June 2020 - A New Normal

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target talk - texas hunter education news

In This Issue:  Summertime Blues?  Get OUTSIDE!

Coordinator's Column - A New Normal?


Most admit there will be a "new normal" once we rebound from this COVID situation. We will never quite return to "what was" prior to the pandemic. (I'm personally hopeful that we do make it back and realize that COVID is similar to the other viruses that came before. But, I do recognize the tragedies she left in her wake and wish the hunter education community and their families well!)

Some of you are planning summer hunter education coursework, and you have all been sent an email with the protocols to follow if you do find yourself conducting camps, events or courses. If you did not receive an email from me re: COVID on May 22nd, please email me at steve.hall@tpwd.texas.gov with a summertime email (Many were school emails.) I am planning to conduct field courses at two such camps (Kid's Outdoor Zone and Outdoor Texas Camps) and will try my best to adhere to the documents sent forth by the State as the governor fully opens up "Youth Sporting Events" this month (June). See info. below.

Photo:  This summer, I hope you also take the opportunity to GET OUTSIDE and hunt, fish, boat, hike, bird watch and/or other outdoor adventures --the ORIGINAL social distancing activities!  (You can bet I will be out there fly fishing for reds.)

Stay SAFE, and thanks for all you achieve on behalf of hunter education in Texas!

Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator

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Spotlight - COVID UPDATE

open tx

Beginning June 1st, the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas allows for the opening of “Youth Sports” Day Activities and Camps. https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas/

These guidelines come closest to recommendations for those of you wanting to set up hunter education field or classroom (instructor-led) courses and summer camp coursework. TPWD’s take on the current situation is for you NOT to set up a course in June or July (and beyond?) unless you feel the benefits somehow outweigh the risks. Certainly, hunter education in June and July is not necessary for mandatory certification as those under 17 can legally hunt without certification if accompanied* (*see definition in Outdoor Annual).  Those 17 and older can simply take an online-only course. Only those needing to head to other states this fall will have a huge desire to be certified. Hopefully, they can gain certification through virtual or online training later (August and beyond), especially when more is known about the risks.  This fall semester, teachers may have to do their classroom courses virtually. (TPWD is encouraging the widest possible use of virtual program delivery.)

Where the risk is lower, as in rural locations such as summer camps, we’re encouraging our staff and volunteers to limit the group size to 10 participants, use no shared items, use no demonstration items passed around, enforce no contact between participants and between instructors and participants, observe appropriate physical distancing, and we are encouraging the use of face masks. Please have on hand the necessary sanitizing/disinfectant supplies and be sure to use them appropriately with hunter education supplies/equipment before and after use in the course.

As stated in previous editions of Target Talk, this is a most interesting time, and our main concern is for your safety and the safety of our constituents (the same objective as for hunter education).  We also know, that the State’s goal (task force) is to “Open Texas by safely and strategically restarting and revitalizing all aspects –work, school, entertainment and culture.”  Hunting and hunter education fall into these aspects!

Responsible Recreation (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies)

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Training Tip - 12 Factors Affecting Arrow Lethality


Ashby Bowhunting Foundation

Last issue, TPWD informed you about a new partnership and educational workshops with the Ashby Bowhunting Foundation (ABF), along with a new insert placed into each bowhunter education student manual entitled "12 Factors Affecting Arrow Lethality" (see below).

In May, TPWD staff members, (From R to L - standing), Johnnie Smith, O&E Director, Immanuel Salas, N TX Community Archery Specialist, and Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator, joined Rob Neilson, ABF President, ABF videographer/board member, Troy Fowler, and Dr. Ed Ashby (sitting) to film Ed explaining each of the factors in detail and citing the many years of research that went into successfully  taking large game animals in North America, Africa and Australia, with various arrow shaft/point combinations. Results of the research led to the factors and an educational process to help average bow hunters understand, select and properly shoot their bows at big game. One of the main objectives is to achieve proper arrow penetration, even thru heavy bones.

