Hunter education is working

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, December 15, 1999

By By Ben Norman
Hunting columnist
The young deer hunter was sitting alone in his tree stand for the first time. He had been in the stand at least an hour before first light. As the orange glow began to appear on the horizon, dark shadows were now being sprinkled with fog-filtered sunlight.
The sweet smells of decaying swamp vegetation filled his nostrils as he squinted ever so hard to make out the outline of a deer in the fog-shrouded mist.
His heart raced when he saw the first movement n a brief flash of white, followed by the sound of something walking on the forest floor. It was getting closer now with more flashes of white. It must be a deer flicking its tail as it fed. He heard a stick break, then another flash of white.
He raised his new rife slightly, fighting temptation to point the muzzle in the direction of the approaching animal, but he remembered the often repeated words of his hunter education course instructor n "Never point your firearm or shoot until you have positively identified your target."
The approaching deer was coming closer, but it was slowly taking on a new form. He was walking upright and caring a rifle, dressed in camouflage attire with the exception of the white handkerchief he repeatedly took from his hip pocket to wipe his nose.
The "deer" the young hunter was anticipating was now obviously a man. He was not wearing the required hunter orange that would identify him to other hunters, but was carelessly displaying a color that is associated with the whitetail deer. The young hunter remained perfectly still and hailed to the approaching man.
The man froze, appeared startled, waved and disappeared into the woods, apparently not realizing how close he had come to becoming another statistic.
Far too often a scene comparable to this one leads to tragedy. But in this and many similar incidents, hunter education has proven its worth.
Act 91-600 of the Alabama Legislature became effective August 1, 1993. The act requires all persons 16 years of age born after August 1, 1977, to present certification of completion of an approved hunter education course prior to obtaining a hunting license. It provides penalties for violations.
Alabama's hunter education course consists of a minimum of 10 clock hours of instruction. The course covers a diverse range of subjects that not only appeal to hunters, but to naturalists, hikers, photographers, birdwatchers or anyone who loves the outdoors. Some of the subjects taught include: hunter responsibility, wildlife conservation, firearm safety, tree stand safety, wildlife identification, game care, specialty hunting, survival and first aid, water safety and other interesting subjects.
The course is sponsored by the Alabama Hunter Education Program, which is administered by the Alabama Game and Fish Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation. State conservation officers and 700 volunteer instructors are teaching the course in every county in the state.
In addition, several private and public school systems are offering the hunter education course.
"I am very pleased with the job our volunteer and professional educators are doing teaching the course," Hunter Education Program Coordinator Ray Metzler said. "Last year was our safest yet, and it looks like this year could be just as good. This proves hunter education is working."
To find out when a class is being taught in your area, contact your local conservation officer or Metzler at 1-800-245-2740.

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