Contact: Chris Horton, Senior Director, Midwestern States and Fisheries Policy
Why It Matters: Hunter education courses are an excellent opportunity to introduce middle and high school students to a variety of topics related to conservation and our outdoor heritage. Further, these opportunities provide educators with an opportunity to introduce students to important concepts like the proper and responsible handling of a firearm in a controlled setting. Thanks to the work of the Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus in supporting Senate Bill 161, Arkansas becomes the latest state to permit public school districts to incorporate hunter education into the public school curriculum. Moving forward, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) encourages all state legislatures to explore opportunities to permit and promote the inclusion of hunter education as part of public school curricula throughout the nation.
Arkansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus member Senator Trent Garner and Caucus Co-Chair Representative Jeff Wardlaw recently led the charge in the passage of Senate Bill 161 (SB 161) which permits Arkansas’ public schools and public school districts to incorporate a hunter safety course into their physical education and health and safety curriculum for grades five through twelve. These courses must be based on the hunter training and safety program offered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) and be taught by an educator who has met the instructor qualifications established by AGFC. In addition, CSF worked with the bill authors to include “wildlife conservation” as a component of the course.
The ability to integrate hunter safety into the curriculum gives an opportunity for students to gain familiarity with the outdoors, wildlife conservation, hunting, and firearm safety. Such courses also provide an opportunity to highlight the importance of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the important role hunters and anglers play through the American System of Conservation Funding. For many children, this may be their best opportunity to gain this experience.
Hunting and other outdoor activities have been shown to improve an individual’s physical and mental health. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a return to nature for many, with fishing and hunting license sales increasing across the country. Providing an opportunity for children to take a hunting safety course in school will help recruit new hunters and provide an easier path to the outdoors.
The Arkansas Legislature should be commended for taking this opportunity to educate the students in their state about our outdoor heritage and allow them to receive the training needed to enjoy these pursuits while contributing to conservation through the purchase of licenses.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?