Department of Fish and Wildlife
Kentucky Afield Outdoors- Hunter Education teaches safe hunting
– It is a few minutes before 6 p.m. on Friday and vehicles continue pulling
into the parking lot at the Scott County Extension Center.
An orange sign
marked “Hunter Education” confirms the visitors are in the right place and
directs them to proceed to the North Room, where a uniformed Kentucky
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conservation educator welcomes his
Jamie Cook asks
everybody to take a registration form and a copy of the “Today’s Hunter” guide.
The form will be their “passport” for the next two days, he says, and the
112-page study guide will complement the classroom instruction.
“All of you are
here for different reasons,” Cook, who oversees the Hunter’s Legacy program,
tells the room. “We want you to leave tomorrow afternoon safe hunters. That’s
what we want to teach you.”
courses like this are offered throughout the state and serve as an important
step in the development of responsible, safe, knowledgeable and involved
born on or after Jan. 1, 1975 are required to successfully complete the course.
A one-year, one-time only exemption card is available for hunters unable to
complete coursework by the start of a season.
More than 14,000
people took the hunter education course last year in Kentucky, according to
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Hunter Education
Supervisor Bill Balda.
The desire to
partake in the spring turkey season provides the motivation for many enrollees
this time of year, although children wishing to participate in shooting sports
offered through 4-H also take the course. Then, there are those people with no
hunting tradition in their families, but an interest in starting one.
The course is
offered in a classroom setting, online or on a CD. The classroom option spans
10 hours over two days. It takes a few minutes to register online at fw.ky.gov.
option is a good one for families and those new to hunting. The interaction
enhances the learning process. With a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife instructor and
volunteers present, students can get answers to questions immediately.
registered for the class taught by Cook and volunteers Becky Bloomfield and
Chace Wallen. Forty-seven showed up. There were fathers and sons, fathers and
daughters, and entire families. A few students were alone.
The class opened
with a short film portraying poor hunter behavior that led into a discussion
about hunter ethics and responsibility.
instruction included more videos and PowerPoint slides, but an open dialogue
kept the class engaged. There are areas of emphasis, the occasional joke and
subtle hints about what might appear on the next day’s exam.
firearm as if it was loaded was one phrase heard, and repeated, often.
Class broke at
around 9 p.m. Friday after covering the importance of planning and preparation,
hunting strategies, shot selection, survival skills, types of firearms and how
to handle them safely. This session also educated attendees about the hunter’s
role in wildlife conservation. It would reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Saturday and
cover tree stand safety, ammunition, archery and trapping before exam time.
To earn the
coveted orange hunter education card, which is valid in every state and shows
you grasp the basics, a person must correctly answer at least 80 percent of the
50 questions on a written exam and participate in the “range day.”
“Do most people
pass?” a young lady asked.
Cook assured that
most people pass.
The test is split
into true-false and multiple choice questions. All but one student earned a
passing grade. After a lunch break, the class
reconvened at nearby Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area (WMA) for the
range portion. Another 37 students who completed the online or CD course
offerings attended it as well.
group started at the skeet shooting station. Shooters were given their choice
of a 12-gauge pump action shotgun or 20-gauge single shot, break action
shotgun. Most of the kids opted for the 20-gauge while the adults chose the
Wallen loaded the
guns for the younger shooters and everybody could take up to three shots at
clay targets arcing through the air from left to right. Some stopped after one
attempt. Others walked away rubbing their shoulder from the kick of the gun but
happy to have had the opportunity.
students’ passports after successfully completing the exercise.
As the day wore
on, camaraderie developed among the group that had taken the class together.
Small talk turned into full-fledged conversations as people waited for their
turn at the final two stations.
The day’s last
group included two father-son pairs, a college-aged woman and a 39-year-old
father of two with no previous hunting experience.
practiced techniques for carrying a gun in the field - in this case an unloaded
air gun – were quizzed about shot selection and reviewed tree stand safety
before walking back to a vacant house on the property that served as a meeting
Blaze orange vests
were returned and passports submitted for the final time. Cook signed the
papers and placed them in a cardboard box. It was around 4 p.m. and the group
had successfully completed the hunter education course.
hunter education cards would be arriving within two weeks, opening the door to
continuing family traditions or creating new ones in Kentucky and elsewhere.