Chris Ellis: Addressing the problem of declining numbers in hunters
As an industry, whether it be an outdoor-related gear manufacturer, state wildlife agency or simply someone who likes to play an active role in wildlife conservation, we should be worried about the upcoming trend in declining hunter numbers.
There are many thoughts as how best to approach this issue. Same say it’s best to concentrate on public access to wild lands while others say more mentoring programs or youth activities are needed. I am no expert on the subject, but they all seem like legitimate ideas to me. In fact, there’s a movement across this country to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters - simply referred to as R3.
I can, however, speak from my own personal experience. I have seen it first hand. Education and the ownership of a license can spark a love for wildlife conservation and the life of a hunter just like a driver’s license can start someone down the path toward a love of cars.
To be educated, confirmed and recognized as a hunter by your DNR is a big deal. After listening to a great instructor at a hunter education course, passing the written and hands-on tests followed by the purchase of a license with your name on it is a proud moment in a young person’s life.
With many things in life, education is the key and I am certain that hunter education plays a vital role in the R3 movement. And we happen to live in a state that does one heck of job at hunter education.
Here is a little about our West Virginia Hunter Education Program from WVDNR.gov. All persons born on or after January 1, 1975, must first successfully complete a certified hunter education course before purchasing a base hunting license. When purchasing a hunting license, the person must present a certificate of completion to the agent issuing the license.
The first hunter education class taught in West Virginia was in 1968. It consisted of a short talk and a movie. In 1971, West Virginia won the NRA award for outstanding contributions to the field of hunter education. Today the course takes an average of 12 hours to complete. More than 360,000 students have passed the course since it began. This could not have been accomplished without the help of more than 500 trained volunteer instructors who donate hundreds of hours and thousands of miles each year.
The course is offered free. Topics include: gun safety, wildlife management, ethics, survival/first aid, game identification and how to safely hunt. You will enjoy listening to volunteer instructors and Natural Resources Police Officers pass on their expertise and hunting experiences, talking with your fellow hunters during class breaks and getting familiar with the total hunting experience. Extra help is available for those who need it.
To find and register for Hunter Ed classes go to https://www.register-ed.com/
Anyone age 10 and older can opt to take the online portion of the course. During the on-line course you will periodically take quizzes, print a Practical Exam Voucher once all quizzes are complete, and bring it with you to the practical exams. After completing the online portion, students must contact their closest Law Enforcement District Office to schedule the practical (hands-on) portion and written test. The Hunter Education Card will be issued after successfully completing all three sections of the course.
For those unable to attend traditional courses, on-line courses are available for a fee. Online courses can be found by following link on http://www.wvdnr.gov/lenforce/education.shtm
Remember as a sportsman or woman, it is our role to open doors to others into our cherished lifestyle as hunters. One of the easiest ways to do so is to take someone new to the sport hunting or shooting and if they like it, help them get into a hunter education course. I’m betting you will give them a great chance at being a lifelong steward of wildlife conservation and active participant in nature’s world as a hunter.
Chris Ellis of Fayetteville, W.Va., an outdoorsman and Marshall University graduate, is owner of Ellis Communications, a public relations agency serving the outdoor industry. Contact him at email@example.com.