by Jim Zumbo - Thursday, October 12, 2023
Ever wonder how anti-hunters are initially indoctrinated into their hostile attitude toward hunting and hunters? It may be a learned process handed down by parents or friends, or something they read or saw or, more likely, propaganda passed on by their schoolteachers. Young minds are easily swayed, and students are often eager to embrace the thoughts and attitudes of their mentors. Add to that the countless current issues with school boards across the country and you have an environment where children are vulnerable to an educational system where liberal politics are rampant. Walt Disney, teddy bears, Bambi, Bugs Bunny and many other characters as well as social media add to the issue. Elmer Fudd no longer carries a gun to shoot at the “wascally wabbit.” He swings a scythe—in violent fashion. Yosemite Sam had his two pistols taken away. These changes, among others, result in burying hunting and shooting under the rug. They subtly transition the minds of youngsters against firearms and hunting, but violence nonetheless exists. In one cartoon, Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny are involved in scenes with dynamite. Elmer is blown up dozens of times while Bugs thinks it’s hilarious. But in the grand scheme of things, children are influenced mostly in classrooms when teachers preach anti-hunting and anti-firearms.
So it was with a breath of fresh air when Wyoming’s Gov. Mark Gordon announced the launch of the “Inspire a Kid” initiative that will bring conservation education into Wyoming classrooms at a recent press conference in Casper, Wyo. The governor opened his comments by saying that kids who enjoy the outdoors are more able to solve problems and learn much about relying on themselves. “It’s been a phenomenal opportunity for me to be here today to make this announcement,” he said.
Brian Nesvick, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), said the effort will involve three programs: Trout in the Classroom, National Archery in the Schools Program and Hunter Education in Schools.
In the fish project, teachers and students will raise trout from eggs, nurture them and release them into local waterways. By doing so, classrooms will become a place to explore the life cycle of trout, conservation and water quality. WGFD personnel and Trout Unlimited will provide equipment and skills to assist the students.
“What could be more valuable than to watch a fish come from an egg and see it grow?” said Gov. Gordon. Trout in the Classrooms is a national program offering students an opportunity to learn about the natural environment and perhaps even become interested in conservation-related careers.
The archery program is an in-school curriculum that teaches international-style archery. Indoor archery ranges will be established in schools where educators will be certified to teach the courses. The curriculum was developed to teach safety and conservation principles. Bowhunters of Wyoming and other groups are strong supporters. This is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program, which reports that 91 percent of students go on to pursue other outdoor activities.
The Hunter Education program will allow teachers to become certified to teach hunter safety in Wyoming and most other states and many countries. A hunter safety certificate is required for new and younger hunters who hunt with a firearm to obtain a hunting license. WGFD facilitates hunter education in Wyoming and will assist in training teachers to offer the program to students. Currently there are some 350 volunteer hunter safety instructors in the state. Augmenting these instructors with schoolteachers will offer more opportunities for students to take the course.
“We’ve had 50 percent fewer hunting accidents in Wyoming since we began the hunter education program,” said director Nesvick. (For more hunter education opportunities, click here for information on the NRA’s free online hunter education course.)
Wyoming Superintendent of Education Megan Degenfelder expressed her appreciation of the hunter education courses. “I was fortunate to have come from a family that hunted and fished,” she said in her opening remarks. “I began big game hunting when I was a teenager and I loved fishing. When I attended the University of Wyoming, I gave a demonstration on how to field-dress an animal!”
She went on to share: “I discovered a positive impact that being outdoors had on my mental health. Lessons in life were so important to me. I believe those lessons should be available to all children by bringing those incredible opportunities into the classroom. And let me say that this is a really big deal to have teachers certified to teach hunter education.” This is a powerful testimony being delivered by Wyoming’s highest educator.
U.S. Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyo.) also made positive comments about the program. “I’ll do everything I can to stop D.C. politicians from getting into Wyoming classrooms,” he said. “Biden instructed the U.S. Department of Education not to fund any hunting programs because they’re dangerous activities. I have 28 Senators on board to sign the ARROW ACT (Allowing Recreation Resources for Outdoor Wellness). I’m extremely pleased that all three of these conservation courses will be taught in Wyoming classrooms.”
Gov. Gordon’s wife, Jennie, is also a huge supporter of hunting and conservation. As I covered for the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) website, (NRAHLF.org), the First Lady launched a program in 2019 to eliminate “food insecurity” and childhood hunger with her Wyoming Hunger Initiative called the “Food From the Field” program. This initiative is in cooperation with WGFD, the Department of Agriculture, Food Bank of the Rockies and participating game processors. In fact, NRA HLF Director of Communications Karen Mehall Phillips will be hunting with Jennie and friends this month and, as you might guess, some of the hunters are already planning to donate their harvests to Food from the Field.
Jennie grew up with eight siblings, but she said they were never hungry because they didn’t waste anything. “I learned that about 23,500 Wyoming kids deal with food insecurity, where you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, so I started working on it when I became first lady.”
As NRA’s Mehall Phillips shares, “From their Hunters for the Hungry efforts to working with WGFD to launch vital youth programs such as Inspire a Kid, the Gordons understand the values of hard work, integrity and the importance of supporting our all-American hunting and outdoor traditions. As governor, Mark Gordon demonstrates every day that government works best when it is closest to its people and is committed to giving local communities across the Cowboy State the tools they need to thrive.”
About the Author
An icon in the hunting community, Jim Zumbo is a noted Western big-game hunter who also has hunted deer in all 50 states. Backed by two degrees in forestry and wildlife, he has had more than 2,000 articles published in outdoor publications, written 23 hunting books and conducted hunting seminars nationwide, including for the NRA. In addition to serving as a full-time writer/editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 30 years, most of them as hunting editor, he was the host of “Jim Zumbo Outdoors” on the Outdoor Channel. A Benefactor Life member of the NRA, Zumbo has won numerous awards for his writing and remains active with conservation groups, including serving three terms on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Board. His biography, Zumbo, Based on the True Story of Jim Zumbo and His Blog Heard Around the World by K.J. Houtman, was released in November 2016.
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