GREENSBURG – In cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources, North Decatur and South Decatur Jr. High students will have the opportunity to enroll in a 10-hour hunter and firearm safety class instructed by South Decatur High School Resource Officer Pat Richards and Decatur County Conservation Officer Andy Hagerty. The program is a state-approved course of study.
Hagerty has been instructing the hunter safety class for Greensburg Junior High students for several years. Now, largely through the efforts of Officer Richards, those classes will be available in other county schools as well.
Called a hunter’s safety class, but focusing mostly on firearm safety, Richards said it is a valuable learning experience for all.
“Not everybody hunts, but what people don’t realize [is] that at about the sixth- or seventh-grade age, girls start babysitting, and they babysit in rural areas where there are firearms,” Richards explained. “If little Johnny comes out with a firearm, that babysitter needs to know how to make that firearm safe. We are under a big push to get everyone trained in firearm safety – the right way to handle firearms – especially with what goes on the in the news today.”
Richards continued, explaining that junior high students are at a level where they aren’t supervised nearly as much, and need to have safe firearm habits installed early.
Richards was grateful for DNR’s partnership in getting the classes set up.
“The second full week of school in 2020, the classes will be set-up so that we can have these kids trained in the space of a couple of weeks,” he said.
Richards spent a weekend in Lafayette at the Indiana Hunter Education Instructor Academy to earn the certification needed for teaching the class.
He was schooled on teaching points for youth, how to set up active shooting ranges, and all the elements of firearm safety the state deems appropriate.
“They have a certain list of items they want us to train on – how to hand a loaded gun to another person, how to check to see if it’s loaded – this will be a good chance for kids to really get a handle on how to act around firearms, and many of them have never had that opportunity,” Richards said.
“We’ll be exposing them to every type of firearm available out there. They won’t be given much hands-on training with live firearms, but when they finish they will be able to name to parts of the gun, where the safety is, and they’ll be able to ask individual questions during breaks. It’s a laid-back atmosphere and I think they’ll learn some serious stuff in a fun atmosphere,” Richards continued.
Richards and Hagerty will be dual-teaming the classes utilizing hands-on partner teaching instead of simply lecture.
Included in the classes will be instruction on how to approach landowners for permission to hunt their lands and protocols on being good stewards of the land.
“If you hunt game on someone’s land, it’s a good idea to offer to share that game with them. If you are allowed to hunt deer on someone’s land, give them a few pounds of the processed meat,” Richards said.
Though there won’t be information on field-cleaning or game processing as such, there will be information concerning fur hunting in Indiana and what types of game can be hunted in which seasons.
“There’s not really any prep’ kids need to do beforehand, but there will be a workbook included in the class and we’ll start out the first day working with that material,” Richards said.
Students will be tested and certified upon completion of the class and given a laminated badge afterward with their certification number on it.
Parental permission slips for the classes will be sent home in advance of the classes and questions can be answered by calling North and South Decatur Junior High School administrators.