KVS Holds Classes
Inside the Outdoors, September 30
, 2011

As long as I have been writing this column, I never covered a hunter/trapper education course. This year, when I heard classes would be held at the Kingston Veterans Sportsman Club in Derry Township, I decided to attend. Not only will students be opting for their training certificate which will enable them to buy hunting licenses, but receive a rounded education as to the do’s and don’ts of proper procedures for each sport.

According to Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Wildlife Conservation Officer Brian Singer, “I can’t say enough for the instructors here at this club. They do this all on an all- volunteer capacity. Football games may be going on, but instead, they will all be down here teaching class. In addition, all the kids and their parents were fed free of charge by KVS.”

Who he was talking about was long-time lead instructor, Walter Wasnesky who has spent the last 35 years educating first-time hunters as to the pros and cons. “In 2003, I was a state instructor,” he said. “For three years, I received pins for my outstanding leadership,” for which he received pins that appeared on his apparel.

Other gentlemen who taught under Wasnesky were Jeff Uschak, president of Miller Run Conservation Society, Jim Dipsimio, and William Tonkin, three of the four were KVS members.

“For every hour these gentlemen spent in the classroom,” Singer said, “equal amount of time was spent getting ready. We couldn’t have these classes if it weren’t for these guys.”

Talking about the education of the instructors, the attending WCO explained, “They go through a stringent application process as to background checks and child abuse history clearance. One just can’t be an instructor. It’s basically like a professional teaching job except they don’t get paid to do it.” In addition, they are required to go through updates every year.

I asked Singer as to what distance parents along with their kids will travel to come to this club to attend classes. “If a youngster cannot find them near his home, he will come as far as from Harrisburg to become certified in order to be able to buy a hunting license.”

Forty-one youth showed up for the 12-hour course beginning last Friday and ending last Sunday afternoon mostly from the Latrobe and Derry area. From that amount, 10 of them were girls. Singer said the course consisted of power point presentations, DVDs and dilemmas as teaching aids.

At this club, Singer told me about the fun students had, much more so than any other place he heard about. “Instructors not only talked about gun powder, for example, or showed a DVD about it, but actually had the powder right there for the youth to see.”

Even though thorough instruction is given to first-time hunters from age 11 to adulthood, I asked Singer if he thought the kids really would be able to properly hunt or trap. KVS President Skip Shawley spoke up and said, “No, they are not ready to hunt. And they have been taught so much safety back here, they are reluctant to shoulder a firearm and shoot a pheasant, for example. At hunts, when a pheasant jumps out, the kids are asking themselves, ‘should I do it?’ They are so worried about doing the wrong thing, that they end up not taking the shot, which is OK.”

After expressing my disapproval concerning trapping, Singer set me straight. “Hunting and trapping are a part of our management tools we are mandated to use by the government we don’t want to loose. It is extremely effective. We don’t pay these guys to go out and manage the populations. They (the hunters and trappers) do it on their own. We get the service for virtually nothing. In addition, hunters and trappers fund the PGC so folks like me can do our jobs. Did the homeowners buy hunting licenses? Many of them didn’t. But the hunters and trappers did and they are the ones who mostly fund the Game Commission. If I show up at someone’s house on a complaint, and the person thanks me, I tell him, don’t thank me, but the hunters and trappers that allowed us to do this. A lot of people think the PGC is funded by the tax dollars. We aren’t. It’s something the hunters and trappers do.”

“The trapping community has come so far as to the way traps are made now,” Singer said. “They can be rubberized, padded jaw traps. They are no longer the big tooth ones people used in ages past.”

After the HTE course was given to the students, a test was issued containing 60 questions. If the kids missed twelve, they were required to either repeat it next year or find another place where it is being offered and try again for certification. Once certified, the first-time hunter is then issued a card allowing him to purchase a hunting license from an issuing agent.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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