Gun safety, wildlife conservation the main focus of hunter education course

Floyd Pearson, hunter safety instructor, guides some students through a practice walk out during a safety course on Saturday, Nov. 19. The goal of the walk out is to practice safe gun handling and safe spotting in the field.

Floyd Pearson, hunter safety instructor, guides some students through a practice walk out during a safety course on Saturday, Nov. 19. The goal of the walk out is to practice safe gun handling and safe spotting in the field. by Laura Herring

How to safely handle a gun. How to responsibly maintain a wildlife population. How to safely handle crossbow.

Students in a hunter education course taught in De Soto over the weekend learned all of these lessons from instructors certified by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

More than 50 students filled the De Soto VFW on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19, to take the 10-hour course and accompanying exam, a requirement for anyone over the age of 16 to receive a hunting license in the state of Kansas. Kids as young as 11 are eligible to take the exam though several adults were enrolled in the course as well.

"I like the outdoors and I wanted to get my full hunting license, that's why I'm here," said 50 year-old Teresa Brummett of Olathe. "For me the class was more of a formality but I think it's an important thing for hunters to do, especially the kids."

While most enrolled in the course were from De Soto, people from all around Johnson County came to the class, a testament to how difficult the course can be to find.

"There aren't many of these classes offered anywhere around us and those that are fill up very fast," said course organizer Paul Stonestreet. "I wanted to find a class for my son for a while now and when I couldn't I just thought I'd try to get one here."

Stonestreet said he was surprised by the response to the class in De Soto.

"I wasn't even sure the class would fill up but I had 25 students in about 24 hours," he said. "From there I went up to 55 and that's where the state capped me, we had a waiting list and managed to squeeze a few more in. We have 58 students total today."

Each one of the 58 students passed the final exam, a 50-question multiple choice test on which students had to get 80 percent of the questions correct.

"I've learned a lot in the class," said 11 year-old De Soto resident Robbie Stallbaumer. "I'm glad that I'll be able to hunt with my dad and brothers now."

"The goal of these courses is to make sure these kids, and all hunters really, stay safe," said head instructor Floyd Pearson. "In my experience students are always eager to learn and really get into it."

For some in the course, learning about gun and hunting safety was more the goal than the hunting license.

"My husband and my son both hunt so I'm here today more just to learn about their hobby and know more about it," said Carrie Carr of Shawnee. "The safety lessons are very important to me because now I feel like I'll be able to reinforce that more with my son."

The De Soto course took things to the next level by allowing students the opportunity to handle loaded guns and practice safe practices on a real shooting range, an added bonus to the requirements of the course.

"It's not required that we actually take students into the field and have the walk through safety steps or how to take a safe shot but we like to do that whenever possible," said Pearson. "It's just another step we can take to make sure the safe practices are really grasped."

More information on hunter education can be found on the KDWPT website.

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