As I sat at the awards ceremony honoring central Missouri’s volunteer hunter education instructors this week, I was struck by the great sense of good will and commitment they share. When we’ve surveyed people in general about their enjoyment of the outdoors, “time” has come up again and again as the big barrier to recreation. Everybody is busy. Yet here in Missouri we have about 2,000 people who share their precious time to teach new hunters what they need to know to be safe as they enjoy the outdoors.
With more than a million hunter education students certified over a 50-year period, this is an incredibly successful effort. Yet it was only possible thanks to the volunteer instructors. They receive no pay for their efforts. Each class is 10 hours, sometimes in one day or more often spread over two or more sessions. Then there’s the time it takes to prepare for the class, to follow up on the certification. And there is the time and cost to drive to the classes.
I asked one of the instructors at the meeting why he got into teaching hunter safety, and he said that his nephew needed the class so he decided to teach it. (He is a teacher by profession.) Then he just kept at it. Steve Bauer is another instructor who echoed similar reasons. He got into volunteering because he wanted to teach his four daughters, who all hunt now. His wife hunts too and decided to become a volunteer instructor three years ago after watching him do it 10 years. Most instructors just feel that it’s vitally important and something they want to pass along. Thanks to their efforts, the number of hunting accidents has declined greatly from what it was before hunter certification became the law.
The pictures here show some of the great group of volunteer instructors and Conservation staff in just one part of Missouri who’ve shared their time and enthusiasm with thousands of future hunters this year.