Schooling the next generation of hunters

Hillsboro sixth-grader Gavin Baker takes aim at the BB-gun shot as part of this fall’s Kansas Hunter Education program sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Tourism with assistance from other organizations.
Hillsboro sixth-grader Gavin Baker takes aim at the BB-gun shot as part of this fall’s Kansas Hunter Education program sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Tourism with assistance from other organizations.
Photos & Story by Becki Yoder

Special to The Free Press

Kansas is one of the premier states for hunting, particularly upland game, pheasant and quail.

Kansas consistently ranks among the top six states for great bird hunting according to Pheasants Forever. Realtree, the outdoor hunting apparel company, ranks Kansas No. 1 with its many acres of public hunting ground.

According to the Kansas Depart­ment of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, hunting helps boost the economy with an additional $400 million each year.

The KWPT Small Game Harvest Survey data found more than 80,000 hunters will hunt pheasant in Kansas this year—about 40,000 will be nonresidents.

So what does it take to get a hunting license in Kansas?

Anyone born after July 1, 1957, and 11 or older must successfully complete an approved hunter education course.

For the past 20 years, sixth graders at Hillsboro Middle School have the opportunity to enroll in an approved Kansas Hunter Education course. Hunter Education is one of the many “clubs” students can participate in during the fall semester.

Evan Yoder, HES principal and a Kansas Hunter Education instructor, started the Hunter Ed club. This semester’s sixth-graders put their classroom knowledge to the test Friday, Nov. 17, during the all-day field day held at the Peabody Country Club.

Designed around four hands-on, interactive stations, the instruction included a BB-gun shoot, a species identification with actual study skins, a walk through, and target shooting with a shotgun. Each station was led by two certified instructors.

Game warden Ty Schaef talks with students during the walk through.
Game warden Ty Schaef talks with students during the walk through.

The walk-through presents many kinds of hunting scenarios found in Kansas. Decoys and pop-ups are strategically placed throughout a large tract of land. The students literally “walk through” different hunting situations.

Led by instructors, many teachable moments happen. The three big areas of concern are muzzle control, species identification and knowing what is in the background before a shot is fired.

There is also a surprise encounter with Game Warden Ty Schaef, who is a hunter education instructor.

“My job is to protect the animals and make sure people are obeying the laws,” he said. “I love to see people out hunting and enjoying nature.”

The BB-gun shoot, led by instructors Anne Janzen and Len Coryea, teaches the students how to safely load, fire and unload a BB gun.

“The kids get pretty excited when they hit the target,” Janzen said.

Instructors Donna and Rodger Macy, from Portus, led the species-identification station. Both are part of the Kansas Fur Harvesters Association and bring actual study skins.

“The kids are always in awe when they touch and feel how soft some of these furs are,” Rodger Macy said.

The live-fire target shooting with the shotgun was added to the field day last year, thanks to longtime instructors Wayne Doyle and Dennis Vincent.

Both men have played significant roles in the Kansas Hunter Education program and the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Department. Doyle was the KWPT coordinator for 13 years before retiring in January 2011. A longtime instructor, he is finishing his 35th year.

Vincent, an information education specialist for KWPT, also a longtime instructor now retired, travels around the state to bring specialty training to enhance a course.

One example is called a laser fire. It is like a big screen video game that gives students the opportunity to practice their shooting accuracy by simulating hunting waterfowl and game birds.

The live-fire target shooting is another one of these specialty trainings.

Both Doyle and Vincent teach three to 10 classes a year.

“The objective of this live fire is to get the kids to break targets,” Doyle said. “Because we only have them a short time, I call it familiarization firing. We had a girl who was scared to death, and by the end she breaking every target.”

Added Vincent: “We thought all the kids did well today. For the two of us, this (the live fire) is most fun part.

Sixth-grader Wyatt Plenert said, “Shooting the shotgun was the best. I had never shot a shotgun. The best part was watching the targets explode.

Classmate Angus Duell said, “I pulled the trigger and I was scared—it hurt my shoulder. It was like it had a mind of its own.”

Another classmate, Levi Smith, stated confidently, “I only missed two.”

The motivation for the training was summed up by instructor Dale Elhers.

“Let’s get these kids educated,” he said. “They are the future of hunting.”

For more information on hunting or the Kansas Hunter Education Program, contact KWPT at ksoutdoors.com or call 620-672-5911.

Free-lance writer Becki Yoder has served as an instructor in the local Kansas Hunter Education course.

Levi Smith and Carter Hamm practice the safe way to cross a fence during the walk through.
Levi Smith and Carter Hamm practice the safe way to cross a fence during the walk through.