Great Outdoors: Educating the next generation

My
father was a hunter, but growing up, he never really offered to teach or take
my sister or me with him. Looking back, I’m not sure that we ever showed much
interest in hunting at all, either. I don’t know about you, but at 13 years
old, the idea of sitting in the woods being quiet and freezing for hours was
not my idea of a good time. So, when my daughter wanted
to learn how to hunt, I enrolled her in a Massachusetts Basic Hunter Education
Course being offered at our shooting club, Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA),
because her idea of fun at 16 years old is much different than mine.

The
Mass Wildlife Hunter Education Program’s mission is to protect the lives and
safety of the public, promote the wise management and ethical use of our
wildlife resources and encourage a greater appreciation of the environment
through education. The Basic Hunter Education Course provides training in the
safe handling and storage of hunting arms and ammunition, hunting laws and
ethics, care and handling of game, and wildlife conservation. The course is
funded by the sale of hunting and sporting licenses, and by federal excise
taxes on firearms and archery equipment. Therefore, the course is free to the
public.

Hunter
Education was first offered in the commonwealth in 1954, and is required to
obtain a Massachusetts Hunting or Sporting License. If under 18 years of age, a
parent or guardian’s written permission is required to take the course. The
course is offered in two formats: traditional and independent study. The
traditional format requires students to attend multiple sessions for a total of
15 to 18 hours of classroom instruction. Whereas, the independent study format
requires students attend two class sessions and complete some of the coursework
on their own. Candidates must attend all dates of the course, complete any and
all homework given, and earn at least an 80 percent on the final exam to pass
the course.

LSA
has been training Berkshire County youth through the state Hunter Ed. Program
since 2010. The class is taught by Certified Volunteer Instructors. The current
President at LSA, Doug Frank, has been teaching the Basic Hunter Education
Course to Berkshire County residents for six years now.

“What
I like most about it is being able to see how young kids are still interested
in hunting and fishing, and realize that this is something that the world needs
and is a positive influence in kids’ lives today,” Frank said.

Since
2009, LSA has supported the community’s heritage with youth pheasant and youth
turkey hunts. These programs are designed for Hunter’s Education graduates ages
12 through 17, and are supported by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and
Wildlife. Each youth receives one-on-one training with a mentor to guide them.
These programs include instruction on firearms safety in the field, hunting
ethics, regulations and game preparation, as well as supervised shooting
practice. From harvest to dressing, it is a complete lesson that preserves our
rich Berkshire County hunting history.

LSA
raises Massachusetts state supplied pheasants. They receive approximately 500
birds in the beginning of the summer, and they are responsible for the care,
feeding costs and health of the birds. Their volunteers keep a watchful eye
around the clock, until they finally stock areas for local hunters to enjoy.
The Youth Pheasant Hunt is conducted on one of the six Saturdays prior to the
start of the regular pheasant season.

The Youth Turkey Hunt, developed through
a partnership with the National Wild Turkey Federation, allows for a mentored
hunt after completion of a pre-hunt workshop. A special permit is issued that
allows for a mentored hunt on the Saturday prior to the last Monday in April.
This permit remains valid for the regular spring turkey season following the
youth hunt date.

I
am proud to announce that my daughter earned a perfect score on her Basic
Hunter Education exam. Although she has been involved in the shooting sports
for seven years, she found herself still learning new things through this
course. She is excited for the ability to participate in an upcoming youth
pheasant hunt at LSA, and she already accompanied her grandfather in attempting
to hunt squirrels in the Pittsfield State Forest; even though they were
unsuccessful in harvesting anything, they were able to share a love of the
wilderness and spending time together doing something they enjoy.

For
more information about Hunter Education in Massachusetts or to sign-up for a
course, visit https://www.mass.gov/service-details/basic-hunter-education-courses
or call (508) 389-7820 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Stephanie DuPont is on the board of directors for the Lee Sportsmen’s
Association and a columnist for the Berkshire Record. You can contact her at
dupontfam5@gmail.com.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login