Ed said, "Just want to thank each of you for brightening my day so much. It's so good to have a gathering of hunters. Know that each of you is helping an old man's dreams become reality. I learned hunting one-on-one from old hunters. Those days are gone, and there are too few old hunters left to go around. You are the vanguard of teachers to pass the knowledge and skills along to new generations. Thank you, one and all."


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Agriculture Teachers Assn of Texas Conference


ATAT - Waco - July 27-31, 2020

Field & live-fire activities and tight classrooms like the one shown here at the Lubbock Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas   (ATAT) Conference will not be possible this coming July; however, TPWD is planning to host a virtual hunter education instructor course for those teachers needing to get certified prior to the fall. Please help TPWD staff recruit your fellow teachers to become certified as instructors, especially if they are already incorporating wildlife and hunting into their curricula. The final ATAT Conference details can be found at the link above.

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Hunter Ed Instructor Happenings


Sanford "Sandy" Mason III, Area Chief Hunter Education Instructor, Joshua, presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Mike Mills with the Tri City VFW Post 6872, Crowley, during their monthly general membership meeting.   For a copy of a Certificate of Appreciation that you can present to a local sponsor, please email eddie.kleppinger@tpwd.texas.gov.  He will customize it for any group, individual or organization you would like to recognize. Thanks Sandy!


Dr. John Weishaar, Ed. D., Author of Flint and Steel -- A Story of Survival, is shown here teaching participants at a past Outdoor Texas Girls Hunting Camp hosted by Peter Velasco, Outdoor Camps, LLC.  TPWD will again certify campers in a socially distant, hunter education course as part of the camp this June. Go to:  Outdoor Texas Camps for more information.


Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator, led TPWD archery and hunter activities and took this photo at a July 2018 Kids Outdoor Zone (KOZ) Boys Summer Hunt & Ranch Hand Adventure Camp. Many faith-based  groups such as KOZ make excellent partners, especially those that include hunting and outdoor activities.  Monthly and summer camp programs are great places to teach hunter education activities and courses, as well as Hunting 101s. KOZ does it all -- archery, hunter education and deer/hog hunting 101s at their week long camps!  This summer, we'll have to pay attention to numbers and adhere to the social distancing rules, but the camp shall go on, and the boys will be more responsible as a result. T.J. Greaney, KOZ Founder and longtime host of The Outdoor Zone, has been a  TPWD and hunter education official partner since day one.  After beginning the first chapter and church efforts in Austin, he has since expanded KOZ nationwide. His daughter, Taylor, raised as a KOZ youth leader, is now a certified Ag Science Teacher and teaches hunter education at her school as well as at KOZ Summer Boys and Girls Camps.  THANKS, KOZ!


Vincent Lecca, Driftwood, held a field course at a private ranch west of Kyle for two families needing hunter education to apply for a hunt in Utah this coming September. The families followed social distancing protocols as prescribed for summer courses. If you need social distancing supplies (e.g. face masks, sanitizers, etc.) please contact your regional or HQ HE staffs.

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TPWD Commission Approves Hunting Regs in May


News Release
Media Contact: TPWD News, Business Hours, 512-389-8030
May 21, 2020

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Approves Hunting Regulation Changes for 2020-21

AUSTIN — Hunting regulations for the 2020-2021 season were approved by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission at its public meeting held online May 21. Hunters will see some hunting regulation changes this fall, including the implementation of automated processing of pronghorn and antlerless mule deer applications and permits, a decrease in the daily bag limit for scaup and a decrease in the daily bag limit for light goose during regular season.


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Partner News - Wild Harvest Initiative ®


Cabela Family Foundation Joins Wild Harvest Initiative® Partnership Alliance

The Cabela Family Foundation (CFF) committed support to Conservation Visions’ Wild Harvest Initiative®, the first scientific program to assess the actual amount, comprehensive value and modern relevance of the wild meat and fish we harvest and eat. Read More.

