SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Providing an abundance of opportunities to take hunter education in southwest Missouri and coordinating other conservation-related educational events have earned statewide and regional recognition for four area hunter-education instructors. Each year, MDC recognizes hunter-education instructors whose efforts exceed regular teaching duties.
Being recognized on the state level for efforts delivered in 2017, Rick Headlee of Springfield is the Bowhunter Instructor of the Year, Ali Underwood of Walnut Grove is the Staff Instructor of the Year and Jarad Milligan of Lebanon is the Conservation Agent Instructor of the Year. In addition to these honors, Gary Gray of Marshfield was named MDC's Southwest Regional Hunter Education Volunteer Instructor of the Year.
Missouri’s hunter-education program is administrated by MDC and taught state-wide by more than 1,400 instructors. With the exception of exemptions listed in the Wildlife Code of Missouri, all hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1967 must complete an approved hunter-education program to buy a firearms hunting permit. Each year, MDC recognizes hunter-education instructors whose efforts exceed regular teaching duties.
Headlee is a retired Springfield police officer who has been a volunteer hunter education instructor since 2012. In 2017, he certified nine people in bowhunter education, provided nine hours of volunteer time towards bowhunter education and provided 17 hours towards hunter education. He also assisted with four programs at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center and taught archery and firearms classes to 80 volunteers.
Besides teaching hunter education, Underwood’s “day job” is being a resource assistant at MDC’s Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center in Greene County. Her duties include planning, organizing and teaching planning programs and performing range officer duties as needed. She has been with MDC 11 years and has been a certified Hunter Education Instructor since 2008. In 2017, Underwood was the lead instructor for nine hunter education skills sessions and certified 176 students. She also served as either the lead instructor or support staff for 130 Dalton Range programs. She was a firearms instructor for MDC’s Discover Nature Girls Camp. She was the lead instructor in Springfield Public Schools’ .22 rifle class taught in the summer of 2017. Throughout the school year, she worked with the Wonders of the Ozarks Learning Facility (WOLF), an outdoors-oriented Springfield Public Schools laboratory school, an also helped with the Dalton Range’s Day At The Range, an annual event that provides opportunities for people with disabilities to understand how they can enjoy outdoor skills.
In addition to his enforcement duties as one of Laclede County's conservation agents, Milligan taught six hunter education classes, trained 107 students and spent 32 hours in classroom instruction. He assisted other hunter education volunteers by supplying them with materials for their classes. Milligan helped start a Missouri Archery in the Schools Program (MoNASP) in the Lebanon R-3 School District and gave a program for the Lebanon area Bowhunters’ Club. Milligan’s other outreach opportunities with MDC included a youth fish gigging seminar and multiple efforts with Lebanon’s radio and newspaper outlets. He also worked with the local National Wild Turkey Federation chapter to put on a youth turkey hunting seminar.
Gray is a teacher at Springfield’s Cherokee Middle School and has been certified to teach hunter education since 2007. Since that time, Gray has taught hunter education to approximately 2,200 students. In addition to hunter education, Gray teaches physical education and Outdoor Awareness and teaches MoNASP in both classes. His outdoor awareness class covers a number of conservation-related topics. In 2017, he taught and helped write the curriculum for the “Explore Outdoor U” program that was part of the Springfield Public Schools summer school curriculum. This program covered conservation-related topics and involved more than 600 students.
For more information about Missouri’s hunter education program, go to https://mdc.mo.gov/huntereducation.