This past year Mary Grose of Herkimer County become a certified Sportsman Education instructor through the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Almanack asked her to relate her experience for our readers.
Hunting symbolizes tradition, family, and a fair chase. Growing up in rural New York State, I was surrounded by the sport of hunting. Friends and family would share hunting stories throughout the years and I wanted to become part of that tradition. As a young girl I was privileged to have a father and brother who taught me about hunting. Now that I am older and an educated hunter I want to share my love of the outdoors with others.
This past summer I was searching through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) website. Originally, I was looking for new regulations and dates for the upcoming hunting season. I came across a link to become a Sportsman Education Instructor. These instructors volunteer their time and knowledge and share the love of hunting with future hunters. Immediately I knew this program would be perfect for me. Instructors must be at least 18 years old, have 3 years of experience hunting, and have good communication skills. After completing an application, background check, and interview with an Environmental Conservation Officer, I began my training.
The training consisted of 12 hours of classroom work with other new instructors. During this time I met several individuals with similar desires to educate others about the sport of hunting. The class consisted of both men and women ranging in age from 21 to over 60 years of age. Having a diverse class allowed us to compare stories and visions of what we wanted to gain out of training. Topics covered in the training included program procedures, required topics, and methods of effective communication. Mock scenarios and role playing taught us valuable lessons that I used in my future lesson plans.
The next step was to find a location to complete my apprenticeship and become a certified instructor. I contacted a sportsmen’s club in Richfield Springs, NY that was very happy to help complete my journey. In the past month I have helped teach three sportsman education classes. Each class has taught me lessons and rejuvenated my love of the sport. While talking with the students I learned that most of them are becoming hunters so that they can spend time with family and friends. One family I met had five children and a mother who were taking the class so that they could hunt with their father and spend more quality time together. Stories such as these make the time that I donate worth the effort.
The unfortunate side of this story is that there are limited classes available for future hunters. Our classes have waiting lists and students that have to be denied the privilege of hunting. Students are also forced to drive far distances in order to complete the required training. My goal is to encourage others to help educate future hunters and keep the sport of hunting alive. Teaching sportsman education classes have become part of my tradition as much as actual hunting.
For questions on becoming an instructor please call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 or visit the DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov .