In 1949, the National Rifle Association (NRA), in conjunction with New York state, established the first mandatory hunter education program in the nation.
It has been 62 years, and the New York state hunter safety course is still the foundation of educational hunting safety in the United States and Canada. I’m quite familiar with our northern neighbor’s hunter safety training because three years ago, I had to take an eight-hour turkey hunting class and pass a lengthy written test before I could hunt in the Province of Ontario, and the class was excellent.
Since I took my hunter safety course in the mid-1960s, I’ve visited several of these courses presented at various sportsman clubs and those given by the New York State 4H Shooting Sports group in Ballston Spa. It’s interesting to compare today’s course agendas with those I found in a 1973 edition of the Instructor’s Manual Hunter Safety and Conservation Program booklet published by the NRA. Although some of the guns and regulations have changed, they’ve never lost track of the main theme — SAFETY. As I read through some of the lessons and instructions of this 92-page booklet, I realized how much work is involved in both preparation and presentation of this educational course.
Becoming an instructor doesn’t cost anything but time. The Hunter Education course is 10 hours, and the bow and trapper instructor courses are eight hours each. After passing the course(s), provisional instructors teach with an experienced instructor(s) until completing a checklist of instructional tasks. Now the good part — the pay scale for a highly skilled Sportsman Education Instructor is monetarily zero, but the rewards and satisfaction they get is knowing that their students will be going afield with the complete knowledge needed to be a safe and ethical hunter/shooter.
In four decades of hunting, I’ve met a number of individuals who have dedicated a major part of their life to the development, education and promotion of our youth and adults in the shooting and hunting sports. It’s unfortunate that many of these people are often overlooked. But they don’t request recognition or praise because they strongly believe that shooting is a lifetime sport, and in today’s world, it requires passing on this tradition. One of these individuals was recently recognized nationally, and I’d like to recognize him locally.
Last January, Kenyon Simpson of Bolton Landing, a Master Shooting Sports Instructor, was presented the 2011 Crosman Friend of Youth Shooting Award. This award annually recognizes and honors a person or organization whose commitment to excellence in youth shooter education and dedication of a lifetime of safe shooting has promoted and enhanced the sport. Crosman’s president and CEO Ken D’Arcy, when presenting this award, said that Kenyon has been working with youth, both in the classroom and in the field, since he was a child at his father’s side. And as someone who has known Kenyon as a friend and fellow member of the New York State Outdoor Writers Association, I’ve witnessed his unending enthusiastic approach to youth shooting sports training. It’s this jovial approach with these young shooters that’s truly unique.
It’s not surprising that Kenyon has spent 30 years as an elementary school teacher, which I believe is one of the primary reasons for his success in shooting sports training and safety with the kids. And he also works with these kids in the classroom and in the field. He’s very deserving of this award.
Another gentleman who has been teaching hunter education courses for a while is Rudolph Hektor, who is a legend in western New York. This year, he’ll be starting his 64th year as a Hunter Education Instructor. He started as an instructor with the NRA, then took over as the state county coordinator and is an inductee in the Hunters’ Hall of Fame.
On Jan. 28, New York State 4-H Shooting Sports will host its 25th annual New York’s Educators Workshop at the Extension Education Center in Ballston Spa. This year will again be the largest gathering of New York’s Sportsman Education Instructors, and the public is welcome.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming an instructor, this is the place to ask and interact with those who are. As always, the focus will be on ways to improve classes and reach out to recruit.
Twenty-five years ago, when this workshop began, its purpose was to give the instructors the tools and insight to become better educators. Since then, this purpose has continued, allowing discussion of the current regulations changes and/or additions, such as crossbow hunting, antler restrictions and the general promotion of youth hunting.
This year’s workshop will be held in two parts. In the morning session, attendees will hear some amazing stories from young hunters, a question/answer session led by environmental conservation officer Lt. Deming Lindsley and the challenges ahead by Gordon Batcheller. After lunch, there’ll be a series of refresher courses for those who need it.
Registration fees are $15 for DE C instructors, $25 for all others. You can register in the morning from 8-9, or call 885-8995.
The third annual Sportsmen and Outdoor Recreation Legislative Awareness Day will be held March 20 from 9 a.m.-noon in the Well of the Legislative Office Building in Albany. Hosted by Assembly minority leader Brian Kolb and sponsored by Tom King and the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, this year’s special guest speaker is Wayne LaPierre, executive VP and CEO of the NRA. To reserve a table for an organization, call Tara Wiley at 455-5073.
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