Hunting is a way of life and, in fact, a lifestyle for many, many people in Boundary County. Countless avid sportsmen and sportswomen feel that passing on the hunting tradition to their children and grandchildren is an honorable legacy that should be not only encouraged but nurtured.
For young hunters or those who are perhaps not-so-young but would like to learn, taking a hunter safety class is the first step toward gaining skill and expertise in this challenging sport that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
However, here in Boundary County, finding instructors to teach the hunter safety classes has reached a critical point. Simply put, there are not enough instructors to accommodate the demand for hunter safety classes.
According to John Gribbin, Region 1 Hunter Education Coordinator with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, there is always a need for hunter safety instructors in Boundary County.
"We are looking for people with a passion to instill good ethical information, respectful attitudes and the love of the sport in the students," he stated. "All our instructors have one thing in common: a passion to see the sport continue in an ethical way."
John explained that hunter safety instructors must be at least 18 years old. Interested people should go to the IDFG Office and fill out an application as well as a fingerprint card. The IDFG will conduct a criminal background check and then match each new instructor with a senior certified instructor. The new instructor will help the senior instructor teach a class in order to learn about the curriculum and some teaching techniques. Instructors receive a binder with the hunter safety curriculum that they use as a guide. They meet with John after their practice teaching and then they are put on the schedule to teach future classes.
John stressed that each hunter safety course typically meets seven times for a total of between 15 to 20 hours. However, instructors may elect to teach just a single session if they have an area of expertise such as survival or firearm safety rather than teach the entire course if it fits into their schedule better.
Subtopics within the hunter safety curriculum include survival and first aid, fire arms safety, nomenclature and parts, ethics and responsibility, wildlife management and identification and hunters and conservation. Each hunter safety course concludes with a field day. John said that some instructors enjoy teaching just the field day class which strives to mimic actual hunting situations. Included in the field day are a field walk, reinforcing firearm safety and rules, learning to correctly carry a firearm through different types of terrain, learning safe methods of crossing obstacles, learning about the zone of fire and target identification. Also, the instructors set up scenarios to test "shoot or don't shoot" decision making. Students practice the four hunting positions and shoot five rounds in each position. They get a lot of coaching on shooting techniques, shooting in each of the positions and variations of the positions to gain the maximum stability when firing. John explained that the purpose of the field day is to get students in the proper, safe, respectful mindset.
Norm Merz, a Wildlife Biologist for the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, is currently a first year hunter safety instructor. He said that filling out the paperwork and getting fingerprinted in order to become an instructor was "not that big of a deal." He added that being an instructor is very fun and enjoyable. He mentioned that although he likes to teach the entire course for the continuity that it provides and the passion he feels for hunting, the time and effort it takes to teach the course can be split up by co-teaching.
"I enjoy the opportunity to get people involved in hunting and the outdoors," he emphasized. "I think it's important to get people knowledgeable about what it takes to put meat on the table. It's really rewarding to have the opportunity to work with kids and new hunters and to pass on information. It's been an opportunity for me to give back to the community and to the resource. I try to make my classes lighthearted, fun and interesting. I tell my students that hunting is about enjoying the outdoors and that getting something to put in the freezer is a bonus. I always say, "Go out, have fun but come home safe."
Although hunter safety instructors are volunteers who do not get paid, John added that the teachers earn points for the time they put in and get rewarded with prizes at the instructor gatherings.
Anyone interested in becoming a hunter safety instructor can contact John Gribbin at 208-769-1414 or email@example.com