Rural Ohio schools excuse teachers, students 4 deer hunt


Mar 11, 2001
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Deer season means a day off school for some.

Many rural districts will excuse students and teachers from classes Monday so they can hunt.

Sunday, November 25, 2001.

Paul Souhrada, Columbus Dispatch Staff Reporter.

Jess Hickman didn't hesitate when asked how long he's been looking forward to his first deer-hunting trip.

"About a month,'' answered Jess, a 12-year-old Grandview Heights middle- schooler with close-cropped red hair.

"Try a year,'' chimed in his grandfather Jim Croker.

It's been that long since Croker, of Grove City, bought Jess his first shotgun -- a kid-size .410-gauge New England Firearms single-shot model.

The pair, who will head for Vinton County on Wednesday, will be among an estimated 500,000 hunters taking part in Ohio's deer hunt this week. Gun season opens Monday and continues through Sunday.

Although no one knows how many young boys and girls will join the hunt this year, the Ohio Division of Wildlife said it sold more than 32,000 youth hunting licenses in each of the past two years.

That figure, however, does not include separate deer licenses that youngsters need or those who hunt on their own land and, therefore, don't need licenses.

Some don't even need permission from their teachers.

Some Ohio school districts, especially in rural areas, have Monday off from classes. School officials say the decision is pragmatic: Many students -- and some teachers -- wouldn't be there anyway.

At Northridge schools in Licking County, a quarter of the male students used to skip classes on opening day, Superintendent Donald Sullivan said.

In recent years, the district has given teachers the day off as compensation for parent-teacher conferences the previous week.

"We try to accommodate not only the students and their parents but also the staff,'' Sullivan said.

Other districts, including Marysville, Delaware, Lancaster and Grandview Heights, have classes Monday but excuse students who plan to hunt if they hand in a note from a parent in advance.

Jess did just that and promised to take along the schoolwork he'll miss during the three days he'll be off hunting.

Neither the Ohio Department of Education nor the Ohio School Boards Association tracks the number of districts that excuse students on the first day of deer season.

"It's up to the local school board to decide, and they don't have to tell anybody,'' said association spokesman Scott Ebright, adding that many rural districts, including Delaware, also close for county fairs.

Croker said hunting complements what his grandson learns in school. Not only did Jess have to complete the state's mandatory 10-hour

hunter-safety course, but he learned to be patient, his grandfather said.

"He's really come a long way from a kid who never fired a gun or shot a bow to one who is trustworthy,'' Croker said. "Had he not been the way I wanted him to be, he wouldn't be going.''

Things were different when Croker was a boy, he added.

"It was just pick up a gun and go,'' Croker recalled, adding that his father had two rules: "Don't shoot yourself, and don't go with anyone else so you don't shoot them.''

Encouraging youngsters to hunt has its critics, however.

"From our vantage point, a young person is better off in school than in the woods chasing animals to kill,'' said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States.

"There's no question you can have a nice time with family while hunting,'' Pacelle said. "But, obviously, it's not necessary to hunt.

"Our objection is more the fact that these are young people who are highly impressionable,'' he added. "They are getting the message that it is OK to kill animals for recreation.''

Pacelle, whose Washington, D.C.- based group has for years organized anti-hunting and trapping ballot initiatives across the country, maintains that state wildlife officials, gunmakers and other hunting-related industries recruit young hunters because they are afraid the number of hunters will dwindle.

John Matthews, supervisor of the Ohio Division of Natural Resource's Salt Fork Wildlife Area in Guernsey County, said it's simpler than that.

"That's the type of upbringing I had, and I'm passing it along to my kids.''

Matthews said he bought his boys, now 18 and 14, their first guns when they were 10 or so, but they accompanied him on hunting trips long before that.

"Some of the best times were spent shooting the breeze, not shooting the guns.''


I can remember having a rifle in the truck gun rack parked in the school parking lot so we coulod go hunting right after school. Times sure have changed.



Well-known member
Mar 12, 2001
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They used to let us out on opening day in rural NC.  Same kind of thing.  They could keep us in school, and deal with the increase in absentees, or they could call it a "work day" and take it off of the calendar.  

They also closed the schools out there for the tobacco harvest.  

Every day from dove season to the end of duck season, I had at least one gun in my truck, as did the majority of my friends.  There were plenty of fights at that rural school, but the most dangerous weapon ever drawn was a baseball bat pulled out by a teacher!  Yepp, Jesse...times have DEFINITELY changed.


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Sep 5, 2001
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I went to college in northern LA county and kept my guns in my dorm room only about 15 years ago.  We could go hunting right out behind the school.  Never had a problem.  Heck, the cafeteria use to cook up the birds I'd bring in.

Try getting a gun on campus anywhere now a days...


Well-known member
Mar 11, 2001
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Still a State Holliday (well sort of) here in PA. Most Manufacturing facilities shut down for the first day of deer season along with most of the schools. This is true of Northcentral PA but no necessarily everywhere in the state.


Well-known member
Mar 11, 2001
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In WV most counties school is off for the 1st day of buck season, which opens the Monday before Thanksgiving.  For the last several years the county I live in had the whole week off, and most business are running with minimial workers or shutting down completly.

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