A bill sponsored by Wyoming County Senator Billy Wayne Bailey and Fayette County Senator Shirley Love aims to return hunter education classes to the West Virginia public school system.
"If we teach bowling, roller skating, basketball and baseball, why not teach hunter education?" Bailey said in an interview on West Virginia Outdoors. "That’s part of our culture in West Virginia and I’m not ashamed of it."
The legislature passed a law several years ago requiring hunters to complete a hunter education course to qualify to buy a license. Older hunters were grand fathered into the system, meaning those attending the course are largely youngsters between the ages of 10 and 18. The courses have been extremely effective in reducing the number of hunting related accidents in West Virginia. They problem however, is finding time to take the course.
"Our high school children have all sorts of different activities and most of the time the only time these courses are taught are in the evenings," said Bailey. "I thought if we could take it into our high schools it could stimulate interest and not take young people away from homework and sports practice."
Bailey seems to have the support of fellow Senators as well as the backing of the DNR and the state Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine.
"He (Paine) was a superintendent in one of the northern counties and he allowed them to come into the schools and teach hunter safety. He told me the two weeks he taught that, absenteeism went down during those two weeks," said Bailey.
For Bailey, it’s an extension of the mission of a high school P-E class, where the goal is to teach physical activities that can be pursued later in life.
"I don’t know too many 70-year olds who play basketball," said Bailey. "But I know a lot of 70 year olds who pull out the old 30-30 before deer season and get ready to hit the mountains looking for that trophy buck."
Some have expressed apprehension over allowing a weapon of any kind into the schools for any reason. Bailey says the courses use guns as teaching tools that have been completely disabled. He adds that the bulk of the volunteers who teach hunter education are retired DNR employees who would closely monitor all activities in the class.
Bailey says he and Senator Love have introduced the bill each of the last ten-years, and even once managed to win approval of the full Senate. That year it died in the House of Delegates. He’s hoping this year he can curry enough favor to get the bill to the governor’s desk and bring hunter education into the public school domain.