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More than 200 Floyd Dryden Middle School students participated in a comprehensive hunter education program last week in Juneau.
The course is part of the school's health and life skills curriculum. In addition to firearm safety, the coursework covers conservation issues, wildlife biology, regulations, game care, hunt planning, map and compass orienteering, and wilderness survival. Students learned biology principles in the classroom, hunter safety practices in the field, and gun safety and handling at the Juneau Hunter Education Facility and Indoor Shooting range on Montana Creek Road.
State Wildlife Troopers, community volunteers, U.S. Forest Service and state Fish and Game staff all helped teach the various aspects of the course.
On Oct. 23, Doug Larsen, director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, presented Floyd Dryden Middle School Principal Tom Milliron with a $2,000 check to support hunter education. The money, donated by the nonprofit Taku River Valley Sportsman Association, provides hunter education materials to sixth grade students at the middle school.
Hunter education has been offered almost once a month in Juneau this past year. Classes are usually held at the Juneau Hunter Education Facility, which has a classroom area and shooting range. The class materials normally cost $10, but the donation by the nonprofit meant that middle school students were not charged. The most recent sessions were taught at both the middle school and the Hunter Education facility.
Larsen said it's important to recruit new hunters.
"Hunters have been the biggest players in conservation and we need to encourage young people to participate," he said.
Larsen added that mentoring is a big part of that process, where experienced hunters take beginners afield and help them get started.
The Taku River Valley Sportsman Association has been funding hunter education at Floyd Dryden for about eight years, said instructor Ken Coate. The nonprofit recently extended that to include Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School as well.