Keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, often called “trigger discipline,” is one of the first rules young hunters learn.
On Saturday and Sunday, hunters of all ages learned more about hunting, including ethics and safety, through a hunter education class taught by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
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The course, conducted at Brownstown Church of the Nazarene during the course of two days, was taught by Indiana Conservation Officer Phil Nale and various other instructors, each specializing in different areas of hunting safety.
From bow/crossbow to tree stand safety to firearm safety to emergency preparedness, hunters learned the basics of an assortment of topics.
“We want people to learn ethics and safety not only for hunting, but for archery and gun safety, as well,” said one of the bow/crossbow hunting instructors, Maryellen Steward of Seymour.
Steward and her husband spoke to the group of 12 people about archery safety and tree stand safety.
“I believe that tree stand falls make up the largest majority of the hunting accidents that occur,” Steward said.
Tree stands are used to elevate the hunter above game, removing them from animals’ view as well as giving them a better view of the surrounding area and more adventurous firing point.
Steward said there are various types of tree stands, and each is different, but hunters should still be cautious and employ them safely, including wearing safety belts or harnesses to prevent falling.
One student, Dalton Lawyer, 9, of Reddington said he had learned a good amount about hunting with a bow and arrow after only a small portion of the class.
“I like it so far,” he said. “I learned about the different types of arrowheads and the different arrows.”
Lawyer’s mother, Gail Lawyer, also attended the event. She said it’s important for children to learn the overall safety and follow the rules when it comes to activities like hunting.
“He’s grown up around a few hunters, but we love to get out and (target) shoot, so if Dalton wants to do something outdoors, we’re all for it,” she said.
Kenny Zornes of Seymour brought his stepson to the event. They had attended a hunter education course before.
“It really does teach the kids safety,” Zornes said. “It’s important to get them familiar with something they may not have ever had any experience with.”
And that’s what Nale said is in large part the major point to the hunter education class.
“(The DNR) is very pro-hunter, but we want people to do it right and do it safely,” he said.
Nale emphasized learning things such as wearing “hunter orange,” letting people know where you are hunting before you leave in case something were to happen and double checking on the ownership of the land you are hunting to make sure you aren’t trespassing can save hunters both physically and legally.
Nale said while it is less likely that a person would be lost for weeks, bringing enough supplies to last through the night if something were to happen is not a bad idea.
Additionally, ensuring proficiency with the tool the hunter uses can prevent an animal from suffering needlessly, Nale said.
“We don’t want something like a deer getting shot with an arrow and suffering because the hunter didn’t know what they were doing,” he said.
The course also stressed that the way hunters present themselves to the public reflects how those who know nothing about it view the hunting community.
Ultimately, the goal of the hunters in the class was to pass a test at the end of the program with 70 percent or higher, earning them the right to purchase hunting licenses in the state of Indiana.
The course can be taken online, but Nale said he does not recommend that method of testing.
“It can be a little harder, and you can’t ask questions if you don’t understand something,” he said.
Nale said there is no quick fix to learning and observing hunting safety, but the course strives to deliver a basic level introduction to the field.