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Hunter Education: Not Your Average Volunteer Work

Ever wonder where new hunters come from?

Well, it’s not that complicated: new hunters come from Hunter’s Safety classes. These classes were at one time an optional thing, but have been becoming a requirement in more and more states as the years go by.

Over time various states have noticed that making Hunter’s Ed a requirement dramatically lowers the instances of game violations and hunting accidents. This leads to legislatures making Hunter’s Ed a prerequisite for hunting and hardly ever meets with any disagreement from those being regulated.

Among hunters, the idea that Hunter’s Ed is a worthwhile rite of passage into the game fields is pretty much a given. It’s incredibly rare these days to stumble across an idea that almost everybody can agree on.

Perhaps the weirdest and most remarkable thing about Hunter’s Education classes is who teaches them. The money for the class materials and classroom space is provided by federal dollars—the tax you pay for ammo or other hunting equipment—and state fish & game agencies that help out in an administrative capacity.

The teachers, however, are all volunteers. Every spring thousands of normal everyday folks, all across America, donate hours of their time to teach Hunter’s Education.

Some of these people (one old boy here in Montana, for instance) will log more than fifty years teaching these classes for free. This isn’t an average kind of commitment to volunteer work, but then again, hunters aren’t your average kind of people.

When you think about it, the American hunter really shoulders a heavy burden. The money we pay out for tags supports all of our wildlife management programs and personnel. This cash is also the only source of funding for programs like block management, which allows farm and ranch lands to remain large, undeveloped tracts where wildlife can flourish.

The tax money generated from us buying guns, ammo, archery tackle and a hundred other items goes to fund additional land-centered programs.

In essence, the American hunter keeps America wild. We provide a place for wildlife to live and constantly hold the line in its preservation.

Obviously, if this system is going to continue, we need a steady supply of new hunters from every generation. This is where Hunter’s Safety programs come into play.

The new hunters will pick up the burden as we shuffle off, hopefully keeping parts of America wild forever.

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This year, at the age of 34, I started teaching Hunter’s Education. One of the reasons I waited so long to do this is because I felt that I should know just about everything regarding my sport before teaching.

In this regard I was wrong; I should have started teaching Hunter’s Ed decades ago.

My thinking that you need twenty odd years of trigger time under your belt was a complete fallacy. In reality, when you teach Hunter’s Ed you’re not really teaching kids or newcomers to the sport how to hunt, you’re teaching them regulations and safety skills.

Like any class there is a well-rehearsed lesson plan, and I probably could have done a decent job at it when I was eighteen. Starting earlier would have allowed me to do a lot more for America’s hunting heritage, but until I started teaching Hunter’s Ed I didn’t realize how much it could have done for me personally.

I’m not the most sociable person in the world, but I have to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my fellow Hunter’s Ed instructors. It’s not much of a surprise, really—they’re all hunters.

When it comes to donating time it’s a heck of a bonus to be able to donate it along with a bunch of rifle cranks, elk hunting loonies and deer chasing nuts.

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Really, I wish I’d started hanging out with them sooner. At the annual initiation meeting where the new instructors meet the old hands, I got to spend the better part of an hour debating the merits of the 9.3×62 for big game, leadless ammo and the recent remake of the Henry rifle.

Okay, so maybe it’s not everybody’s idea of a good time, but its great fun for a guy like me. By and large, they’re a great bunch of old-timers who are incredibly welcoming to anybody who wants to help out.

The fact that most of my cool new acquaintances are getting a little long in the tooth is one of the main concerns right now with the Hunter’s Ed program. Statistically, most folks who do volunteer work are a little older; it’s just easier to find the time when the kids are grown and you’re retired.

The rub with Hunter’s Ed instructors is that most of them didn’t get older and start teaching—most of them have been teaching so long they got old. The average age right now for a Hunter’s Ed instructor in Montana is 50 years old, and it’s not much younger nationwide.

I’ll say one good thing for this statistic, it’s been a while since everybody in the room called me Junior or Kiddo, and it kind of makes me feel like a kid again. The issue, aside from stroking my ego, is that the aging of the Hunter’s Ed instructor population isn’t a good thing.

The older you get, the more wisdom you gain and the better teacher you become, but nothing lasts forever. Right now the Hunter’s Ed program needs some young blood injected into it.

As previously mentioned, there’s no better place for a young hunter than the Hunter’s Ed program. As an instructor, you can help build the future of American hunting and spend some time with other hunters.

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If you feel like you’re not well-versed enough in hunting to be an instructor, don’t make the same mistake I did. Anybody with some time on their hands, a little enthusiasm and a love for wildlife conservation can be a fine Hunter’s Ed instructor.

Regardless of what you knew before, after spending a few hours with some of the older instructors, you’ll know more about hunting and shooting than Elmer Keith and Teddy Roosevelt combined.

When it comes to volunteer work, you’ve got a lot of choices. You can serve soup at a shelter or pick up trash on the side of the highway, but Hunter’s Ed offers a unique opportunity.

When you teach the next generation of hunters, you’re not just ushering some kids through a class. You’re teaching kids that are going to grow up and continue the preservation of our whole country.

They’re going to keep our wildlife populations sustainable and our wild places wild because of their love for the sport of hunting.

There are a lot of things you can do to help out in this world, but becoming a Hunter’s Education instructor is one of the few things you can do that benefits the entire nation and that benefits people who haven’t even been born yet.

That’s a lot of accomplishment for a simple donation of about thirty hours per year.

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Hunter Education: Not Your Average Volunteer Work