Free HuntSafe courses

A HuntSafe course will be offered in Philip on May 9, 2009. The class will be held at the Philip Ambulance building.

The course will begin at 8:00 a.m. and continue until 5:00 p.m. MST. Lunch will be provided for all attendees. Preregistration is required and can be done by contacting the Philip Police Department at 859-2850 or Conservation Officer Kit Bramblee at 859-3006. Preregistration can also be done by stopping into the office of the Philip Police Department. Graham and Bramblee will be the instructors, with possible help being offered from new instructors seeking experience.

According to Bramblee, the hunter safety course program has been in existence in South Dakota for 53 years. In 2008, 160 HuntSafe classes and 69 bowhunter education courses were held in the state. Annually one course is offered in Philip and one in Midland.

Every state has some form of mandatory hunter education. South Dakota regulations are considered very lenient compared to most other states. Fourteen states have mandatory bowhunter education in some form. Though many states charge the students in one form or another, South Dakota has no charge.

Graham began teaching the HuntSAFE course in Philip in 1993 and 2009 will be his 17th year. Before that was Dan Gartner and before him was Neil Peterson. Graham purposefully has the course in spring, so that if young hunters can't make that course, a fall one is available in Midland with Tom Parquet.

Since 1993, class sizes have ranged from 31 total to seven, averaging 15. Sometimes the girls have outnumbered the boys. In 1998 there was no class held. Since 1993, 245 students have attended and graduated from the class.

Hunter safety classes started in Midland in 1956. They were started because the state decided that due to so many firearm accidents that a safety class should be taken by anyone between the ages 12 and 16.

Midland classes were first taught by Tom Gillaspie, Harold "Stub" Joy and Ervin Sheeley. Later, John Gillaspie and Larry Cvach taught the classes. Presently, Parquet and Cam Meinzer are the instructors. Parquet started helping out in 1982 and Meinzer in 1998. Parquet took over as the head instructor in 1991 after everyone else moved or retired from teaching the classes.

The South Dakota Hunter Safety class was renamed to HuntSafe in 1999. Since 1991 there have been 176 people take the class in Midland. Approximately 30 percent have been girls. More adults have been taking the class in the past few years as HuntSafe is required in some states by anyone wishing to hunt no matter what their age. South Dakota currently does not require out-of-state hunters to take the class.

Instructors must take a class to become a certified instructor. There are no required refresher courses at this time but every instructor is encouraged to go to a conference about every two years or so. "It's a great chance to see new materials and methods for teaching. You get a chance to meet instructors from everywhere in the state so that's nice also," said Parquet. "Bow hunting has its own course. It's similar to the HuntSafe course but it's sponsored by the National Bowhunters Association. You have to be certified in this course also to teach it and it has different requirements for its instructors.