instructors worked the room well, keeping youngsters who had already spent eight hours at school at the edges of their seats, begging to answer questions with waving arms.
The instructors also allowed students a lot of hands-on time, especially when demonstrating firearms safety. For example, they got class members to demonstrate safe carries and safe ways to cross fences while holding dummy firearms. Children who should really have been wearing down after a long day at school came alive. By the third night of classes, the front row was filled with youngsters who had arrived early and stolen some of the older folks' seats.
I had not expected so much emphasis on the fourth R-respect. From the very first question about which end of the gun is the business end, to the last admonition by the instructors to remember where to point the muzzle, the word "respect" kept popping up. Agent Evans told the class that we must have respect for ourselves, for our firearms, for our hunting companions and for others who may be in harm's way. He also stated we must have respect for the animals we hunt.
"You cannot be a good hunter unless you are a safe hunter," he said. "Safe hunters are knowledgeable and skillful and have the proper attitude about hunting. They practice self-control and respect."
Evette Eickelmann took the class with her 11-year-old son, Ryan. She is a deer hunter. At first, she said she took the class to give Ryan moral support. After the course was over, she told me that she had learned quite a bit-especially about how the Conservation Department is managed and funded and about how hunters' ethics affect the community. Another parent, Mark Puzach, who brought his friend's teenage daughter and his own son to the class, said the class was a good refresher for him.
All of the parents agreed that the course material offered lots of opportunities to talk about ethics and morals with their children. They talked to their children about the material between classes and studied for the test with their children. Agent Zap told me that parents should be involved in this crucial step when their child is ready to accept the responsibility of safely using a firearm. His own children have taken the course, even though his teenage daughter is not yet interested in hunting.
An interesting and important area covered in the class, which may have been