Norwegians check out Montana

“Do you need a license to buy ammunition?”

“No,” I replied. “All you need is money.”

That exchange was while I was showing a houseguest my gun cabinet. Our guests were relatives from Norway, Inger Lise and Robert Bjoerk. Inger Lise is the granddaughter of my father’s oldest sister, which makes her a cousin of sorts, a first cousin once removed, if I understand those technicalities.

They lived many years in the city of Trondheim but after retiring from jobs as an elementary teacher and manager for ISS Norway, part of a worldwide company that provides a variety of business management services, they bought a home on the Atlantic Coast.

Robert enjoys the outdoors, especially fishing, and has a boat docked just a four-minute drive from his house. He also enjoys hunting, though doesn’t often have the opportunity to do much hunting.

He owns a couple long guns, a double-barreled shotgun and a rifle, and mentioned that Norwegian law requires people to store firearms in a gun safe.

According to Wikipedia, hunting is popular in Norway, and civilians can freely own shotguns and semi-automatic and bolt action rifles. There is a total ban on automatic action firearms. There are some caliber restrictions on handguns, but as long as handguns are used for sports shooting, a recreational shooter can own up to four handguns.

To own firearms, Norwegians must obtain an ownership license and show a legitimate use for the firearm. Hunting and sport shooting are considered legitimate uses. Prospective owners get their license through the local police department, and must show they are “sober and responsible,” as well as not have a police record.

Incidentally, to get a hunting license, a person must successfully attend a 30-hour, 9-session class in firearm theory, firearm training, wildlife theory, and environmental protection. There is a good population of big game, including roe deer, red deer (similar to our elk), reindeer, and moose (which are called elk in Scandinavia). In addition there are grouse and ptarmigan for upland bird hunters, as well as waterfowl.

Norway has an enviable record for an almost non-existent rate of firearms homicides, especially compared to the United States, though the tragedy of this year’s mass homicide demonstrates the fact that no set of controls is foolproof.

On their visit, Robert and I took advantage of good weather for a day’s outing, first stopping at a shooting range. We were mainly plinking at tin cans, and Robert, who had mandatory military training in younger years, was a crack shot.

The next stop was on a Big Hole tributary creek where we caught some brook trout, destined to be appetizers for that evening’s dinner.

A lunch break on the Big Hole River was the next stop, where we enjoyed fall sunshine that made the day’s chilly breezes seem quite tolerable. We agreed that a ham sandwich on the banks of a trout stream is first class fare.

The Big Hole’s fish were not so cooperative, however. We fished a couple spots on our area’s premier river without either of us having a nibble on our flies. As we put fishing gear away for the trip home I asked Robert, “In Norway, do they ever say, ‘You should have been here last week’?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Yes, fishing was much better last week. In fact, the fish were jumping out of the water. You didn’t even have to fish for them.”

While Robert and I enjoyed a day of shooting and fishing, our wives were busy on sewing and knitting projects and they fantasized about some of the fancy sewing machines now on the market.

At this point it became apparent there was a culture gap regarding one aspect of American fishing we’d chatted about a few days earlier: catch and release.

The women had been shopping for sewing and other craft items and Inger Lise said we shouldn’t worry about the expense. “It’s no different than all the money you spend on fishing,” adding with ridicule, “and then you just throw the fish back in the river.”