Hunter Education – A Real Life Saver

Story contributed to by John L. Torchick

Author John Torchick showing Brody Casteel the safe way to handle a firearm. (Contributed Photo)

It is rewarding to know that I had a part in a saving a young person’s life.  It happened recently but the story really began in 1949.

I lived in New York State and there was a concern that there were too many hunting accidents. The state started a Hunter Education program and it was successful in its goal. Other hunter education programs were started in virtually every state in the U.S. as well as Canada, El Salvador, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, and South Africa. State coordinators banded together and formed the International Hunter Education Association.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has the responsibility of administering the hunter education program in Tennessee. However the bulk of work is done by about 1,200 volunteer instructors who conduct 500 classes and graduate approximately 18,000 students each year.

The traditional classroom courses include eleven hours of class time, a written test and a live fire exercise where students demonstrate proper and safe handling of a firearm. These days, however, most students use an online class, followed by a single 4-hour “Field Day” to review the online material, take the written test and the live fire exercise.

Several years ago I began an Outdoor Ministry at the First Baptist Church in Cleveland with Rusty Asble, our church recreation minister. Of course we conduct regular Hunter Education programs. Like most instructors we would often conduct the courses and never see or hear from students again.

However Rusty was in our local Walmart when a lady approached him and asked if he was the “camouflage pastor” at First Baptist Church. Rusty replied that he was.

She said, “You saved my son’s life.”

The woman went on to explain that her son, his father, and his grandfather were sneaking along behind a pond dam stalking ducks. A duck jumped up and the adults told her son to shoot, but he didn’t pull the trigger and the duck flew away.

She said her son’s father and grandfather were quite upset, until her son finally explained that he had mud jammed into the barrel of his shotgun.

In his hunter education class the boy had learned that firing a gun with an obstructed barrel can cause the firearm to literally explode in your hands. If he had shot, the consequences could have been serious or even fatal to the boy and the others. She told Rusty that the class and its emphasis on safety may very well have saved the boy’s life.

It turned out that this boy had taken a class that I had conducted. He listened and learned.

Hunter Education has lowered the accident rate in Tennessee and other places by a large percentage. We cannot emphasize the responsibility that each person for themselves and others when they go hunting. The key words to all my classes are, “Safety and Responsibility. Safe hunting!

For more information on Tennessee’s Hunter Education class go here.

(Story contributed to by John L. Torchick)

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