Hunter Education MONTHLY NEWS

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In This Issue:

Coordinator's Column - Guns Up!

Guns UP

On the first weekend of April, I had the pleasure of officiating at my son's wedding -- quite the honor! Most of the wedding party are Texas Tech alumni, so it was appropriate to display the "Guns Up!" symbol not only as a tribute to their university, but to denote Ryan and Kelsey's passion for hunter education, hunting, shooting sports and conservation.  (I use the symbol to denote the two-hand outdoor carry method in hunter ed. field courses.)

During the last weekend of April and first week of May, I was able to attend your Texas Hunter Education Instructor's Association (THEIA) - hunter education instructor conference in Uvalde and the annual International Hunter Education Association (IHEA)-USA conference in Orange Beach, Alabama, along with W TX Hunter Education Specialist, Randy Spradlin, and N TX Specialist, Monica Bickerstaff.  A big thanks to conference sponsors and planners, THEIA board of directors and TPWD staff member, Brock Minton, S TX Hunter Education Specialist, and instructors, David and Susan Rios, who rolled out the red carpet for a successful experience in Uvalde. At the IHEA-USA Conference, a big shout out goes to the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Agency and to IHEA-USA. Joe Delahoussaye, Austin, IHEA-USA life member, made the trek and represented Texas volunteers in fine fashion!  And, way to go, Kalkomey Enterprises, for sponsoring both!

Award ceremonies at both conferences served to recognize those individuals and organizations that went above and beyond the call of duty in 2018. (See Texas award recipients below.)  It astonishes me what some instructors and supporters of hunter education do to reach children and students -- what YOU do!  You demonstrate passion for safe and responsible behavior your students and communities!

My hat's off and my heart goes out to each of you for your selfless acts in passing on sound virtues, behaviors and life skills to others.  Keep up the cause!

Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator

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Instructor Conference Highlights!



The 2019 annual Hunter Education Instructor Conference was held at the Uvalde Civic Center. A BIG THANKS to all instructors who attended and to the Texas Hunter Education Instructor Association who hosted and funded the conference. In particular, THEIA treasurer, Denise Harmel-Garza, Texas Agrilife Extension, and Julie Clark, Austin Gun Club, put forth a HUGE effort planning conference details and logistics. Thanks, too, to TPWD staff members, Eddie Kleppinger and Jimmy Alvaranga for assisting THEIA with registration.  Lindsay Hodgdon, THEIA president, and his board also presided over the conference agenda to make sure everyone had a great time and networking opportunity.  Finally, all Area Chiefs that showed for the Friday night meeting preceding the conference deserve a big round of applause for "going above & beyond!"

Conference sponsors included PLATINUM sponsor - Kalkomey Enterprises  (; GOLD sponsors, Sig-Sauer, Lonesome Dove Fest, McBride Conservation Foundation (Austin Woods and Waters); SILVER sponsors - 1st Campro, Academy, Outdoor Edge, Birchwood-Casey, Midway USA, NRA and Lasershot. We certainly can't reach hundreds of thousands of Texans without industry support -- BRAVO!

theia original

Thanks to THEIA Sponsors and Donors!!!


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Annual Awards - Volunteer Instructors of the Year


STATEWIDE Volunteer Instructor of the Year

Duke Walton, Porter - Presented by Heidi Rao, SE TX Hunter Education Specialist, Duke accepted his award based on his longtime involvement in the program (1988) and his continued strong involvement and achievements in 2018.

Rao stated, "Duke was one of the first Area Chief Instructors I met and had the pleasure of shadowing.  I’ve always enjoyed watching his innovation and creativity with all things hunter education.  He never misses a chance to be proactive and reach out to a local venue, sportsman’s group, hunting expo, convention, or city facility to insert his message of safety and recruiting young people into hunting and safe shooting." She added, chuckling, "There are several stories of Duke waking up in the middle of the night with an idea, how to build or improve on his display for events, go to his shed and begin construction of a massive wooden folding backdrop display board.  He has a passion and commitment to promoting safe hunting through education."

Duke is actively involved in conducting youth and mentor hunts and shooting sports opportunities with his co-Area Chiefs, Bob Boswell, Georgetown and David Hammonds, Fort Worth.  They frequently travel with Duke's trailer full of wildlife furs, skulls, tracks and scat to teach wildlife ID and conservation.  They have participated in the national Youth Hunter Education Challenge for many years and he helps David run the statewide event in Arlington. Other events included Take Me Outdoors-Houston, NASP, and IBO/3D and a partnership with SCI-Houston to offer Hunter Education to the public at no charge (SCI pays students’ $15 fee).  This became such a successful partnership that he also began the same program with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He conducted numerous courses, mentored new instructors around Greater Houston and Hunting 101 workshops including Turkey, Western Big Game, and Feral Hog.  CONGRATULATIONS DUKE!  


SOUTHEAST TX - John Rao, Houston - As a Texas Game Warden, John Rao (retired), was very active teaching hunter education in Harris County.  Now, as a volunteer, he continues to teach firearm safety and works with a variety of youth groups (church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and the Texas Youth Hunting Program), continuing the hunting heritage while continually seeking new hunters to mentor.  He is very active in the hunter education community and called upon to share his passion for teaching and mentoring. He accrued 1,026 incentive points in 2018; third most in TX!

Assistant Instructor of the Year

Dominic Rao, Houston - Growing up in the Rao household, Dominic and his 3 younger brothers have always been surrounded by hunting, trapping, and the safe handling of firearms while shooting rifles, shotguns and handguns.  Dominic has introduced hunting and trapping to his school friends, teachers and his Scout friends. An Eagle Scout, Dominic is also a founding member of Venture Hunting Crew ".30-06".  Dominic became an Assistant Hunter Education Instructor as soon as he turned 15, and team teaches with dad, retired Game Warden, John Rao. He taught every course with John in 2018.


SOUTH TEXAS - Rick Hite, San Antonio, has served as a volunteer Hunter Education Instructor since 1988.  Later, he was certified and assigned as an Area Chief in San Antonio and has dedicated his time working/assisting with volunteer instructors in his area, as well as across Texas.   He annually assists with outreach/education programs, uses available resources, attends events to recruit new instructors, and serves as a board member for south central THEIA.  He accrued 118 points in 2018; 2,500 total.


WEST TEXAS - Gary Vaughn, Shallowater, taught 138 students last year and has been an active instructor for 14 years.  He is also a 13-year Huntmaster dedicated to getting kids into the field.  An example is his passion is to conduct at least 3 physically challenged youth hunts annually with 15 –18 kids per hunt. He also conducts three additional hunts through the TYHP program and by taking kids and parents to his own ranch.  He accrued  148 points in 2018 nearing the 1,400 level.


CENTRAL TEXAS - John Polasek, College Station, is an Area Chief Instructor who regularly teaches from Houston to Bryan. He has been a supporter of the large classes offered at A&M and assists Denise Garza and Larry Hysmith in teaching hunter education to college students and graduates.  John makes the annual trip to assist with the Laser Shot Shooting Simulator during Ranching & Wildlife Expo at Houston Rodeo each year. He accrued 226 points in 2018, and has over 7,000 in the program.


NORTH TEXAS - Richard Buchfink, Weatherford, is a hunter and bowhunter education instructor and teaches multiple student courses.  He helped mentor women during BOW mentor deer hunts, organized hunts for former military and served as an advisor to new instructor applicants. He frequently checks out the N TX firearm training sets for use in his classes and makes necessary repairs and thoroughly cleans the firearms as needed. Richard works with new instructor applicants in assuming hunter education courses formerly offered at Cabela's-Fort Worth by retiring instructors, David and Jeanette Hammonds. Richard has a clear understanding of the Online Registration System and served as a subject matter expert assisting new instructors in understanding the system better. He also facilitates multiple NRA, self-defense and concealed carry courses throughout the year. He accrued 220 points in 2018, nearing 1,000 total. Congrats to all of the volunteer recipients!

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Partner, Team, Game Warden and Educator Awards


PARTNER AWARD - SCI-Houston – Heidi Rao also presented one of the two Partner Awards, from her region, Safari Club International - Houston Chapter.  Accepting on behalf of the organization was Dan Marcasol, Hunter Education Chair. According to Rao, "SCI-Houston has continually reached out to TPWD to see how they can support hunter education and the program. Since 2004, SCI-Houston has provided TPWD Hunter Education certification for nearly 2000 students, free-of-charge.  They pay each student’s fee and work with a variety of sponsors that provide meals, snacks, drinks, drawings, prizes, and hunts during the annual courses.  SCI-Houston has supported local efforts, such as "Take Me Outdoors Houston", an outreach event, since 2009, and are always stepping up to showcase their hands-on 'Sensory Safari' wildlife trailer, teaching conservation."


PARTNER AWARD - Arlington Sportsman’s Club has supported TPWD Hunter Education Program, Texas Hunter Education Instructor Association (THEIA) and the NRA Youth Hunter Education Challenge for 12 years free-of-charge! They actively teach hunter education (teaching team) and work with the Dallas Arms Collectors Association and with other DFW Hunter Education partners to support local hunter education course efforts.


