Wyoming Rebuffs Feds That Hunter Education Is ‘Dangerous Weapon Training’

Potential cuts to teaching hunter education in public schools because they provide “dangerous weapon training” are wrong, misguided and would deprive Wyoming kids of valuable “life skills,” local officials say.

Mark Heinz

August 02, 20234 min read

The Cheyenne East High School clay target team practices at a local range.
The Cheyenne East High School clay target team practices at a local range. (Mark Heinz, Cowboy State Daily File)

Possible cuts to education programs that allegedly involve “dangerous weapon training” could hurt hunter education in public schools, which certifies hundreds of Wyoming kids each year.

It’s still unclear how, or even if, Wyoming will be affected by cutting money for school programs that involve hunting, archery and the like, as proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration, Game and Fish spokeswoman Brenna Ball told Cowboy State Daily.

“At the moment, we believe the legislation has been misinterpreted,” she said. “At this moment, it is unclear how this legislation would impact Wyoming schools and we, along with partners are working to understand the intent of the legislation.”

Depriving Kids Of ‘Life Skills’

Nathan Warren, who teaches hunter education classes in Platte County, said cutting archery and hunting courses from public schools is a terrible idea.

“To not teach that kind of stuff to kids is a disservice. You’re teaching life skills,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “They’re trying to develop more of dependance on the government, and nobody taking responsibility for their actions.”

Ball said Game and Fish stands firmly for hunting and archery courses in public schools.

“We will continue to support and advocate wholeheartedly for hunter education and archery in the schools. These programs play a vital role in fostering conservation ethic in our youngest citizens, and hunter education plays a vital role in teaching our youth the value of wildlife, conservation and safety,” she said.

‘Dangerous Weapons’

The Biden administration’s possible cuts to funding for school programs involving hunter education, archery or shooting sports have already drawn criticism from some Wyomingites, who said the cuts represent government overreach and “wokeism.”

The funding cuts were piggybacked on the federal 2022 Safer Communities Act, which came in response to school shootings and received wide bipartisan support.

Cutting money for school programs that allegedly provide “dangerous weapon training” would help create a safer and more positive environment in schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Schools Play Vital Role

Hunter education instructors are certified through Game and Fish, but not all the courses are connected to public schools.

Warren said he teaches hunter education through his church and has also been approached by some local Chrisian charter schools. Those wouldn’t be affected by the proposed funding cuts.

But Warren said he would like to teach hunter education in public schools as well.

In Wyoming, residents born after Jan. 1, 1966, are required to pass a hunter education course before they can hunt here. The courses involve classroom training on such subjects as hunting ethics, wilderness survival and wildlife education. There’s also firearms instruction at a certified shooting range.

Thousands of youngsters take hunter education in Wyoming, including hundreds who get the program through public schools, Ball said.

“Currently, 22 schools in Wyoming provide hunter education either through an extracurricular activity, actual curriculum or as an after-school program. Typically, these courses are offered to middle school students, although a few schools have a fifth grade program,” she said.

“According to the International Hunter Education Association, hunter education courses train and certify more than 500,000 students annually. Last year a total of 4,095 Wyoming youth were certified, of these 554 were certified through a school program,” Ball added.

Value Goes Beyond Hunting

Warren said that for him, the value of hunter education goes far beyond teaching kids how hunt.

“It’s to teach the ethos and ethics of hunting. In reality, the reason that we hunt is so that we keep those animals in our hearts, in our minds, with the experiences of our families, in our stories and in our traditions. That’s why I teach hunter education,” he said.

Ball agreed that hunter education has deep value.

“Beyond firearm safety, the Wyoming Hunter Education curriculum encompasses a holistic, hands-on approach to teaching a broad range of topics, including wildlife management and conservation, wilderness survival, wildlife identification, bear safety, field care of game meat, marksmanship and game laws,” she said.

And while school archery programs might not be directly tied to hunter education, Game and Fish supports those too, Ball added.

“In addition, National Archery in the Schools Program is not only a great way to get kids physically active, but it also teaches valuable life skills to our students,” she said. “The program allows youth to learn focus, self-control, discipline and patience. These skills are not only foundational for hunting or bow fishing but also for life.”

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter