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Hunter Education Works in Wayne County


The West Virginia legislature gained some national attention when a bill introduced this year proposed teaching hunter education in the public school classrooms.    National media became excited about the idea, but in reality it was nothing new at all.

Wayne County Schools have been allowing the DNR to teach hunter education in their classrooms for the last 28-years with great success.

"For the 28-years this program has been running all of the people that have successfully passed the class and received a hunter education card, they’ve never been involved in a hunting incident in Wayne County," said local Conservation Officer Ronnie Runyon.

Photo: WSAZ TV

Runyon and his fellow C-O’s are welcomed into the classrooms to a captive audience of seventh graders.  The Wayne County School Board allows all seventh gradestudents an opportunity to take hunter education for an hour a day for two weeks, or in some cases two hours a day for a week.   Each student must have their parents’ permission to be involved.

"They’re attentive and very well behaved," said Runyon.  "They just about hinge on every word you say as far as wanting to pay attention." 

Wayne Middle School takes the class a step further.   Those who successfully complete the course get to join a field trip to the shooting range at Beech Fork Wildlife Management Area for a live-fire exercise under the close supervision of Conservation Officers.

"In this part of the state or in this state in general, hunting is a big thing.  It’s important for them to know how to handle these firearms safely," said Wayne Middle School 7th grade teacher Mike Skeens who’s a big believer in the program. "Sometime in their life these children are going to encounter guns some way or another, whether they own a gun, whether they hunt, or whether they stumble across one. This gives them the skills to know how to handle a gun safely."

The students all got a chance to fire a .22 rifle at a fixed target with proper instruction.   The top shooters among the boys and girls were awarded

Photo: WSAZ TV

medals. However, for some it was the first time they’d ever had their hands on a gun–and it was a positive experience that taught them not only an appreciation for shooting, but also a respect for the power of a firearm.

After the shooting exercise, the students enjoyed a picnic and an afternoon of playtime at the local state park.   Three Conservation Officers in full uniform jumped into a touch football game.  Sgt. Tom Tolley quarterbacked one team.  What may look like an amusing sight to the casual observer is still deadly serious business for the C-O’s trying to build a rapport with future sportsmen and women.

"What we’re doing out here today about ten-years down the road will pay big dividends," said Tolley. "When we have to go up to somebody and say, ‘Don’t I know you?’ and they say, ‘Yeah you had me in hunter safety.’  Then you say I’m here to talk to you about whatever problem we’ve got and it really comes over better that way."



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