TEAM AWARD - David and Susan Rios, Uvalde - Brock Minton (R) presented one of two statewide Team awards -- from his region, Area Chief, David Rios and his co-teacher and lifelong partner, Susan Rios. David teaches new instructors, as well as new applicants attending the Jr. College (Uvalde) where he serves as Wildlife Biologist for TPWD. Susan teaches and certifies students in basic hunter education. They "team up" to conduct education/outreach programs and recruit partners (game wardens, biologists, hunter education instructors, etc.) to join them in serving their South Texas region. “Behind every successful man, is a woman” -- yeah, David's wife! WOW!  What A TEAM!" said Minton. They also hosted this year's Instructor Conference -- THANKS Rios duet!


TEAM AWARD - Jeanette and David Hammonds, Fort Worth - Hammonds are "retiring and going on the road" after 28 years of service.  Both reached the Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame in 2015 and have accrued nearly 5,000 points for their hard-earned efforts. Early on, they forged a partnership to teach at the DFW Cabela's stores and belong to many organizations including the Arlington Sportsman's Club -- this year's partner recipient. They have been the longtime coordinators and host of the annual Texas NRA YHEC event for over a decade. Congratulations to such a fine couple of Area Chiefs and SAFE travels across the U.S.!


GAME WARDEN of the YEAR AWARD - Stephen Boultinghouse, Ft. Davis - Randy Spradlin presented the West Texas award and said, "Stephen has stepped up not only with hunter education, but with youth hunts and outreach, as well." Spradlin continued, "He implemented hunter education at the Prude Ranch for five weeks of summer camp to some 650 youth.  He conducts a pronghorn and mule deer hunt in Jeff Davis County.  When available, he assists with youth shooting sports events and outreach. He has always been available to me when I asked." Congratulations, Stephen, for representing game wardens, the department and hunter education instructors throughout the state!


PROFESSIONAL EDUCATOR AWARD - Keith Martz, Highland Village - Monica Bickerstaff presented the award to one of the pioneers of Outdoor Adventures (Outdoor Tomorrow Foundation - OTF Curriculum), Keith Martz. Along with Randy Spradlin, W TX Hunter Education Specialist (L), Martz started an outdoor club while teaching at The Colony in the early 90’s.  He wrote a curriculum and submitted it at the same time Scot McClure with Dallas Ecological Foundation submitted his -- which eventually became the outdoor education curriculum adopted by the successor, OTF, and is now in over 300 schools.  Keith has been teaching in the Lewisville School District for almost 30 years, with Outdoor Adventures in all of them but his first year.  He expands his classroom to the field, taking his students on both TYHP hunts and opening his ranch to his students and their parents.  He takes 5 – 6 kids on TYHP deer hunts, annually, and has several hog and varmint hunts at his ranch during the spring and summer months. He earned 409 points in 2018.


PROFESSIONAL EDUCATOR AWARD - Lloyd Love, Pasadena was unavailable for the conference because he was busy at another weekend event with his school kids -- go figure!  From Pasadena Memorial High School, "Coach Love" has also been the recipient of the prestigious Dallas Safari Club "Educator of the Year" several years back, and has not lost any steam or passion moving forward teaching outdoor education and Hunter Education.  Said Heidi Rao, who will present the award at a later date, "The Outdoor Education program he’s developed at his high school is none like I’ve ever seen.  He has constructed his own indoor skills trail, indoor shooting range rigged with pulleys and cables to move 3D targets across the room, and elevated stands to simulate bow hunting from a tree stand." She continued, "He has the gift for instilling his passion for teaching and inspiring and connecting with high schoolers.  He brought his students to the IBO 3D archery state tournament, and the top two shooters scoring in the tournament were his students!  The top shooter overall was a sophomore girl from Pasadena Memorial!  He is continually seeking ways to better his program, recently earning certification in the new Student Air Rifle program, and has offered his assistance to teach a future Tree Stand 101 workshop in the area.  He continues working with outdoor organizations introducing youth to hunting while mentoring his students in the field."  He accrued 360 points in 2018.  Congratulations!

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Conference Workshops - Area Chief Meeting


Archery Lethality - Rob Neilson, co-founder of the Ashby Bowhunting Foundation (ABF), currently serves as its president. He has been bowhunting for over 40 years, Life Member of SCI, SCI Houston Chapter, Dallas Safari Club, Houston Safari Club and numerous other conservation organizations. He has hunted in 18 states, 3 Canadian Provinces, Africa and New Zealand – considering himself a "lucky bowhunter". Dr. Ashby, who also was present at the workshop, invested 27 years in the study of arrow performance and broadhead lethality. In 2007, he published the "Top 12 Arrow Penetration Enhancing Factors". Dr. Ashby is the co-founder of Ashby Bowhunting Foundation and currently serves as its Vice-President.  Jake Thompson is a co-founder of the Foundation and currently serves as its Secretary. Jake has been a bowhunter for 24 years, an understudy of Dr. Ashby, has degrees in Animal Science, Engineering, Communication and Education, owns an outdoors company called Danger Close Outdoors and is a military veteran.  PHOTO:  Jake Thompson (R) and Rob Neilson (L) review the 12 concepts of arrow penetration in bowhunting -- vital to one of the five goals of the Texas hunter education program --"Take a Good Shot!"

Mike Sabbeth

Hunting Ethics & Persuasion - Michael Sabbeth, Denver, CO

As a lawyer, Sabbeth lectures on ethics, rhetoric and persuasion. He has written the book "The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values." & is now working on a book titled "No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports." You can visit his web page. for more information about hunting and ethics.  During the conference, he reviewed the concepts to help instructors communicate to both internal and external audiences -- giving them a sneak peek at the book he is writing to help hunter education students and instructors be better ambassadors and advocates for hunting and the shooting sports.


Hunter Education 'Area Chiefs' met at the Oasis Restaurant Friday evening prior to the conference to review the status of the program and to introduce themselves and what is going on in their respective locations. Here, Charles and Katherine Snowden (standing w green shirt), Atlanta, let the others know what is going on up in the far northeast corner of Texas. They received a Winchester knife collection for traveling the farthest distance to the conference, just 20 miles further then the 2nd place winner, Hartmut Mueller, El Paso. A BIG thanks to all of the Area Chiefs for training instructors and serving as the primary hunter education liaisons in your regions! Without you, many instructors would be missing out!   

Ask a Game Warden - TPWD Game Wardens, Henry Lutz & Dennis Gazaway, spent time with instructors answering the hard questions about laws and regulations in our classes. This was such a popular session last year, that the conference planners brought it to Uvalde so instructors could pick the game warden's brains. They learned things like the progressive steps game wardens are taking to improve our culture and practices and how they are better serving to protect the natural resources and people of Texas. They learned that they can "Find a Warden" by county to have game wardens visit their classes --an effective way for hunter education students to understand why we have laws and regulations. And, they learned more!  Thanks guys!

Waterfowl Identification – Daniel Tidwell, Wildlife Management Instructor, Southwest Texas Junior College (STJC) in Uvalde brought his skills to the table to assist instructors on how to better identify waterfowl, especially in flight, and how to collect and preserve waterfowl wings for teaching.

Muzzleloading 101 - Larry Hysmith, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist in 4-H, introduced conference attendees to the "smell of white smoke" -- An Introduction to Muzzleloading, including tips and how to set up equipment for when you have a large group wanting to shoot.

Shotgun 101 - Morgan Harbison and Heidi Rao, TPWD Hunter Education Specialists, introduced conference goers on good shotgun shooting skills which equates to less wounding loss. Participants met at the Uvalde Gun Club to shoot a box of shells under the watchful eye of two specialists trained specifically to help shotgun enthusiasts.

Uvalde Gun Club - Special thanks to Ray Rhodes for donating his time, machine use, clay birds and space during Saturday afternoon's sessions at the conference!

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IHEA-USA Conference held in Alabama May 5th-8th

Joe D

Joe Delahoussaye, Austin, IHEA-USA life member, joined TPWD Hunter Education Staff at the IHEA-USA Conference in Orange Beach, Alabama. Here, Joe tries out a new .22 air gun used for hunter education live-fire exercises. Other activities including tree stand safety, range construction, Explore Bowhunting, hunting incident investigation and more during the field day portion of the conference.  National award recipients and links to passed standards will be included in the June issue of Target Talk.

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Hunting for Conservation - Another Huge Success!

