Safe and happy huntingCourse designed to teach young hunters safe gun handling practices
During the annual hunter safety course held at Washington Middle School Monday afternoon, instructor Jim Cuddeback showed a video of fledgling hunter Jack Carter shooting his first 10-point buck. He showed the video to a class of 25 middle school students that contained Jack Carter.
For one week a year, Cuddeback, a retired teacher and farmer in Washington County, spends a week teaching young people about hunter safety. The course he teaches is required by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for new hunters to get hunting licenses. The course has been required since 1962.
“A lot of accidents happen to younger hunters,” Cuddeback told the class. “They are not as experienced and may get more excited when they are out hunting.”
To emphasize the point, Cuddeback showed several newspaper clippings chronicling hunters under the age of 18 who had been wounded or killed as the result of a gun accident. He also showed the statistics of accidents that had happened before and after the training program was required. Before the class became a requirement, the average number of gun-related accidents in the years Cuddeback showed was about 10 per year. After the course became a requirement, the numbers dropped to an average of about one per year.
The class will meet for 90 minutes per day through Saturday. On Saturday, Cuddeback said, the students would be given a knowledge test and a skills test on safe gun and hunting practices. During the class, Cuddeback said that the students would be shown the proper way to handle a gun, be given a seminar in game laws by DNR officer Dan Henderson, and safe hunting practices. On Saturday, students will be graded on the ability to manipulate a gun while ensuring the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction.
One of the first lessons Cuddeback gave the students was to always check the chamber of a gun upon picking it up. Using a 20-gauge pump action shotgun supplied by the DNR, Cuddeback asked the students if the gun was safe. He opened the action and a dummy shell flew out. He asked the students again if the gun was safe. He then explained the magazine was still full, and proceeded to pump out four more dummy shells. During the classes, Cuddeback has no live ammunition.
Cuddeback showed many models of guns to the students, showing the difference between bolt-action, pump action, semi-automatic, and rolling block. He had the students go through the different parts of the gun. He also showed a handgun, explaining that because of the short barrel, handguns were more dangerous because they were easier to point in an unsafe direction.
“Guns are dangerous, especially if not used carefully,” Cuddeback told the students.
The next hunter safety class will be held at Marr Park beginning March 26. For more information, call 657-2400.