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Hunter safety classes could be tweaked

| Monday, June 24, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently changed its hunter safety course. It may consider doing it again.

The agency trimmed the class, which once was 12 hours long, back to six about a year ago. That was to get ahead of the curve and address a looming shortcoming, namely a lack of instructors, executive director Carl Roe said at the board's quarterly meeting Monday.

“The challenge is we're not meeting the demand,” Roe said. “Our instructors are an aging volunteer force, to say the least. In five years, 10 years, we won't have enough capacity to meet the demand.”

A shorter class, designed to resemble the length of a typical school day, better serves students, too, said commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle, a former school teacher and a hunter safety instructor for 23 years.

“I think the old course was good for instructors. But having taught middle school kids, expecting them to sit still for 10 hours was difficult. I think we were fooling ourselves,” Martone said.

Clubs can offer voluntary live fire training as an addendum to their hunter safety class, he said. Many have found creative ways to do that, he said.

But some instructors want more.

State Rep. Greg Lucas, a Crawford County Republican, is also a hunter safety instructor with the Lake Edinboro Sportsmen's Association. He told commissioners Monday that his instructors want to teach a 12-hour course that provides times for live fire exercises and more. If they can't require that, they don't want to teach at all, he said.

“It's a safety issue,” Lucas said. “You wouldn't let your kids go out and drive having only taken a written test. You practice, you train, you get experience. It's the same with hunter education.”

He understands the reasoning behind the move to a shorter class, he said. And if there are instructors willing to offer such a course, and students and parents willing to settle for that, so be it, he added.

“But we want to go above and beyond. And we want your blessing to do that,” Lucas said.

At least a few commissioners seemed open to some sort of compromise.

Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said he supports the concept of offering a basic six-hour course that would give a first-timer the chance to hunt. But perhaps clubs could be given the option to offer a “level 2-” or “level 3-type” safety course that would include live fire, trap setting and other hands-on activities, he said.

“It seems like we could do that,” Putnam said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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