TEACHING YOUNG HUNTERS FOR 40 YEARS — Stuart Reid has made a lifetime investment of teaching hunter safety education for 40 years. He holds his shadowbox filled with merits of his accomplishment and recognition for his service. I-O Photo by Tirsea McNeal
By Tirsea McNeal, I-O Reporter
For the last 40 years, Reid Stuart has been providing hunter education to local area youth.
He said, “I started teaching in 1973. There was no instructor in our area, and the kids weren’t going to be able to get their hunting licenses. I saw a need, so I became an instructor and have been doing the same thing every year.”
Stuart said he’s seen lots of changes over the years.
“It used to be centered strictly on fire arms safety, now it includes hunter ethics and sportsman landowner issues have been dramatic.”
Stuart said a lot more girls are now entering his class. He said, “We didn’t use to have any girls or women, and now the percentage is about half.”
He says, “Girls are encouraged because if they intend to continue living in Montana, they will most likely marry someone who hunts. They may even want to go out with their spouse and do some hunting.”
Another change Stuart has seen is in technology. He said, “It used to be we used reel to reel movies, but now those have been replaced by DVD’s. We join with other states and exchange information and use a variety of DVDs for teaching aids.”
The age for obtaining a hunting license is 12. Stuart said, “To have a license by age 12, kids can take their hunter safety by 10, but they need to be 11 to get the license by age 12.”
Stuart said he has held many classes with lot of success stories. One he remembered was about a young Indian boy. Stuart said “Years ago I had this young Indian boy in my class who had two long braids. He wasn’t doing very well in the class. When his father was told he said if the boy didn’t improve, he’d have to cut his hair. After his father told him this he made major improvements. He passed with 100 percent. About 30 years later I ran into the young man. He came up to me and smiled and said, ‘Look I still have my braids.’”
Stuart has enjoyed being an instructor. He has lots of memories and stories.
To become a hunter’s safety instructor you first have to have an interest. Stuart said, “Show an interest, then take the exam. After you pass the exam, teach as an apprentice under another instructor.”
He added, “Bow hunter education is a separate course from the hunter education class, and it’s an additional class. They have to take hunter education class in addition to a bow hunter’s safety class in order to hunt with a bow.”
In addition to hunter safety courses, Stuart goes up each year and helps with the adult women’s hunter education program at the Boone-Crockett Ranch. He said, “Women 18 and over gather for a 2-day session each fall and they come from all walks of life, and all over the state. I go up to take pictures. I help with the firing range. For the most part, all the instructors are women.”
Stuart carries a challenge coin with him. He was awarded the Montana Hunter and Bowhunter Instructor Challenge Coin in recognition of his level of performance.
The challenge coins were created in 2012, as a way to recognize instructors for their accomplishments at demonstrating leadership and displaying a high level of ethics in the field, classroom and community.
The coin is more than a mere token. Each coin is a tangible source of extraordinary pride and honor and should be treated with the highest regard. It serves as a reminder of that in which we believe is sometimes more important than what we know. Ultimately, that in which we believe will drive the level of our performance.
The back or reverse of the coin bears the phrase, “Montana’s Hunting Heritage Pass it On”.
The phrase represents the essence of both programs, mentoring our young and novice hunters about the rich tradition and heritage of Montana’s hunting and conservation history, ethics, and our many outdoor opportunities.
It’s meant to signify the importance of investing in our young for without the next generation, there will not be another, and we shall surely experience hunter extinction.