Five students from Aleknagik and Twin Hills completed their Hunter Education practicum at the Dillingham shooting range last week. It marked the completion of their Hunter Education course.
Over the past several weeks, the students from Aleknagik completed an online course and a qualifying exam, while the Twin Hill students did their coursework through correspondence.
The trip to Dillingham was part of the Southwest Region Schools’ exploration week and gave the students the opportunity to demonstrate some of the skills they have been learning.
“They get to take a break from ordinary class stuff and do interesting stuff,” Ward Jones said.
Jones was referred to as “the Dean of Hunter Education” by some of the other volunteers, which included staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and even a local pastor.
“It’s just people motivated to donate their time to educate kids about hunting,” Jones said.
One of those volunteers was Dillingham Pastor Robert Scott. He preaches at the Dillingham Bible Fellowship and was one of the volunteer instructor and safety coaches.
“It’s especially important for the kids in Alaska, because of the close proximity to hunting,” he said.
Scott is an avid hunter and wants the students to find joy, and safety, in the outdoors.
“Firearms can be as safe as a butter knife or as hazardous as poison,” he said. “We try to teach them how to handle them successfully and enjoy themselves.”
Students were put through a series of tests, including target shooting with live ammunition from standing, kneeling and sitting positions. Fake targets such as moose and bear were set up around the nearby lagoon and students were asked to consider the shots based on distance, visibility and the safety and practicality of making the shot.
“We also ask if the target is in season and whether it is a good shot,” Jones said. “You might see a bear with its rear end sticking out and well, that isn’t a good shot.”
Other tasks included safely loading weapons in a canoe and aiming in the correct zone of fire when bird hunting.
“It really is all about trying to get kids and adults more educated about firearm safety,” state wildlife biologist Neil Barten said. “We want people on the landscape to be safer with guns and have fewer accidents. We want people to know more about wildlife conservation, good hunting opportunities, good wildlife populations and being safe when you’re hunting and pursuing game.”
Aubrey Romo, from Aleknagik, was taking the course with her sister Natalie. She said she wasn’t nervous about the test.
“It’s really just a chance to show off what you already know,” she said.
While it is not necessary around all of Alaska to have completed a Hunter Education course, it can be required in other parts of the country.
“We have some family down in the lower 48 who want to take us hunting and we can’t do that without the hunter’s education card,” Romo said.
The whole test lasted between 3-4 hours. When it was all over, it was time for the volunteers and students to enjoy a barbeque and celebrate the completion of their Hunter Education. Aleknagik and Twin Hills now have five new qualified hunters.
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