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Safe hunting begins with education

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Photos by Don Benjamin Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife managers Stewart Sinclair (left) and Cody Purcell help young students fire safely at targets. Students and instructors wear safety goggles and ear protection.

In 1970 the Colorado legislature established a requirement for hunters to complete an education course. The goal was to reduce the state's fatal and non-fatal hunting accidents.

Between 1961 and 1969, Colorado had 91 hunter fatalities, an average of ten each year. During the first ten years of the hunter safety program the number of fatal incidents dropped to 45, cutting the annual average in half. Since 1980, the number of fatalities and non-fatal accidents have steadily declined until deaths have been reduced to an average of one per year and accidents have declined from an average of two dozen per year to four annually.

The hunter safety course is offered in two basic formats: online and in person instruction. Students taking either format must pass a written examination and a live firing exercise. In Cedaredge, young prospective hunters seeking to earn a hunter safety card must take two full days of in person classroom instruction, pass a written examination, and successfully fire a .22 rifle.

Local hunter safety instruction is a model of community cooperation. The classes are conducted by Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW). Cedaredge High School provides classroom space and transportation to the gun range through its Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. And the Cedaredge Rod & Gun Club provides the shooting range.

This year's group of hunter safety students totaled twenty-one. They ranged in age from elementary to high school students.

The Cedaredge Rod & Gun Club has been working with CPW to offer hunter safety courses for three years. The club hosts other events for youngsters including a shotgun shooting event and barbeque for local high school seniors and an FFA shoot. The club also offers instruction for adults in personal protection and concealed carry. The club operates three separate ranges for pistol, rifle, and shotgun. All shooting facilities have undergone major renovations and the ranges are in top notch condition. Established in 1941, the club is a members-only, locked gate facility located at 18052 Green Valley Road west of Cedaredge. The club has 235 members including participants from Delta, Montrose, and Mesa counties. Instructions for those interested in joining the club are found at the website: http://cedaredgerodandgunclub.com/

Locally, CPW conducts multiple hunter safety classes per year, some through the schools and some for the general public. The school class is usually held during the students' spring break. A general public class for May is already underway in Paonia. A second general public class is planned for June in the Cedaredge area with the exact date, time, and place to be announced. To find a hunter education class near you go to http://cpw.state.co.us/ and click on the 'Learn' tab and follow the prompts to either a traditional or online course listing.

Hunter safety students wait their turn to fire live ammunition at the Cedaredge Rod & Gun Club.
Corbin Frost, a Cedaredge third grader, proudly displays his bright orange hunter education certificate. Corbin represents the fourth generation of hunters in his family. He and his father, Jeremy, have both completed the Colorado hunter safety course.
CPW district wildlife manager Stewart Sinclair helps a hunter safety student adjust his ear protection. Students fired live rounds to complete their instruction.
The flag is up so it’s safe to go down-range to check targets. The Cedaredge Rod & Gun Club provided its facility for last month’s hunter safety live-fire exercise.
A community effort by the Future Farmers of America (FFA) of Cedaredge, Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), and the Cedaredge Rod & Gun Club helped local students earn their hunter education certificates. CPW provided classroom instruction and tested students. FFA provided classroom space at Cedaredge High School and transportation to the Rod & Gun Club’s which provided the shooting range. Pictured with students are Mrs. Katie Greenwood, FFA advisor (far left) and CPW district wildlife manager and hunter safety instructor, Cody Purcell (far right in uniform).
Colorado Parks and Wildlife district wildlife managers Stewart Sinclair (left) and Cody Purcell prepare .22 caliber rifles for students to use in the live-fire portion of their hunter safety course. Students must attend two days of classroom instruction and pass a written test before completing their training on the firing range.
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