Hunter Education… in Schools?

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Much can be taught about hunter education in school classrooms, including gun safety.
Much can be taught about hunter education in school classrooms, including gun safety.

Educating hunters in public schools is not a new idea. The state of Kansas has a Hunter Education in Our Schools program. Other states, including Iowa and South Dakota, have similar programs. “That’s the Great Plains, where crime isn’t a problem,” you might say.

But Illinois, a state known for anti-gun politicians and cities not friendly to firearms, passed a bill allowing schools the option to include hunter education and firearms safety in their curricula. In a day when gun crime grabs so many headlines (though it’s far less prevalent than many people believe) it’s common sense to help kids understand firearms and what they can do. Besides, it’s wrong to automatically associate guns (and hunting) with crime.

The Warren County (PA) School District is contemplating bringing hunter education to its schools. Joseph Colosimo, a member of its board of directors, introduced the idea. It’s not a back door to gun advocacy, and he says the list of topics is far reaching, “teaching youth to respect animals, rules, regulations, nature, the importance of herd management… are among the many.”

Colosimo is right. With fewer and fewer kids connected to the natural world through hunting, and more and more of them exposed to nature mainly through electronic screens, it’s time for a serious effort to engage kids in the outdoors. Hunter education in the schools can easily do that.

“Aren’t the sportsman’s clubs doing a good job?” you ask. Yes, they do a great job, but they aren’t in a position to reach enough kids. “What about television documentaries? Aren’t programs from National Geographic a better way? They’re backed by science and dovetail nicely with science curriculum in the schools.”

Television documentaries can be great. They bring wildlife into the living room, but they cannot get kids out of the living room and into places where they have first-hand exposure to their own local wildlife. Kids might not know that deer have antlers (not horns), which they lose and replace every year. And TV doesn’t teach that hunting deer is a biological necessity which drives funding for wildlife management.

You may not know that wildlife management requires funding. Does that come from the World Wildlife Fund? Hardly. Hunters provide the lion’s share of money for wildlife management in the United States. People need to know that the decline of hunting means the decline of financial support for wildlife. Without hunting, wildlife in North America is headed for serious trouble.

So here’s a civics lesson (one component of hunter education that should be included). Back in 1937 hunters influenced Congress to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act, which established a built-in 11% tax on hunting gear, guns and ammunition. Later, archery equipment was added. The money is distributed to the states for wildlife management. Combine that with hunting license dollars and hunter-supported conservation groups, and hunters contribute almost all the funds required to manage wildlife.

Wildlife needs hunters. So that brings us back to guns. Aren’t guns inherently dangerous? No, but if you think they are, and that we shouldn’t teach kids about dangerous things, then why do we teach kids to drive? Why do we teach them about sex? Why do we have anti-drug education? We expose kids to lots of ideas and activities that can be dangerous, so let’s expose students to the positive aspects of firearms and hunting.

A 600-word column can barely scratch the surface, so do some investigation yourself. Hunting is one of the most positive activities a rural area offers. It should be included in our school curriculum. The objective isn’t to teach every kid how to hunt (although more kids should hunt), but to teach respect for hunting and its vital importance in our modern society.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.