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Dove hunt shows thanks to hunter ed instructors

The highly successful Hunter Education Program in Alabama thrives on volunteers who help teach young and inexperienced hunters safe firearm handling and safety in the field.

Showing appreciation for those who volunteer is an aspect the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division deems essential to maintain its treasured volunteer workforce.

In Baldwin County recently, Conservation Enforcement Officer Thad Holmes and Hunter Education Regional Coordinator James Altiere made sure those volunteers knew how important their help is via a jam-up dove hunt at Alligator Alley in Summerdale.

With landowner Wesley Moore pulling pork from a freshly barbecued pig he and his crew cooked overnight, the instructors started rolling in to partake of some fine barbecue and a hunt that featured mainly doves of the white-winged variety.

“We’ve had a lot of volunteer instructors help us,” said Holmes, one of three conservation enforcement officers in Baldwin County, the largest county in Alabama in terms of land area. “These volunteers make it easier and more accessible for the kids coming of age (16) and younger to take the hunter education course.”

Open to individuals 10 years and older and required for those born on or after Aug. 1, 1977, the Alabama Hunter Education Course comes in three versions—a regular classroom setting with 10 hours of instruction plus a written examination a CD-ROM course taken on the individual’s computer and an online course available at www.outdooralabama.com. Those who use the CD or online courses must also complete “field day” instruction. The internet and/or CD course have many activities and questions, including a 50-question test that students must complete. The course includes but is not limited to firearm safety and handling, responsible hunting and hunter ethics, wildlife laws, wildlife management and identification, archery, muzzleloading, first aid, survival and game care.

Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries personnel and volunteer instructors supervise and instruct at the field day, and students must learn and demonstrate skills such as loading and unloading different types of firearms, safely crossing fences and other hunter safety activities. Students who successfully complete the hunter ed course receive a certification card that is recognized by other states across the nation.

At one time the hunter education field days were set for the weekends, Holmes said, which consistently led to scheduling conflicts for volunteers and students alike.