HfC 2019

Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow (CLFT) is a professional and university student training program orienting folks with little or no knowledge of hunting and conservation to a week-long Hunter Education, Wildlife & Conservation primer, including an actual hunt. As part of CLFT, Texas Parks and Wildlife held its third "short course" entitled Hunting for Conservation for 40 non-hunting employees and partners. The workshop covered history of hunting and conservation, hunter's role in wildlife management, hunter education and basic hunting & shooting sports concepts. A total of 28 participants went thru the hunter education course including shotgun, air rifle and the hunter skills trail -- putting some of their new found knowledge to practice.  Special thanks to national CLFT Instructors, Selma Glascock, Welder Wildlife/CLFT Leader (L-middle), Ryan Luna, Sul Ross/CLFT Instructor, and TPWD Game Warden, Albert Flores!  Thanks, too, to Game Wardens, Scott McLeod and Kally Marbach for helping Albert cook the Wild Game Dinner; and to Johnnie Smith, O&E Director (L-back), Larry Hysmith, 4-H Natural Resources/Shooting Sports Coordinator (R-back), Denise Harmel-Garza, Texas AgriLife Extension (L-front), TPWD; Volunteer HE Instructor, Immanuel Salas, San Marcos, and TPWD Hunter Education & Outreach Staff.

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Hunter Education Incentive Points & Staff Support

Enhancements continue to be made with the new ONLINE REGISTRATION SYSTEM (ORS). One thing to notice is that your INSTRUCTOR CERTIFICATION CARDS are now at your dash board for retrieval anytime you need them.  As long as you maintain your activity in the program, the cards are always there for your use. INCENTIVE POINTS (see notice below) will eventually be at your dashboard for continual monitoring.

INCENTIVE AWARDS - Eddie Kleppinger, Hunter Education Administrative Assistant, finalized incentive point totals for 2018 and is busy mailing out incentives beginning in June. The new incentive totals are based on the following point scale - fairly equivalent to the old system.


  • Instructor Certification – 25 points
  • Students Taught - 2 points/student (Classroom); - 3 points/student (Field)
  • Tenure - 10 points per year (minimum 5 students certified per year)          
  • Hunting 101s/Outreach (e.g. Shows, Exhibits) – 3 points per hour

Area Chiefs           

  • Area Chief Certification – 50 points
  • Instructors Taught - 5 points per instructor taught
  • Tenure - 15 points per year (Minimum 3 instructors taught per year)


PHOTO (From L to R) - Heidi Rao (SE TX), Randy Spradlin (W TX), Morgan Harbison (C TX), Brock Minton (S TX), Steve Hall (TPWD HQ), Monica Bickerstaff (N TX)

N TX, Monica Bickerstaff, D/FW; 469-601-8349 c

S TX, Brock Minton, Corpus; 361-825-3249 w; 361-944-3617 c

SE TX, Heidi Rao, Houston; 713-829-1377 c

W TX, Randy Spradlin, Abilene; 512-923-3509 w/c

C TX, Morgan Harbison, College; OR, Steve Hall, Austin; 512-389-8140 w; 512-550-7330 c

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Get Ready for VATAT in late July!

The Vocational Agriculture Science Teachers Association of Texas Annual Conference for Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources will be held July 28- August 2 in Corpus Christi, Texas at the Convention Center. As always, the Ag Clays training will be held on Sunday July 28th and Monday July 29th.  Please get with to reserve your spot. The Hunter & Boater Education Instructor Course will be held Monday, July 29th, beginning at 8am to around 11:30 a.m., then hunter education will finish up at Corpus Christi Pistol and Rifle Range beginning at around 1:00pm.  Please contact  Additionally, a workshop entitled, "Teaching Ethics as Part of Hunter Education" will be offered in hopes to help teachers make "Honorable Hunters" out of their hunter education students.  Please contact for more information.  As in years past, also plan to pick up boxes of student manuals and Outdoor Annuals at VATAT!

National Shooting Sports Month® is August! 


Last year’s celebration of National Shooting Sports Month® was a big success. Hundreds of industry partners from manufacturers, retailers, ranges and outdoor media to about a dozen state wildlife agencies all supported this effort in a variety of ways. With your support we can make National Shooting Sports Month a resounding success, which will, in turn, support PR so you can keep doing the great things you are doing for hunters, conservation and wildlife populations.     If you’ve already got some shooting sports related events planned for this August, get on board today by adding them to the events calendar to receive a promotional package consisting of shirts, hats and promotional signage to help raise awareness around the month. Another option to introduce new people to target shooting is by hosting an NSSF®- endorsed First Shots introductory experience.

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TPWD & Texas Hunter Education Partner Resources

Hunter Education Overview | Instructor Resources | Student Resources

Operation Game Thief | Texas Game Warden Association

Texas Youth Hunting Program | Texas 4-H Shooting Sports

Other Hunter Ed Resources

International Hunter Education Association | NRA PROGRAMS & Services

NSSF Hunting & Ranges | Texas Hunter Education Instructor Association

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wildlife & sport fish restoration