Hunter ed students did well, despite restrictions
Recently, 40 hunters ed students successfully completed their course run by the volunteer hunters ed instructors from the Abbotsford Sportsmen’s Club. After a year of wondering and waiting, approval was given to once again to hold in-person hunters ed courses.
“Holding a class was tough this year with all the unknowns,” said Jenny Halopka, the new lead instructor for the Abbotsford Sportsmen’s Club group. “We didn’t think we’d be able to host a class and then were told just a few short weeks prior that we could. There are so many volunteer hours needed and instructor schedules to think about, that I am happy we were able to host a class this year for our young hunters.”
What’s clear is that she and the instructors did negotiate the obstacles successfully.
“Dealing with the pandemic challenges was definitely difficult. Having to think about social distancing the students, enforcing masks, and sanitizing stations was new for us,” Halopka said. “But also not being able to have our local DNR warden or outdoor expert to present to the class took away some of the more fun/memorable moments that past classes had. We also were not able to have our fun field test day that we normally have with students shooting a bow, shotgun, or following a blood trail.”
Amongst these challenges the students rose to the occasion. “We had an awesome class. Highest test scores ever with 50 percent of the students getting a 100 percent on the test,” said Jody Apfelbeck who handles a lot of the live fire instruction for the group.
“The entire class hit the .22 target on every shot! We’ve never had a class do that!” Halopka added. “No student got more than four questions wrong on the written test!”
“This was the best behaved class we have had in a longtime,” said Kurt Frome, a longtime leader in the group. “We had to cut a few things out due to restrictions, but I think the class turned out great. Hopefully we can be back to normal next spring.”
The class enjoys a lot of community support with local author and outdoorsmen, Joseph (Dick) Lange, covering the cost of tuition for all the students. James Hebda donated a rifle and a gift card as prizes for top students.
“Seeing Tanner’s and his dad’s face when he found out he won was pretty awesome!” Jenny told me. Over the years there has been a lot community support for the class and this instructor group — from the Schiferl Foundation and sportsmen’s organizations, to local businesses and individual donors who have supported the class from everything from gun safes, firearms, and ammunition. The Abbotsford Sportsmen’s Club even added on to their clubhouse, in large part, to be able to have a place to hold a hunters ed class. This wasn’t always the case. Thirty years ago the group had three single shot .22 cal bolt action rifles to teach with. Instructors needed to use their own firearms. Imagine trying to run a field test with only three firearms for 70 students.
The class fees were $3 and instructors had to figure out how to purchase ammunition, arrows, targets, etc., from their share of that fee, which was $1.50. The class either went without, or you had to find donors. Fortunately, several local businesses recognized the value of Hunters Ed and supported it.
The DNR requires at least one instructor for every 10 students for instruction at all times. Live fire activities require one-to-one supervision, increasing the number of instructors needed. Each class period pretty much requires a minimum of six instructors with nine to ten being optimal when teaching a hands-on class with live fire.
“I’d like to stress the importance of all the volunteer instructors in this group,” said Mike Kleparski, another instructor that does a lot of live fire instruction. “They strive to ensure the future of the hunting heritage, even with the struggles of dealing with COVID. I feel our group does an excellent job, and the kids prove it with their spectacular test scores.”
The instructor group wants everyone to know how impressed they were with the way the students dealt with the challenges of a class in this era of COVID.
Congratulations to all the successful graduates and good luck this fall. But, please remember, “Safe Hunting is no Accident!”
CHUCK K OLAR LOCAL OUTDOORSMAN