my finger alongside the trigger guard until I was ready to actually take the shot. I really hadn’t realized just how much thought and attention was required to shoot safely! I was glad I had Tim as my mentor. I took my first shot through a scoped rifle – POP! Amazingly, I actually hit the target! In the middle! Well, middle-ish. Ha!
Tim and I spent the next hour or so taking turns shooting the .22, with him showing me proper trigger technique, how to use my breathing to keep the scope stable while zoomed in, and just generally getting me comfortable behind the gun. By the end, I managed to get each of my groupings of ten rounds down to around 2 – 3 inches. Not bad. But Tim showed his expertise, easily cutting groups of less than an inch over and over again. Once Tim was comfortable with how I was handling the .22, he decided it was time to move up to something a little bigger. He put away the .22lr rifle and switched over to his .22-250.
This is a caliber that has the same diameter of bullet, .22 of an inch, but packed into a MUCH larger casing with A LOT more gun powder, and it turned out to be an altogether different experience. For reference, the .22lr rounds we were shooting were leaving the gun at around 1,200 feet per second, while the .22-250 round is moving at more 3,800 feet per second – faster than the speed of sound!
Tim set up behind the .22-250 and touched off the first round. BA-BOOM!!! The first round startled me with its violence and the visceral concussion of the round that I could feel in my chest from three metres away! Wow. I was shocked at how much of a difference there was between the two rounds. If the .22lr was a lady finger firecracker, the .22-250 was a commercial grade firework going off – one of those ones that is a small flash and gigantic boom.
Tim expertly shot a sub one-inch 5-round group, and then it was my turn. I set up behind the rifle, more than a little trepidatious about what it was going to be like to shoot. Amazingly, even with my heart in my throat, I managed to again hit the target somewhere approaching centre on my first shot, and although the bang was incredibly loud, even with hearing protection on, there was surprisingly little recoil. We spent another half hour shooting the .22-250, and I found myself totally consumed in what I was doing. Strangely, it was actually relaxing and almost a Zen-like experience because it required all of my attention, and I really enjoyed myself doing it. Just as with the Firearms Safety Course, my first trip to the range was not at all what I had envisioned. Going in, I was deeply concerned for my own safety, and my preconceived notions of what the range would be like were completely wrong. Tim and I spent the better part of an afternoon shooting, and I learned a ton. When the other shooters on the range found out that it was my first time shooting, they were all incredibly helpful and supportive, with more than a couple of them allowing me to try out their guns, providing their advice, and just generally being good people and good role models for safe shooting. What I thought was going to be the Wild West turned out to be a safe, fun, and ultimately relaxing afternoon. Not at all what I thought it was going to be. What was going on here Mike?
This was now two significant experiences with the firearms community that were totally different from what I thought they would be. My experiences with the Firearms Safety Course and then with going to the range totally altered my view of what it meant to be a gun owner in Canada.
Where I thought I would find questionable and unsafe practices, I have only found sober, reasonable people engaging in a fun, safe, even family-friendly activity. Have I been brainwashed by the American media? I have seen so many YouTube videos of people doing incredibly dumb things on gun ranges, and yet my personal experience was that it would be VERY difficult to act that way here. Have I conflated what goes on in the U.S. with what happens here in Canada? I think maybe I have. It seems as if my preconceived notions of this sport were way off, and it’s kind of thrown me for a loop. How could I have been so wrong? How was my perception so far from reality? I’m not sure what the answer is there, but I can tell you that my eyes have well and truly been opened.
This isn’t a sport populated by yahoos or gun-nut freaks. I met people at the range from all walks of life, who universally treated me with kindness and respect, and who took their safety and the safety of those around them very seriously. Yes, we had fun, but it was controlled and safe. Not at all what I was expecting. Anyways, that’s all for now. Much love to the family. I will touch base again next month. Tim is pushing me to take my Hunter Safety course, so maybe that will be my next adventure.
Talk to you soon!