Hunter education instructors learn, share concerns in workshop
New York State Shooting Sports held its 26th annual workshop last month in Ballston Spa.
More than 200 attended the program at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in the Saratoga County office building for Department of Environmental Conservation sportsman education instructors.
These men and women traveled from all over the state for this one-day event.
The morning began with a welcoming address by John Bowe, assistant director of the New York State 4-H Shooting Sports, followed by the pledge of allegiance led by Bob Hodorowski of Saratoga Springs.
Bill Schwerd, state 4-H Shooting Sports director, kicked off the morning’s presentations by highlighting the coming changes and challenges these instructors will face in 2013. He was assisted by a local youngster, Logan Kimble-Lee of Saratoga Springs. Kimble-Lee, a junior member of the 4-H Shooting Sports, is also a bird hunter and avid shooting sports enthusiast.
The first speaker, Gordon Batcheller, chief wildlife biologist with DEC, gave an in-depth look at what is happening at DEC and answered a number of questions from the attending instructors.
Also in attendance and adding to the DEC report was Chuck Dente, a DEC biologist who also was bombarded with a lot of the instructors’ concerns. Melissa Bailey of the DEC wildlife office followed with a brief recap of the National Archery in Schools Program, of which New York has been a participant since 2007. Melissa has trained many of our physical education teachers for this program and would like to train more. This is a program I would like to see in all schools. For more information on this national program, go to www.archeryintheschools.org.
Jeff Liddle, DEC sportsman education coordinator, gave a brief rundown on the sportsman education program and its needs, which generated questions, one of which was the problem of finding and training “new” instructors.
Coincidentally, one of the things I noticed while sitting in the last row in the room was a lot of gray heads or those like mine, with little or no hair. If we’re going to carry on the shooting sports/hunting tradition, we’re going to need new instructors. This topic was thoroughly discussed.
Rick McDermott, founder of the New York Crossbow Coalition, also gave a report on the coalition’s continued efforts to get a “good” crossbow bill in the state Legislature.
Last, but definitely not least, was Environmental Conservation Officer Lt. Deming Lindsey, an instructor at the ECO Academy, who highlighted the new hunting/fishing regulations and got bombarded with questions. He’s entertaining, witty, very knowledgeable of the conservation laws and always leaves the crowd laughing. At the end of his speech, he announced he would be retiring this year and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
I always mingle among the instructors at lunch. They’re really a rare and dedicated group of individuals who literally spend days and nights educating those future bow, crossbow and firearms hunters/shooters and trappers who will carry on these traditions. For those hours of classroom and hands-on instruction, they’re all paid the same amount — nothing — and I’ve never once heard a complaint.
It was obvious that afternoon, as I listened to their conversations, that these instructors were proud of the number of certificates that they had signed for successful students. One thing I’ve witnessed on several occasions when I’ve attended these classes, is that everyone who has a problem with either the text or hands-on exercises always received extra attention until they comprehended and understood. Last year, these 3,000 certified DEC Sportsman Education Instructors turned lose 30,000 well-trained, safety-conscious hunters, shooters and trappers.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Interested in joining this group to help carry on the tradition of hunting and hunter safety? Here’s what’s required. You must be at least 18, with at least three years of experience in one or more of: hunting, bowhunting, trapping and waterfowl ID.
You must be of good character, respected in the community and a good communicator, especially with young people.
Once you’ve completed instructor training and apprenticeship, you must teach at least one course per year and attend a refresher course every two years. To get an application, call (800) HUNTER-ED or click here.
Members of a sportsman club that does not offer Hunter Ed classes — it would be a great community service and you would be doing your part to carry on the hunting, shooting, trapping tradition. Remember new hunters/shooters could also mean new club members.
NATIONAL HUNTING SURVEY
One of the handouts I received at the workshop was the final results of the “2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It was quite interesting to learn how much money sportsmen and women spend.
Did you know that 38 percent of the country’s population (90.1 million) participated in wildlife-related recreational activities and spent $145 billion on fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching in 2011?
Breaking down the numbers, there were 33.1 million anglers, 13.7 million hunters and 71.8 million wildlife watchers. In terms of time afield, big-game hunters spend an average of 11.6 days each year; small-game hunters, 4.5 days; waterfowlers, 2.6, and all others, 2.2. Hunters spend 33.7 billion annually, $14 billion of which was on equipment. The 11 percent excise tax collected on that amount (required by the Pittman-Robertson Act) goes back to the states to support wildlife management programs.
We’re definitely paying our way.