CFF's Dan Cabela said, "We believe this initiative will have a lasting influence on the narrative surrounding the undeniable benefits of recreational hunting and fishing."

Photo:  Shane Mahoney, Conservation Visions’ CEO and originator of the Wild Harvest Initiative®, presented at the 2016 Hunter Education Instructor Meeting at the Dallas Safari Club Convention.  He spoke about the development of his research and Alliance -- which is now a reality. Congratulations Shane! Monica Bickerstaff, N TX Hunter Education Specialist, presented Shane a collector's knife, a token of our program's appreciation. Hunter Education is in full support of the Initiative ® -- along with the Locavore movement, in general (See Example from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks).  For hunters, the locavore movement is eating sustainable, local, healthy, organic meat.  In our case, the meat is from game animals harvested through SAFE, knowledgeable, and responsible hunting practices -- our hunter education mission!

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Partner News - From the NSSF News Desk


NSSF®, the trade association for the firearm industry, is pleased to announce that ATF is set to release its newest version of the Form 4473. The Form 4473 is used by all Federal Firearm License (FFL) holders to record pertinent information from persons seeking to purchase a firearm or firearms prior to the FFL performing a background check via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) or state-approved point-of-contact law enforcement agency.


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Recruitment, Retention & Reactivation - R3


TPWD is finalizing its Texas R3 State Plan which should be ready for partner involvement, review and input within the next several months.  R3 in simple terms is a call to Recharge the Ranks of hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts to the benefit of wildlife and habitat for years to come. Threats to conservation success are identified in the National R3 Action Plan developed by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports.  A national 2020 National R3 Symposium  (second such gathering) was postponed in May and has been tentatively rescheduled for August 25-27th in Broken Arrow, OK (near Tulsa). 

Unfortunately, not all partners are convinced that R3 will be the catalyst for growth in the hunting and shooting sports industry.  A recent article by Northwoods Collective argues that instead of relying on the conservation message to motivate hunters (but clearly the main benefit from hunting), the hunting community needs encourage hunters to TELL THEIR STORY!  READ MORE.

To their point in the article, TPWD's Hunter Education Program and our Texas Youth Hunting Program, Instructors & Huntmasters have always encouraged the following:

  1. Tell our story -- one of adventure, experience, camaraderie and excitement!
  2. Show our passion, especially around non-hunting relatives and friends.
  3. Share our locally sustained, organic meat with those same folks.
  4. Invite them to experience related outdoor adventures (mentor them).
  5. Live and relive the memories of the total outdoor experience (not just kills).
  6. Build a campfire when sharing the outdoors. (e.g. TYHP Hunts

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TX National Archery in Schools Update


Excerpts from Burnie Kessner:

"Staying Safe---

Most everyone is still waiting to find out how their school-year will look next year.  At a minimum, even if a district is back to a somewhat “normal” schedule and classroom format there will no doubt be new measures to help keep students and staff safe, such as no handshakes, lots of hand sanitizer/ hand washing and new physical distance guidelines.  We are gearing up to return to the NASP Basic Archery Instructor (BAI) courses and we will also be using some safety steps in our certification courses.  Schools will have their own policies but NASP has assembled some guidelines for class and NASP archery gatherings---attached.  One notable recommendation is to avoid using bleach on the bow string if cleaning the Genesis bow.

NASP Instructor courses are listed at www.naspbai.org for details and registration.

The newest edition of the NASP newsletter was recently released and can be found at www.naspschools.org.  Click on “About” at the top and then “NASP Insider”.

The NASP BAI class “Refresher Course” videos and the “Beyond NASP” video can now be found at www.naspschool.org too, under “Resources” and then “Information”. Currently 654 Instructors/Coaches representing 424 schools have reported conducting NASP archery with 39978 students last school-year in Texas."

If you have questions, please contact TX NASP coordinator, Burnie Kessner, at burnie.kessner@tpwd.texas.gov.

