Hunter safety courses focus on 'responsible' students

Jan 16 2011 - 1:59pm


Some want to go hunting. Others are there because their parents want them to be safe.

No matter what the reason, students continue to fill up classrooms around the state for hunter education courses offered by the Utah Division of Wildlife resources.

In 2010, approximately 11,000 students passed the safety class.

That is good news for the DWR.

"The program works," said Gary Cook, the hunter education coordinator for the DWR. "It has drastically reduced the number of incidents that we have and has made hunting a lot safer."

A new session of the course began Wednesday at the Layton City Parks and Recreation Downstairs Training Room, and for the next three weeks students will spend 21aN2 hours on Wednesday and Thursday nights learning about firearm safety.

Kevin Bryan, a volunteer instructor who has been teaching the hunter safety course for two years, said not all of his students plan on becoming hunters.

"Their parents think it's a good idea to send them because someone in the family hunts and there are guns in the house," Bryan said. "The parents want the kids to make the right decisions."

But most are there because they want to hunt.

In order to pass the course and get their blue card, which is a prerequisite for a hunting license, students have to prove they can safely handle a firearm. First, they must score 76 percent or higher on a 50-question, multiple-choice, test dealing with gun safety. Then, they must demonstrate that they can safely handle a firearm through practical exercises and participate in live firing.

For the current group of students at the Layton class, the live firing will take place on Jan. 22 at the Cache Valley Public Shooting Range in Logan. While at the range, Bryan said the students have to shoot 30 rounds with a .22 caliber rifle and have to hit a target 50 feet away 15 times. They will shoot from three different positions.

Students must also be recommended by the instructor to obtain certification by demonstrating responsibility and the maturity to be a safe, responsible and ethical hunter. That is something Bryan takes seriously.

"They have to be very responsible. That's a big part of my curriculum and other instructors I know of look at it real close," Bryan said. "It depends on their overall attitude, how they interact with the other people in the class, if they represent themselves in a professional manner and how they handle their firearms. It's kind of subjective."

Michelle Howard, Layton's recreation events coordinator, said that the city held five classes in 2010 and they all were full to capacity. She said that the city organizes the classes as often as an instructor is available.

There is often a waiting list, but Howard said hardly anyone drops out once they get into the course.

"I think that is because hunting is so popular in the state, and in order to be allowed to go hunting you have to have this certificate," Howard said.

Bryan said that only 5 to 10 percent of the class are females, and they stand out for another reason besides being in the minority.

"They tend to shoot a little more consistently than the guys do," Bryan said. "That's pretty much common knowledge."

Cook said that over the last 10 years, Utah has averaged five or six hunting accidents per year. Last year, there were only two, and neither were fatal. He said the credit goes to the roughly 600 volunteer instructors who teach classes each year.

"The course originally just started off as firearms safety, and it's evolved over the years to include a lot of things," Cook said. "But that's still our primary focus of this program, firearm safety."

Those who can't get into the traditional classroom setting of the courses can take either the basic hunter safety education or the bow hunter safety education classes online.

Cook said in the next few months the DWR should be offering the trapping education program online as well

From Around the Web