I have often written about the need for us sportsmen and women to give back to the way of life we so deeply cherish as hands-on participants in the wildlife conservation model. One of the most effective ways to do so is to introduce others to our lifestyle by simply taking someone new hunting or fishing. In fact, across the nation, fish and wildlife agencies, industry leaders and non-government organizations are collaborating in national recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3 Movement) efforts to increase participation in hunting, fishing, trapping, boating, recreational shooting and other wildlife-related activities.
There is a perfect example of that happening here at home and I applaud our West Virginia Division of Natural Resources for taking the lead on this. A prime example is House Bill 4065, allowing the WVDNR to teach hunter safety courses in school, recently signed by Gov. Jim Justice. In short, the bill allows for the teaching of hunter education during the school day or at a time when students have an opportunity for school-provided transportation.
I reached out to WVDNR law enforcement Capt. Warren Goodson for more information on this and he provided me with some background on hunter education and the new law.
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, must first successfully complete a Certified Hunter Education course before purchasing a base hunting license. When purchasing a hunting license, the person must present a certificate of completion to the agent issuing the license.
The first hunter education class taught in West Virginia was in 1968. It consisted of a short talk and a movie. In 1971, West Virginia won the National Rifle Association award for outstanding contributions to the field of hunter education. Today the course takes an average of 12 hours to complete. Over 400,000 students have passed the course since it began. This could not have been accomplished without the help of over 200 trained volunteer instructors who donate hundreds of hours and drive thousands of miles each year.
The traditional hunter education course is offered for free, and topics include gun safety, wildlife management, ethics, survival/first aid, game identification and how to hunt safely and ethically. You will enjoy listening to volunteer instructors and natural resources police officers pass on their expertise and hunting experiences, talking with your fellow hunters during class breaks, and getting familiar with the total hunting experience. Extra help is available for those who may need it. Students who have not reached their 10th birthday by the written test date of the class will not receive a permanent hunter education certification. Students can locate and register for the free traditional hunter education class at www.register-ed.com.
In 2017, director Steve McDaniel pushed to have hunter education taught in every middle school within the state of West Virginia. As of April 2019, the DNR Law Enforcement Section was in 284 school systems.
“As we discussed, the Hunter Education Bill would allow us to be more approachable and plant that seed for a need within the school systems throughout,” said Capt. Goodson. “It is another tool to teach and certify safe and ethical hunters in West Virginia.”
The law calls for offering the hunter education class in every middle school in the state during the spring semester. Counties also have the option to offer a fall class as well.