Here’s to hunter safety instructors

Hunter safety education students learn how to safely and properly use firearms. (Michigan DNR)

I appreciated a recent DNR press release about hunter safety classes and the instructors who teach them, and how they help keep hunting a cherished tradition in Michigan.

The story was part of the “Showcasing the DNR” series that is published every week and it discussed the volunteers who make hunter safety courses so great. It caused me to recall dim memories of taking the hunter safety course with my brother way back in 1974. I still have the hunter safety card that we were issued after that class, and it’s a good thing, since over the years that certificate has been a requirement when I’ve applied for hunting licenses in other states.

If I remember correctly, my brother and I took the course in a Detroit-area Michigan National Guard armory that was full of prospective hunters. I don’t remember if there were any girls in that class – I doubt it, back then – but one of the instructors highlighted in the recent DNR press release said the last class he taught in mid-Michigan had 43 students that included 23 girls and 7 women.

The face of hunting truly has changed.

According to the DNR story, hunter safety has been around since the mid-1940s, when the National Rifle Association conducted the program. The states assumed control later, and Michigan was one of the first states to do so. In 1971, shortly before my brother and I took the course, hunter safety training became mandatory for all first-time hunters aged 12 to 16. In 1988, it became mandatory for all first-time hunters born after Jan. 1, 1960, and the DNR says that’s when incidents of hunting casualties really started to drop dramatically.

The scope of the training has changed greatly, too. Back in ’74, we didn’t go to the range or participate in simulating hunting situations. The training was all done in the classroom.

But no matter, whether we had the extensive training that young (and older) hunters are getting these days, or whether we had a certificate in our pockets, the rules of the road were emphasized by the adults who took us out. I can still hear my dad saying, “Gun safety! Gun safety!,” when we were unloading our guns and passing them over to him while we slid under the barbed wire fences on our uncle’s dairy farm.

Here’s to hunter safety instructors, both those certified by the DNR and those who are just family members and friends who realize the importance of maintaining our cherished tradition.

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