My partner and I looked down on the hunter lying on the ground before us. He had a bullet wound in his lower back and had been dead for about twenty four hours. The search party that found the hunter stood well back as we went over the scene. I remember it got very quiet and you could only hear a few insects buzzing in the early fall woods. I also remember feeling tired and angry that this had happened.
Hunter Education is important. It can be life and death important. In my 35 plus years with DNR Law Enforcement I saw more than my fair share of these scenes and the memories are not good ones. The question to me is this. Are we doing
everything we can to ensure this type of incident never happens again? Last Saturday the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) Law Enforcement Section and the staff at the Boy Scouts Summit Bechtel Reserve took a big step in addressing this issue.
WVDNR Hunter Safety Education staff led by Sgt. Bob Johnson from the Beckley office and Hunter Education Program Director at the Bechtel Reserve Chris Perkins have been working together to come up with a plan, a plan which would make the Hunter Education class available to Boy Scouts attending programs at the Bechtel Reserve as well as residents of southern West Virginia. The class held on August 25 was historical in that it is the first class by these two entities and there will be many more.
“We were very excited to provide the first official Hunter Education program this past weekend sponsored by the Summit Bechtel Reserve and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources,” said Chris Perkins. “The class was held at the J.W. and Hazel Ruby Welcome Center in Mt. Hope, WV. Over 35 participants from ages 10 to 45 years of age took part in the two-day program covering the fundamental knowledge, skills and attitudes related to Hunter Education, Safety, Wildlife Management and Conservation,” he said.
Perkins went on to say the program was developed initially for scouts and scout leaders attending the Summit Bechtel Reserve. This past summer there were 2845 summer participants from 44 states and 3 countries taking part in the Hunter Education / Skills Development program. “The Summit is now reaching out to the public to provide hunter education classes for certification in order that those students who complete the program can purchase a hunting license,” Perkins said.
Anyone involved with the Hunter Education program in West Virginia will tell you the program would not survive without the help of the Volunteer Instructors who work with the WVDNR staff. “The volunteers do an incredible job and give freely of their time to teach the Hunter Education class in West Virginia,” said Sgt. Johnson. “Their efforts in teaching this class save lives.”
Sherry and Bob Gosnell of Dameron, West Virginia, know this. Sherry and Bob have been volunteer instructors for over twenty eight years and have spent countless hours teaching Hunter Education classes in the hills and hollows of the state. “Just think about how many lives have been saved and how many accidents have been prevented that we will never know about,” Bob said. “There may have been one thing an instructor said in a class that stuck with a student and prevented a terrible accident from happening in the woods,” he said.
Hunter Education is important and the Hunter Education program has come a long way since the day we found that hunter on a rough West Virginia hillside. Hunting accident numbers are greatly reduced from when I started with DNR. I
am going to say this is due in large part by the efforts of the WVDNR staff and Volunteer Instructors who teach Hunter Safety.
Adding to this program the staff and resources of the Boy Scouts at the Summit Bechtel Reserve should make a great partnership.