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Mentor and student at shooting range

2 Utahns serve as hunter education instructors for nearly 60 years; how to get involved as an instructor

Salt Lake City — Utah's Hunter Education Program launched in 1957, and two Utahns have been serving as instructors for the program almost since it began.

Mentor and student at shooting range

The two men — Parowan resident, Albert Orton, and Centerville resident, Norman Beers — have volunteered their time and expertise for almost a whopping 60 years to teach youth and others the rules of firearm and archery safety, among other things. The men were certified just days apart in May 1961 and both actively taught classes until 2019.

"We are so grateful for incredible instructors who are willing to offer their time and talents in educating the next generation of hunters in Utah," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Hunter Education Program Manager RaLynne Takeda said.

Albert Orton said he grew up hunting and became a hunter education instructor because he wanted to pass along that love of the outdoors and wildlife to others. During his nearly 60 years as an instructor, he has taught three generations of one family.

"What better way to spend your time than teaching and working with kids," Orton said. "It's a great feeling to see them excited to learn. I have taught several hundred students during my time as a hunter ed instructor and have kept in touch with many of them. And I'm proud to say that I've never had one firearm accident in any of my classes."

Norman Beers said he competed in shooting sports in high school and in college and has always been a huge advocate of firearm safety.

"Marksmanship is a favorite pastime of mine," he said. "I have loved teaching young people the art of marksmanship and safe firearm handling, as well as outdoor and survival skills. I think these are important skills for any individual to learn, and hunter education is a wonderful program that teaches concentration and accomplishment. I'll continue to serve as an instructor for as long as I'm able to and can see the joy of young people learning to master these skills."

Utah began its local Hunter Education Program in 1957 because, at the time, the state had one of the highest rates of hunting incidents in the U.S. That year, there were 165,081 licensed hunters in Utah, and a reported 126 hunting incidents, 22 of which ended in fatalities.

"The state of Utah implemented the Hunter Education Program in an effort to help decrease the number of hunting-related accidents," Takeda said. "And those efforts have been very successful. Since the beginning of the program, hunting incidents in Utah have decreased drastically. In 2019, Utah had 448,271 licensed hunters, and only saw three hunting-related incidents and no fatalities."

The majority of the instructors who teach hunter education in Utah are volunteers, rather than DWR employees. Since the program was launched, there have been roughly 2,500 volunteer instructors. There are currently 342 instructors teaching hunter education across the state.

How to become a hunter education instructor in Utah

Anyone interested in becoming a hunter education instructor can apply on the DWR website. You must pass a background check, complete an online training course and attend an in-person training session with the DWR. Instructors are required to teach at least one hunter education class each year and can pick the location and dates for the course.

You are required to take a training course every two years and pass a background check every five years to remain an active hunter education instructor.

"In these hunter education classes, instructors can share their skills, including their expertise and love of the outdoors, firearm safety and marksmanship, among other things," Takeda said. "They have the incredible opportunity to pass their outdoor knowledge and skills on to others. They can instill their love of hunting and appreciation for wildlife in someone else. That's a pretty unique experience. And, as an added benefit, some retailers and manufacturers offer discounts to hunter education instructors."

Due to COVID-19, the DWR has temporarily postponed all instructor-led, in-person courses until further notice, and is just offering online courses. The field-day exercise is also temporarily being offered virtually, although some small, field-day exercises are still being offered in person.

To hunt in Utah, everyone born after Dec. 31, 1965, must complete a state-offered hunter education class or participate in the Trial Hunting Program. Find more information about the programs by visiting the DWR website.

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