The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 31, 2012

Sportsman teaches youth gun safety classes

By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer

DEWITT — Why do hunters hunt? Here are some answers:

• “I don’t know. I just like it.”

• “I remember going to the woods with Dad and following him.”

• “If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand.”

• Farmer Joe Diercks puts it this way: “I would like to see the hunters shoot all the deer they want. They do plenty of feeding in our cornfields.”

And then there’s this explanation from Loren Zaruba, who has been training youths in hunting safety since 1989.

“There’s a lot more to hunting than shooting guns. In many respects there is very little shooting involved. It’s about being outdoors, knowing your game and game signs and being with friends or a good dog.

“Most shooting needs to happen long before the hunt,  so the person has the skills needed to harvest the game quickly, cleanly — and safely.”

One study suggests that the hunter has 7 seconds after sighting the target to aim at a vital spot and fire.

Loren first became involved in youth safety classes in 1992 when  his son attended a Youth Hunter Education Challenge and Loren went along as his coach.  

“We met a lot of great people there and I started coaching teams, and continue to this day with others from Clinton County. Then Ellen and I became more involved with teaching Hunter Education and we became the chief instructors in 1996.

“The people in our classes are truly interested in the information presented, which makes it fun to teach. Also there are many excellent volunteer instructors in Clinton County who give their time to teach. I cannot remember a time when  I did not learn something from one of these instructors.

“We often tell our students that the Hunter Education certificate is a beginning and they can continue to learn the rest of their lives. We try to impress on them that hunting is more than just bringing home a limit of game.”

Hunter Education is offered in all 50 states and Canada, Zaruba said. It is also required (to different degrees) in all states before being able to purchase a hunting license.

In Iowa, if a person is born after Jan. 1, 1967, they are required to have Hunter Education training before being able to buy a hunting license.

In Iowa, Hunter Education classes are organized by county. A class must consist of at least 10 hours of training. Some topics are considered ‘musts’, such as hunting laws, ethics and survival/first aid.

Typically, Clinton County classes start on Tuesday night with presentations on ethics and a DNR officer reviewing game laws.

Student manuals are handed out and the students are required to read the manual before the class reconvenes at 8 a.m. on the following Saturday.

On Saturday, while students are viewing videos related to the class, certified volunteers set up five stations for hands-on training.

 “The instructors in Clinton County strongly believe in the hands-on approach and live fire is offered at four stations on one-hour rotations: shotgun, .22 rifle, muzzleloader, archery and a safety trail.

“All firearms and ammunition is provided by the state. Firearms are inspected at least annually by a certified gunsmith and checked by the primary station instructor prior to any student use.

“A certified instructor is with the students at all times when there is live firing, to assure muzzle control and provide coaching.

“The safety trail station is a little different. A course is set up where students walk the course with an instructor. They are asked questions such as ‘shoot’ or ‘don’t shoot.’

“Life-size animal targets are set in real life settings. The questions are typically three-parts: is it a safe shot?, is it a legal shot?, is it an ethical shot?  Situations may focus on not shooting over a hill, knowing what is beyond the target, animal identification, knowing what game your ‘pretend’ license would allow for harvest and reviewing the game laws from Tuesday night.

“Dummy ammunition is provided here so the students can demonstrate timely loading/unloading, such as when crossing fences.      

“There are three rotations before lunch and two after. Normally all rotations are complete about 3 p.m. Then students are given a 50-question test.

“The students who fail the test are the ones who have failed to listen, are careless with firearms, or show a general disregard toward instructors and others.

“These people are usually asked to leave the class and are never given the opportunity to take the test. All instructors are empowered to ask a student to leave the class if they are disruptive or show repeated carelessness in the handling of firearms.”

A schedule of classes is posted on the Iowa DNR web site after the class season begins.

The Clinton County Conservation Board sponsors an Enhanced Hunter Education Camp  most summers at the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center south of Wheatland.

Information on that camp is available at (563) 847-7202.