Last month, I had the honor of attending the 27th annual New York State Shooting Sports Sportsman Education Workshop at the Cooperative Education Center in Ballston Spa.
There were 200 certified hunter safety instructors from all over the state. These are the men and women who volunteer their time and knowledge to insure their students are thoroughly trained in firearms safety and how to be a responsible and conservation-conscious hunter/trapper.
These volunteers educated, certified and introduced 30,000 newcomers to the shooting sports, and most importantly, the majority of these students were youngsters who will carry on the hunting/shooting tradition.
The workshop started with a series of speakers, which I always find to be quite interesting. The first presenter was John Bowe, assistant director of New York Shooting Sports, who congratulated all instructors for their work in 2013 and then detailed some of the instructor highlights throughout the year. He asked the attendees how many have been at it for over 25 years, and I was astonished at how many hands went up. What would have happened 25 years ago if these individuals didn’t volunteer? Fortunately, they did, but obviously, there’s a need now for more instructors to carry on for those who will soon be retiring.
I’m embarrassed I never became a hunter safety instructor, but there’s time for many of you not to make that mistake. Most sportsman clubs have hunter ed instructors, but I’m sure there are clubs that don’t. Why not poll your members through club newsletters for volunteers? Those of you who do not belong to clubs, can also sign up.
The requirements are simple. You must be 18 or older and have three years of experience in one of the following: hunting, bowhunting, trapping or waterfowl ID, and have a good personality and communication skills. To get an application, go to www.dec.-ny.gov/outdoor/9189.html or call (888) 486-8332.
Bill Schwerd, NYS 4H shooting sports coordinator, covered some of the year’s changes and challenges. In addition to applauding the works of the instructors and their accomplishments, he explained some of the changes, including more women in the shooting sports, especially hunting, and the need to elect more representatives who support hunting and shooting traditions.
Chief wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller enlightened all about the status of several Department of Environmental Conservation management plans that included black bears, bobcats, moose, mute swans and invasive species and fish management plans. You can follow the nature and progress of all these on the DEC website. You can also find a full explanation of the new fees and date changes in both the resident and non-resident sporting licenses.
DEC sportsman education administrator Chuck Dente and Jeff Little, DEC sportsman education programs, also addressed some sportsman education program wants and needs.
Invasive species was also on the agenda, and Laurel Gailor of the Mohawk PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management), along with Regina Keenan of the state Department of Environmental Health, filled attendees in on the waterfowl advisory between Hudson Falls and Troy.
Did you know that you must carry and be able to produce your valid license (fishing, hunting and trapping) whenever you’re engaged in one of those activities? Even if you have a lifetime license? I now do that. Oops!