JOHN DAY – Ten hunter education students learned firearm safety in a July 6-18 class, ending the hard work with a fun field day. The class is sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Instructor Deanna Maley led students, young and old, in the class, teaching topics such as muzzle control (keeping the firearm pointed in a safe direction), types of actions (bolt action, break action, pump action), as well as ethical and unethical situations, which includes being respectful to the non-hunting population, respectful to wildlife and to the land, she said.

Firearm safety is the No. 1 lesson learned.

“Once they pull the trigger – whether it’s a bow, shotgun or pistol – that decision can’t be changed at that point, so it’s about being aware of their surroundings,” she said. “If there is a bad decision made, it could affect them for the rest of their lives.”

She said she wants the students, “not to be afraid of weapons, but to understand that there is a responsibility or a respect that has to go with handling weapons.”

Maley, who is the ODFW office coordinator, took a hunter education class with her daughter CheyAnne, then in grade school, in 2005.

“I later decided that was something I wanted to get involved with,” she said. “I’m passionate about teaching the kids about firearm safety, whether they’re hunting or shooting at targets.”

The course includes five evenings in the classroom, one evening of testing and a field day at a local shooting range where students can put their practical skills to the test. At the range, students have the opportunity to shoot .22 rifles and Neil Bauer’s muzzle loader. Helping teach the class were Chris Labhart, Bryan Nelson, Mike Springer and Bauer.

Youth under 18 are required to take the course in order to hunt on public lands.

Adults also take the course if they plan to hunt in another state where hunter ed certification is required, or to obtain a concealed weapons permit – sometimes taking the course with their children, or to increase their knowledge on the subject.

Maley said the class is not necessarily just for those who plan to go hunting, but also for 4-H shooting sports or target shooting. “It’s not just about hunting, but there are other avenues that you can be involved with.”

A resident of the Fox area, Maley said she has a long commute to work (more than 35 miles), and to add the hunter ed course, from 6-8:30 p.m., to her day is a lot to take on.

“When I look at it, it’s 12 days out of 365 days - it’s not that much,” she said.

She and other hunter ed instructors are interested in seeing younger adults become involved in the program “to keep it going and teach these kids.”

“If it doesn’t change we’ll find a continuous decline in our hunting population - and all aspects of firearm,” she added.

Those interested in helping teach future hunter education classes can contact Maley at the ODFW office, 541-575-1167.

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