Safety First: Summer Months A Good Time For Hunter Education Course

Published on Saturday, 5 July 2014 22:35 - Written by Steve Knight Outdoor Writer

To be honest, I would rather hunt alone in a place where there is not as much to shoot then in a crowd where there is game everywhere.

I understand accidents happen. I just don’t want to be involved in one.

Over the years I have found myself in some scary situations while hunting. Because of that I tend to reduce my chances of getting shot by only hunting with people I know very well. To this day the group I hunt with announces to everyone that their rifle is unloaded and bolt is open when approaching or getting in a truck.

We don’t have to, but this way the hunter leaves no doubt in his mind or ours that the gun is safe.

That is something you may not learn in a hunter education course, but when you take one you do get the building blocks for what makes a hunt safe and a hunter safer.

Believe it or not the opening of dove season is just eight weeks away, and there is a lot to do in a quickly shrinking amount of time. Nothing may be more important than taking a hunter safety course.

Sure you can put it off until later in the fall, but you know what it going to happen. An opening day is going to sneak up and someone who needs the course is not going to have it and there isn’t going to be a course around because the demand for hunter education in Texas is growing. And that is good news for hunters and their safety.

“Our annual certifications keep growing. We have been certifying around 45,000 the last few years, but we had a spike last year and we expect more, this year. We had 52,000 last year,” said Nancy Herron, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Outreach and Education director.

The jump could be attributed to a number of things ranging from a flush of youth becoming the age in which the course is needed.

Herron said 12 to 20 year olds make up the largest number segment of Texas hunter ed students, with those 16 to 18 being the largest percentage of that group.

“Then it spikes again in the mid-to-late 20s. Keep in mind we certify as young as 9 and up into their 80s,” she explained.

If the increase in students is Texans returning to their hunting heritage, that is something that will show up with continued high numbers.

The increase could also be something as simple as the class being offered over more platforms. Once required to sit in a classroom for parts of two or three days, today’s hunter ed comes in the form of the traditional course or one that can be taken on a computer. That is a growing option with about 50 percent of those certified since last September having taking an online course, Herron noted. That number, however, could dip as the summer goes on and more classroom courses are provided.

There are actually two online curriculums offered. For those 17 and older the course can be entirely online. For those 16 and under, or anyone else, there is an option that concludes with a field skills course.

“We encourage all new hunters to take a course that includes skills training. It is fun and offers practical tips. It’s a great option for families, too,” Herron said.

One thing that remains a concern in the Texas hunter ed numbers is that the number of women and young girls taking the course still lags behind males. According to TPWD, 75 percent of the students are male, but this flies in the face of a national survey that shows female participation in hunting, especially among youth, is on the increase.

Although hunting accidents were up some in calendar year 2013, they have generally been declining since 2004. Three of last year’s accidents involved a fatality, and none of those causing the accident had taken a hunter ed course. Of the 30 non-fatal accidents, 18 of those causing the accident had not taken the course.

With the exception of upcoming classes at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, the calendar for classes is currently slow in East Texas. Hunters can get more information on classroom courses athttp://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/hunter_education/city.phtml .

Information on all courses is available athttp://tpwd.state.tx.us/outdoor-learning/hunter-education/how-to-get-your-texas-hunter-education-certification .

 

Have a comment or opinion on this? Email Steve Knight at outdoor@tylerpaper.com, follow him on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.