Roberts: By land or sea, play it smart

Safety, safety and then more safety. This was they key statement promoted by Dominic Pereyo, Senior Program Director for the Meriden Boys & Girls Club, to the young shooters in the Ready, Aim, Fire program at the July 22-26 Camp Cuno.

Pereyo is an NRA certified rifle instructor and a Connecticut state licensed archery instructor with over 15 years of running the club’s shooting program. I did a column on the Meriden Boys & Girls Club indoor shooting program involving air rifles, .22-caliber target rifles, and archery a while back and thought I’d drop in at Camp Cuno to see what his outdoor shooting program was all about.

To say that I was impressed with Pereyo’s no-nonsense approach to his program would be an understatement. I was on hand to watch a team competition using air rifles (some of you with a bit of a longer memory -- I didn’t say “older” -- might remember them as B.B. guns). There was a time in our city when the majority of its youths owned a B.B. gun, but those days are long gone.

I have to give a lot of credit to both Dominic Pereyo and those in charge of the Meriden Boys & Girls Club for including a shooting agenda in their club and camp activities. I for one believe that teaching our youth the proper safety procedures when handling any firearm, whether it is a B.B. gun, .22-caliber target rifle or a bow and arrow, is a positive step in the right direction for preventing tragic accidents where misuse of a firearm or bow is the cause. Pereyo’s number one objective in the program is to make sure that every participant is fully aware of the safety procedures required when handling any firearm or bow.

He tutors all of his shooters on what are safe areas to shoot and when not to shoot in a direction with an unknown background. The day I was there, empty soda cans were the targets of choice with two teams vying for the win. Back when I was that age it was called “plinking.” The cans were lined up on some shelves and the idea was for each team of shooters to knock all 15 cans off the shelves first.

Each shooter was allowed three shots with a B.B. gun and then the next shooter on the team went to the firing line. Some of these young shooters were really skilled in their shooting and some of them struggled just a bit, but they were all having a ball. After a couple of competitive rounds with the cans, the shooters got a chance to bust some balloons with the air rifles.

I was also impressed with the air rifles that were being used. Each one now has a safety on it. Pereyo made each and every shooter aware of the safety and when to use it. When my kids were that age, they were taught firearm safety. If I had kids that age today, I would want them to participate in such an excellent program that promotes firearm safety.

I returned to Camp Cuno the next day to witness the outdoor archery program and was once again impressed with the safety drill given to the young archers even before they shot their arrows into the field targets. The kids were shooting recurve bows and anyone familiar with this type of bow knows that they take a special skill level to master it. These youngsters did themselves proud.

Pereyo had them participate in an “Olympic Shoot” where they rotated shooting at their team targets and when all of the arrows were fired the targets were scored.

As an added event for the young archers, Pereyo has a 3-D deer target that is showing quite a bit of use from the arrows that have been shot into it. He uses a foam repair on it, but it really has seen better years.

If any club or organization has some older but still shootable 3-D archery targets they would like to donate to the Meriden Boys & Girls Club archery range, they would be put to good use in Dominic Pereyo’s archery shoots. If you have or know of any 3-D archery targets that would be donated to the club give Dominic Pereyo a call at (203) 235-8185.

I have to say that I was very impressed with all of the activities at Camp Cuno. While I was there I saw kids being taught kayaking skills on the pond, as well as swimming and other sports, and they all seemed to be having the time of their lives. Kudos to Camp Cuno, the Meriden Boys & Girls Club and all of the good they do for Meriden’s youths. There will be another Camp Cuno for ages 9-13, from Aug. 12-16. Call (203) 235-8185 for more information.

SAFETY ON THE WATER

While at Camp Cuno I noticed some of the kids getting lessons in kayaking and also noticed that all of the participants were wearing Personal Flotation Devices (PFD a.k.a. “Life Jacket”) and it made me want to remind you how important they are. It does not make you a sissy to wear them and if you have kids in the boat they should be wearing them. The Connecticut Boater’s Guide states that any child under 13 years of age on any vessel that is underway, unless that child is below deck or in an enclosed cabin, should be wearing a PFD.

So many times the use of PFDs is laughed off in the process of using watercraft, including kayaks and canoes.

I know of a couple of incidents that did result in tragedy simply because the victims were not wearing a PFD. In one of them, a father and son were canoeing in a rather large river, a river probably comparable to our own Connecticut River, and neither of them were wearing a PFD. They had a couple of boat cushions in the bottom of the canoe, but that was it. They were paddling along when a large powerboat came zipping around the bend of the river making a wake that capsized the canoe, throwing both the father and son into the water.

The father came to the surface. The son did not. If he had been wearing a PFD, he would still be alive today.

I personally witnessed the next tragedy. A family outing off Cape Cod on the ocean side of the Cape. The occupants were having a ball. Suddenly, a wave hit the boat causing a pretty young girl to get knocked overboard and she was not wearing a PFD. She did not resurface and when her body washed ashore a couple of days later it was not pretty anymore.

A PFD would have saved her life. Each year I try to do an article that will remind our boating readers about the importance of well-fitting PFDs. I say “well-fitting” because what some people try to pass off as a PFD would be laughable if it were not so dangerous. One day I was fishing Gardner Lake in Salem and the lake was a bit choppy, stirred up by a rather strong wind. An over-sized gent in a canoe came paddling by me and I did notice that he was not wearing a PFD, but I kept my mouth shut and nodded a greeting to him as he passed.

A short time later I heard what I thought might be an odd bird call (my two hearing aids sometimes distort sounds a bit). There were no other boats on the lake that day and I turned around looking for the source of the sound when I spotted the tip of the canoe sticking up out of the water and the gent that was in it was struggling to stay afloat.

I immediately headed out to the man in the water, cutting my motor before I got to him so I would not push some more waves on him. Upon reaching him, I could see that the panic on his face was real as he gasped, “I’ve got asthma and I’m having a hard time breathing.”

I took my own PFD and somehow got it on him. I then told him, “I’m going to grab the life jacket with you in it and then I am going to fall backwards into my boat. You are going to have to help me by trying to climb over the side of my boat when I do this.”

He complained that he couldn’t do this. I yelled at him that he had no choice; there were no other boats on the water.

Long story short, I got him aboard my boat and even saved his canoe, but all of his fishing tackle now rests at the bottom of Gardner Lake.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: He did have a PFD in the canoe, a child’s PFD that was absolutely useless to him even if he had grabbed it before it floated away from him in the water. I brought him back to shore and, needless to say, he was one of the lucky ones that did not wear a PFD.

Get my point?

A reminder: PFDs must be worn by anyone being pulled by a boat (tubing or water skiing). Ski belts are not considered legal life jackets. They tell automobile operators that “seatbelts save lives.” The same goes when you are boating, “PFDs save lives.” Have a safe summer on the water.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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