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Bowhunter Education instructors needed in FWP's Region 7

 

Jeff Noble

Volunteer Bowhunter Education instructor Jeff Noble (foreground to left of target), poses with his 2015 class.

As Montanans of all ages continue to take an interest in learning archery, more Bowhunter Education instructors are needed to accommodate that interest in coming years.

Currently, Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 has around 30 Bowhunter Education volunteer instructors to serve a population spread over 11 southeastern Montana counties. In 2017, these instructors certified around 140 people, including online students who are required to complete a Bowhunter Education field day.

FWP is fortunate to have these skilled volunteers, but many instructors are near retirement age or have served a long time, and they don't know who will take their places one day. In some rural communities, there may be only one instructor, if any. So FWP always welcomes new recruits to support the hunting tradition.

Some bowhunters may have considered becoming an instructor, but they hesitate because they don't know what is required or whether they have the time or experience it takes to be effective.

Jeff Noble, a Broadus-area Bowhunter Education instructor since 2000, was interested enough in helping to advance the sport that he didn't see those things as obstacles.

"Becoming a volunteer instructor has allowed me to help other people get started in the great sport of bowhunting, and in archery in general," he said.

Noble works full time as the attorney for Powder River County. He is active in the Montana Bowhunter Association, having served as a director, and is one of three people who started the Montana Bowhunter Education Foundation.

Noble's fellow instructor in Powder River County, Shawn Wahl, owns and operates a taxidermy shop and is an accomplished bowhunter. Wahl has been teaching for four years and also enjoys getting people into the sport.

Since it's not uncommon for people to learn archery as adults, many instructors have not bowhunted their whole lives. Noble shot bows occasionally in his younger years, but he did not get into archery seriously until he was in his early 30s. Over the past 20 years, bowhunting has become his favorite pastime.

"I enjoy all types of bowhunting, from deer and elk hunting in the fall, to turkey and bear hunting in the spring," he said. "In addition, I try to participate in as many local archery shoots as I can each year, and I am always looking for off-season bow-shooting opportunities like carp shooting in the summer."

Noble bowhunted seriously for about four years before becoming an instructor. But before committing, he volunteered to assist other instructors in their classes, and he recommends that interested people explore that option.

"Contact your local instructors and ask if they can use a hand with putting on their classes," Noble suggested. "I bet they will be happy to receive the help. Helping put on a class is the best way to learn about them."

To find out about instructors in your area, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov and search under the Education tab for classes and instructors or call 406-234-0926 to speak with the FWP Region 7 education program manager.

"Personally, I think an instructor should have at least a year or two of experience in the field as a bowhunter," Noble said. "But you certainly don't need to be an expert in the sport to become an instructor."

"FWP provides quite a bit of information to new instructors, to help them get started," he noted. "You can also call other local instructors, including me, if you have questions. Other local instructors are some of your best resources."

The course materials provide most of what instructors need to know to lead classes, and the other critical information comes from state hunting laws and regulations.

Beyond that, Noble urges "knowledge of and experience with archery equipment and bowhunting safety practices, ethics and skills."

For people who aren't sure if they are instructor material, Noble says, "I always tell my classes the first day that I am only a VOLUNTEER, and not an EXPERT. But I am willing to share with the class my personal knowledge and experiences to help them get started. So no instructor needs to be an expert to teach the classes, and I believe that the students are appreciative of our time and efforts. Plus, it is just fun."

To become a volunteer Bowhunter Education instructor, people must:

-Fill out an application form

-Complete a Hunter and/or Bowhunter Education course

-Be 18 years of age (junior instructors must be 14 or older)

-Successfully pass a background investigation

-Review the program policy and procedures manual

-Complete an online training course for new instructors (three to five hours at your pace); applicants have one year to complete this course

-Team-teach with another instructor for at least five hours

-Teach at least one class over a two-year period

-Attend the annual spring workshop in your area

 

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