Stu­dents attend hunter safety class. Stevan Bennett | Col­legian

Suc­cessful passage of a hunter safety course is required to hunt legally in any of the 50 states, and for the first time in recent history, Hillsdale College is offering a way to obtain that cer­ti­fi­cation.
On Nov. 7, around 20 par­tic­i­pants gathered at the John A. Halter Shooting Sports Center for the field day portion of the class. Upon passing the final exam, stu­dents received their hunter edu­cation cards, which allows them to reg­ister for hunting licenses in any state.
“We got a really good response,” said Joey Kellam, asso­ciate director of security and the instructor of the program. “Hunting is a focal part of the com­munity and of the shooting sports program, and there was def­i­nitely a need for it.”
Kellam said the course was born out of student interest.
“A request went through the deans’ office by a couple of stu­dents who were inter­ested in hunting locally, but hadn’t been able to take a hunter safety class,” he said. “Then they con­tacted myself and Mr. Spieth about the pos­si­bility of putting one on.”
Before attending the field-day portion of the program with Kellam and shooting center range master Bartley Spieth, stu­dents com­pleted an online class teaching them the basics of hunting and firearm safety. Although the class lasted several hours, it was an important part of the process, according to junior Caleb McNitt.
“I feel like I gained a lot of knowledge about hunting as a whole,” he said. “And I gained a new­found respect for how much actually goes into the sport.”
Par­tic­i­pants also heard from Hillsdale County Department of Natural Resources Officer Chris Reynolds at the field day, learning about the laws and ethics of hunting.
For McNitt, the class was a welcome oppor­tunity.
“My family has always been very into hunting, and I’ve always kind of been the odd one out,” he said. “It’s a good way for me to get closer with my family, and it’s some­thing I’ve always wanted to try.”
In addition to allowing stu­dents to reg­ister for hunting licenses, having a hunter edu­cation card will also give local stu­dents the chance to join the various shooting teams that have been started at schools. Eathan and Khalea Westfall, age 12 and 15 respec­tively, are stu­dents in the Reading School Dis­trict and grad­uates of the program. Now that they are safety cer­tified, they plan on joining their school’s trap shooting team, which is in its second season.
Khalea Westfall said she chose trap shooting over other sports because it offers a unique oppor­tunity to block every­thing out and focus on a sin­gular thing.
Spieth said the shooting center plans to host another course in the future, and he even plans to become cer­tified through the DNR to instruct the course. Addi­tionally, he said the center is always looking to add new oppor­tu­nities in which stu­dents have expressed interest.
Spieth sug­gested that even those not inter­ested in hunting con­sider taking part in the course in the future.
“Many people don’t own a firearm because they are scared,” he said. “Anytime you can teach those fun­da­mental safety and marks­manship skills, it can break down the bar­riers of the fear of the unknown.”
For anybody who may take part in the course in the future, Eathan Westfall has a piece of advice on how to make the most of the course and be pre­pared for the exam.
“It’s best if you take lots of notes.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    This is an excellent col­lab­o­ration