O'Fallon Progress

‘Safety first!’ Shiloh Spurs teach hunting and gun safety to area youth

The National Wild Turkey Federation Shiloh Spurs chapter taught 81 youth and adults, alike, hunting and gun safety through the free Illinois Department of Natural Resources Hunter Safety Education program last week for its 12th year.

“It’s a wonderful program giving young people and older folks too a chance to either begin learning, or simply brush up on, basic firearm and hunting safety,” Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier said. “I’m not a hunter, but I know many who value the sport and take it very seriously, and the Shiloh Spurs play a big role in facilitating safe local hunting.”

Steve Wilke, owner of Wilke, Window and Door in Shiloh, presented Vernier, as a village representative, the IDNR’s appreciation for the continued support of the village over the years in regard to hosting the largest class in the state time and time again.

“We at the village love our local organizations that emphasize safety and heritage and the Shiloh Spurs has been doing this for over a decade and they deserve recognition for the great job they do and continue to do with educating thousands of children on gun and hunting safety,” Vernier explained. “Our village will continue to support their efforts to enrich the local community and its citizens.”

The class was a two-day, 12-hour course broken down into nine chapters of a guide to hunting responsibly and safely called Today’s Hunter in Illinois provided by the IDNR through hunter-ed.com. The instructors also broke up the monotony with educational and interactive videos provided by the NWTF.

Illinois Hunter Education celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2011 for its continued efforts to educate people since 1976.

All participants attended the free class from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at Klucker Hall in Shiloh and then took a test Monday, March 9. All participants ranging in age from 7 to their 50’s passed the exam, making the class, “another successful group of students able to enter the world of hunting,” Shiloh Spur and volunteer instructor Kevin McDaniel exclaimed.

The Hunting Safety Education card is valid for a lifetime, and is excepted by most states for hunting identification.

Two main points the instructors focused on were: always point the firearm in a safe direction and be respectful, ethical and responsible when hunting.

“Ethical means doing the right thing even when no one is looking,” Shiloh Spur President Bill “Slim” Boente repeated several times throughout the course.

“Hunting can be a great family event that all generations, young and old, can participate in...and, after 40 years of hunting I still enjoy it immensely,” Wilke explained.

According to Wilke, in today’s day in age, computer games and indoor activities are on the rise among younger generations. He said he not only keeps supporting the program because he’s a Shiloh Spur, but also to maintain and encourage the heritage of hunting.

“We don’t have as many younger folks coming into the world of hunting and (gun) sportsmanship. For us to spark growing interest with younger generations is crucial if we are to keep moving forward,” Wilke added. “You get to spend time in the great outdoors watching wildlife in its natural environment when you go hunting and that’s something to remember.”

“Education on how to handle firearms, crossbows and ammunition is important for people to learn early in life, so it becomes like second nature, so in times of stress, you’re able to control yourself physically, mentally and emotionally in an ethical and responsible manner, Shiloh Spur and volunteer instructor Paul Stadts said.

“Your basic instincts from your great ancestors are activate when you hunt,” Wilke said. “The extreme adrenaline rush I get when a big buck approaches me while hunting is unbelievable. The heart starts pounding, the knees knock, and the hands shake—there is nothing like it.”

Jerry Thomas, owner of Dirt Cheap Guns & Ammo LLC, said he took the class as a refresher course.

“I was really impressed with how knowledgeable the Spurs instructors were,” Thomas said. “Plus, the kids were very engaged during the conversations we had throughout the course.”

Trey Fernandes, 13, and his grandfather John Vieira participated in the program with enthusiasm.

“I’m really excited about (participating)! This class is really good and I’m learning new things about gun safety and hunting responsibly too,” Trey said with an ear-to-ear smile. “I plan to start with squirrels or deer (with Grandpa)—I can’t wait.”

Vieira offered extra information giving insight to Trey’s obvious interest.

“Well his big brother hunts with me and he’s already gotten two bucks so far, so it might be a touch of competition, but all in good fun of course,” Vieira said.

Other co-sponsors included the Illinois Conservation Police, LW Contractors, Wilke Window and Door, Sherbut-Carson-Claxton LLC, Norm’s Bargain Barn and Kappert Construction.

Three youths age 16 and under received youth 22 caliber rifles through a free drawing, while numerous others won other prizes at the end of the course like field dressing knives, a duck call device and turkey decals.

The sponsors provided a pizza lunch for all participants, along with complimentary donuts and beverages throughout the two-day class.

The International Hunter Education Association and the Illinois Safety Education Programs were supporters of this program as well. For more information, visit www.ihea.com or www.dnr.illinois.gov/safety.