6:00pm: Sportsline with Tony Caridi

WV Hunter Education is Comprehensive


If I’m ever injured in a hunting accident I won’t be able to use the excuse "I didn’t know."      Last weekend I sat through a hunter education class for the fourth time in my life.    Each time I’ve taken the class, I’ve learned a thing or two.   A refresher course never hurts any of us.

The first time I took hunter education was in 1984.   I was a sophomore in high school and the class was taught during our physical education period.   Game Wardens, as they were called in those days, from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries came into the "health room" and spent two weeks going over all of the in’s and out’s of firearm safety.   I had been hunting most of my life and thought I knew all there was to know.  Like most teenagers, I was sorely mistaken.  

The instructors had a low tolerance for monkey business.   I remember their cracking down on a set of giggling girls with a piercing rebuke normally reserved for poachers in the field.   They only had to do it once.  

I’m told West Virginia once taught hunter education as part of the school curriculum.  It’s a shame it isn’t taught that way today.   Hunter education is a worthwhile pursuit for hunters and non-hunters alike.  There were plenty of kids in my high school gym class who would never set foot in the woods with a firearm for the rest of their lives.  However, because of that course they knew how to safely handle a firearm should the opportunity ever arise and were at least familiar with the concepts of hunting and some wildlife biology.

The second, third, and most recent times I took hunter education were alongside my two sons and this time with my daughter in the West Virginia program.   Although I beat all three of them on the test, I still never aced it.  You’d think after a while I’d pick that up wouldn’t’ you? 

The instructors picked on me a little last weekend.  I suppose I brought some of it on myself after admitting to previously using a homemade tree stand.  They recommend you NEVER use a homemade tree stand.   I also was one of two in the class to raise my hand in confession to having used 3 1/2 inch magnum shotgun shells.   I learned if I read the warning label on the box it tells you there’s a strong possibility repeated use of those shells could lead to a detached retina.    I only raised my hand to admit I had used them, not that I used them regularly.     The whole detached retina possibility will make me rethink ever using them again.

When hunter education became a requirement in West Virginia the number one hunting accident was being shot by another hunter.  Today the number one hunting accident in West Virginia is falling out of a tree stand.  Number two is four-wheeler accidents.  Number three is heart attacks.  Shootings today rank at number four, very likely because of the required hunter education course.  

The course is a comprehensive look at not only firearm safety, but all aspects of safety afield along with a healthy dose of biology and woodsmanship skills.  The course puts heavy emphasis on tree stands and ATV’s.   There are sections covering survival in the wilderness, orienteering, first aid, and emergency preparedness.  It also delves into a bit of field dressing and being an ethical hunter.   

The class is 10-hours and the test has 50-questions. You can miss 15 questions and still pass.  The track record of the hunter education program in West Virginia is one of success.    The volunteers who take time to teach the course are to be commended for their dedication.  

I would recommend, especially if you have a child in the 10 to 12 age range, pick a class which goes for four days rather than two.   It’s a lot to ask, especially of a youngster, to pay attention for that long in a classroom environment.   However, I would also recommend everybody take the class even if you don’t hunt.  If you’ve taken it before, it wouldn’t hurt to take it again.   

Those who participate will gain a lot of knowledge and a better understanding of what fuels the passion of hunters and plenty of useful instruction on firearm and outdoors safety.  You can find the class nearest you by clicking the Ram Trucks Hunter Safety links posted above this column.


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