Hunter education courses packed as opening season approaches

Sept. 20, 2011 at 4:20 a.m.

Dove season kicks off Friday in the Crossroads, and deer season comes soon after, but ammunition and firearms aren't the only ways hunters ready themselves.

A bit of classroom time also comes into play.

As Area Chief for Texas Parks and Wildlife hunter education, James Bartay hosts hunter education courses, a mandatory step for any hunter born after Sept. 2, 1971.

Lessons include everything from the 10 commandments of firearm safety to firearm carries and even animal anatomy, he said.

"We try to cover it all," he said, explaining it isn't only hunters who take part in classes, but 4-H participants, Boy Scouts and more.

If students take anything away from the coursework, he said he hopes it's three very important rules. Those include always pointing the firearm's muzzle in a safe direction, being sure the weapon is unloaded before cleaning it, storing it and the like, and always knowing what sits before and behind one's target.

"Texas saw three fatalities last year due to firearm mishandling and four the year before that," he said. "They weren't necessarily from hunting, but it's important for people to know how to be safe."

Bartay's next two-day course spans Friday and Saturday, but classes are already filled to the brim. That's common, he said, noting that classes right before the season kicks off fill up quickly, while those in February and March remain empty.

"It's just that time of year," he said. "Everybody's getting ready. I could have 100 people per class if I had a building that would hold it."

He said he plans to offer additional courses and even bring in other instructors to meet the demand.

Bartay admitted teaching takes time and preparation, but he said he enjoys it.

He, himself, has hunted ever since childhood and enjoys passing on his hobby to others.

There's one person in particular he said he hopes catches the hunting bug: his 5-year-old daughter, Avery.

"She's really taken to it," he said. "I can't wait until she's old enough to really get out there. Hopefully she'll want to."



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