Legislation could take hunting and fishing into schools
As members of the outdoor media, we are always advocating outreach into the younger ranks to get them on the water or out in the field. The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has established several youth hunts for big game (deer and bear), spring gobblers, waterfowl and pheasants in an effort to get more of the next generation involved with these popular outdoor pastimes. Believe it or not, some people and groups have been critical of these youth hunts … but that’s another story for another time.
The most recent push came from the state’s Legislature … again. Legislation has been proposed that would make hunting and fishing a part of the state’s high school system through gym classes. One of the bill’s sponsors is Assemblyman Brian Kolb of Canandaigua. If passed, it would place the onus on the DEC to come up with a plan and tweak it so that it would be part of a curriculum on outdoor recreation. It’s a great idea, focusing on grades 9 through 12.
Assembly Bill A3256 would promote education in hunting, fishing and outdoor education by teaching high school students about seasons, species, licensing and the background of why hunting and fishing are important in the overall scheme of things. And if it does become law and hunting and fishing is pushed in schools, it will be a natural to teach hunter safety training, too. However, that raises a lot of questions.
For instance, hunter safety training utilizes certified instructors right now. Would teachers need to become certified or would hunter safety instructors be brought into the schools? Since the schools are “no firearms” zones, how would they handle that portion of hunter safety training to handle firearms and learn how to shoot? I know we might be getting ahead of ourselves, but if we truly want this to work, we need to think this all through.
Niagara County’s Chapter of the Shooters Committee On Political Education (SCOPE) has already planted the seed to try and reach out to a local school to see if they can implement a pilot program on hunter safety education in the schools. The county’s sheriff’s department is on board and they are looking for a local school to make that happen. Again, many of the details still need to be worked out but the basic foundation is there. And it’s all about getting the next generation of sportsmen involved with these outdoor pastimes. This could be dovetailed into the state’s efforts being discussed right now.
A related effort that’s currently going on in the schools right now is the National Archery in the Schools Program. In a recent New York state tournament held, 23 school districts were represented by more than 500 student archers. The top shooters and teams represented the Empire State at the national shoot in Kentucky. This program continues to grow as success stories continue to be told. It is also part of the physical education curriculum.
It’s not the first time the state has considered this type of an option, with discussions dating back a decade or more. Who knows, this might be the lucky charm effort that finally gets it off the ground. It needs to be sooner rather than later.