L.L. Bean is more than a purveyor of Bean Boots and flannels for some Bowdoin students—it’s a place to shoot clay targets and practice using firearms.

Andrew Haeger ’16, Will Goodenough ’16 and Eric Chien ’14 founded the Rod and Gun Club as a division of the Outing Club last fall.

The club faced some difficulties in its beginnings because the Student Organizations Oversight Committee thought hunting might be a liability issue for the College, anticipating that the College’s Risk Management Department could be uncomfortable with students operating such a club on their own.

“They wanted to make sure we weren’t going around waving guns in the air, which wasn’t the point,” Haeger said.

The Rod and Gun Club now falls under the umbrella of the Outing Club. This way, leaders are required to complete Wilderness First Responder and First-Aid training. Director of the Outing Club Mike Woodruff helps oversee the club’s operations to assuage concerns about safety.

“I think hunting, fishing and shooting are all traditional outdoor activities in Maine, and they’re not something that have been happening recently at Bowdoin,” Woodruff said. “In terms of the College, the concern is always student safety. That’s why the idea of having hunter safety and bow hunter and archery safety courses is important so that when people do these activities they have the knowledge and skills to do them safely.”

These safety courses are each nine hours, spread out over a few days and are taught by officials from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Though he is not a member of the Rod and Gun Club, senior John Lefeber is taking the firearms safety class to get his firearms license for hunting.

“I’ve bow hunted for the past year and want to get my firearms license too, so this is the next logical step,” Lefeber said. “I’ve been pretty outdoorsy and active my entire life, but up until last year I hadn’t done any hunting. I’d only done fishing, and it was something I had been interested in.”

Abigail Mahoney ’16, who is currently enrolled in the firearm safety course, is a member of the club and hopes to go on trips planned for the future.

“I like guns, and I like hunting. I hunt a lot with my family and also do biathlons and I would like to hunt in Maine,” Mahoney said.

Other students without previous experience learn how to shoot by practicing at shooting ranges like the one at L.L. Bean. 

“It’s great if students can gain these skills because hunting and fishing are lifetime sports and they’re not necessarily activities people have been exposed to growing up,” Woodruff said.

The club has already organized a few trips, but they have encountered some difficulties along the way. Hunting seasons are regulated by the state, and most regulated times occur in the fall except for spring turkey hunting. Fishing, however, is not as time-sensitive.

“Fishing is a little more versatile, but a lot of water freezes over in the winter,” Haeger said.
While some students enjoy hunting, Haeger acknowledged a certain stigma surrounding those who do engage in that activity.

“There are a lot of people who are anti-hunting but in reality, it’s good for the environment because it provides tools for the environment in cases of overpopulation,” Haeger said.

He pointed to the case of deer in Mass., which pose a danger to drivers. Hunters can kill their own food while keeping these populations in check.

“We’re not out there to kill; we’re out there to celebrate what we harvest,” he added.