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Little Rock, Ark., sporting goods store employee Matthew Waton poses with a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun package during the 2004 Christmas shopping season. Daisy's BB guns have been used to train decades of hunters and firearms enthusiasts, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case.
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Actors Joe West, left, and Johnny Rabe, who portrayed Ralphie on Broadway in the stage musical adaptation of the 1983 movie "A Christmas Story," hold a Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun box in October 2012. The air rifle is central to the plot as the coveted gift for Ralphie, and Daisy's guns have been desired by generations of young aspiring hunters, writes outdoors columnist Larry Case.

"The beginning is the most important part of the work." — Plato

Slowly, one quiet step at a time, I stalked my quarry. It was July, and it was hot and very humid — common conditions this time of year for a muddy riverbank in southern West Virginia. The air was heavy with riverbank smells as cicadas and other insects droned in the trees and a trickle of sweat rolled down by back, but I didn't notice any of it.

I was on the hunt and in the zone.

Two more steps in the river sand and I was in range, easing up the rifle with the front sight on the unsuspecting prey. The shot sequence was as ingrained in me as inhaling or exhaling: front-sight focus; take a breath and hold it; squeeze the trigger.

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Contributed photo / Larry Case

There was a muffled report of the rifle, a gentle push of recoil and then the target, a big yellow hornet, was down for the count. I continued to push through the green jungle of the river bank. I was 10 years old and carrying a Daisy BB gun.

Almost anyone who hunts or does some form of shooting and is in my age group (Baby Boomers) started out on a Daisy BB gun. I suspect there are also a lot more who came along after this age group who also started on one of Daisy's air guns.

Back in the day, most parents were OK with letting little Johnny run loose in the woods or along the river with a fully loaded BB gun. I probably shot thousands of BBs at leaves floating on the Coal River, sycamore seed pods high in the trees or any one of dozens of other targets I might find. It was all done away from any houses or other buildings, and I cannot remember one incident in which anyone or any property was injured.

Adult supervision and careful training in safety with the BB gun are important to the young shooter having a safe experience. If you ask a shooter or hunter today how he or she learned to shoot, you'll discover that most of them took their first shot with a Daisy BB gun.

Because air guns have form and function similar to firearms, it's not uncommon to use a BB gun for a training gun. Because Daisy is the leading manufacturer of air guns, the company takes seriously its obligation to emphasize shooting safety.

Daisy began creating educational partnerships with local schools and other organizations as early as 1948, and in 1956 it established a training services department, working with the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation to make target shooting with BB guns a part of schools' physical education curriculum. In the 1960s, Daisy partnered with the U.S. Junior Chambers (the Jaycees) to establish a nationwide youth shooting education program.

To me, the point is this: Crawling around the riverbank and in the woods with a Daisy BB gun was how I and a lot of other hunters leaned the basics of hunting and firearms safety. We learned how to safely carry a gun in the presence of others, the importance of muzzle control with the firearm and never pointing it at anything we didn't intend to shoot, making sure of our target and what was beyond it, and treating all guns as if they were loaded — always.

These are the foundations of safety for all firearms, and they all were learned with that little Daisy BB gun.

Along with the safety aspects, we learned all of the basics on hunting while toting the Daisy, including how to sit quietly, how to stalk game and how to read tracks and other sign such as what food sources we were looking for in relation to the game we were hunting.

One of my fondest memories while hunting was watching my son sneak up on a very nice whitetail buck when he was very small. The deer had come into our area while we were sitting and listening for turkeys. Jesse was carrying his trusty little Buck Daisy BB gun, and he asked if he could stalk the deer and take a shot. I told him to go ahead and watched in amazement as he proceeded to get much closer to the buck than I ever thought he would

It was hard to tell who was the most surprised — me or the deer — when Jesse finally raised the little air gun after a very careful stalk. At the sound of the shot, the buck threw his head up and left the area in high gear.

I learned on the Daisy along with millions of others, and your kids can, too.

There is a world of shooting fun awaiting you and your little hunters with the Daisy BB gun line.

"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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