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Hunter Ed Instructor Profiles


Rick Cumins, Rio Vista (2004)

Why I became a Hunter Education Program VOLUNTEER - My son moved to become an Austin Police Officer, and I did most of my hunting with my brother, David, who was deathly ill with brain cancer. He passed in February 2005. I had lost the two people with whom I shared all my hunting interests. Hunter Education gave me another outlet for my penned-up excitement about hunting and gave me a chance to spread my experiences and knowledge to a whole new group. I love Scouting, the outdoors, fishing…it just seems to fit.

My most prized sporting arm - Crossbows! I bought a cheap crossbow in 2003, but Terry Erwin (Retired TPWD Hunter Education Coordinator) got me really excited about crossbows while I was volunteering at the “Texas Wildlife Expo”. He put me with Butch and Wendy Hendrickson in the Horton booth.  I bet I cocked, loaded, and readied those Horton bows at least 1,000 times! It was so much fun getting people introduced into crossbows! Terry also sent one of my hunting stories to an editor in South Africa (2010), which landed my son and me an invite to hunt there and write more stories.   

My favorite hunt – CO Bear Hunt Fall 2018 (see photo above) - Shortly after harvesting and quartering this bear, I had a low blood sugar emergency and had to be rescued off the Colorado mountain. That is actually two stories in one. I love to share that story, too!

My favorite T-shirt would say -HUNTING: MY WAY OF LIFE" OR "HUNTING: TAKE A SEAT IN NATURE!”


Sal DiVenti, Waco (2016)

Why I became a Hunter Education Program VOLUNTEER - I’m retired and have hunted since I was 12.  It seemed like there weren't any Hunter Education Instructors here in Waco, and I was asked if I would by the shooting club to which I belong. I agreed and enjoyed it, so now I’m hoping to do more classes.

My most prized sporting arm - Marlin 338C in 35 Rem.

My favorite hunt - Three Alaska Caribou Hunts (Peninsula, Bethel & Kotzebue). The meat tastes like sirloin steak.

My favorite T-shirt would say - HUNTING IS MY HERITAGE!”

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In Memory....Game Warden "Big Mike" Keeney


Texas Game Wardens are all hunter education instructors, and many of them have passed in  2020, as well as some of their wives and family members who often stood by to support every aspect of the TPWD mission. This is a tribute to all game wardens and their family members who have passed on, but who graciously served as hunter education instructors and liaisons to the many volunteers in each of their regions. One such warden was "Big Mike" Keeney, who "passed peacefully at his home on May 23, 2020, surrounded by his family. (Following taken from his obituary - Clay Bar Funeral Home, Orange)

Michael Edward Keeney Sr., 65, of Orange, Texas, was born in San Antonio, Texas, son of Floyd E. Keeney, Jr. and Betty Hunter Keeney of Groves, Texas.

Mike graduated from Port Neches-Groves High School in 1973. Following graduation, he attended Texas Tech University where he played football for the Raiders. He then went to the Game Warden Academy in Austin, Texas. In 1982 he was stationed in Orange County, Texas where he served as a Game Warden until his retirement in 2010. Along the way he married the love of his life, Halye Keeney. They dated for a brief four-week period before they wed March 8, 1987. They welcomed their only child, Michael Edward Keeney II, into the world March 1988. On March 8, 2020 they celebrated their 33rd anniversary just as in love as 1987. Mike was an active member of Cowboy Church and the Cowboy Cross Band. He also enjoyed his membership in the SALT Club and Orange Gun Club.

He is predeceased by his mother and father. Mike will always be remembered as a gentle giant, at 6’9” and 400 pounds who carried a gun. Mike touched the lives of all those he met from the outlaws he wrote tickets to the children he taught Boating and Hunting Education. Once you met him, his sweet smile and infectious laugh left an impression impossible to forget. He was a special, Christian man that loved to share his faith with others especially through music. Over the years he played his guitar to the children in the nursery at Community Church, at family get-togethers, and any other time he could. His voice and skill with a guitar were a gift from God and it was his greatest joy to minister through that gift.

A celebration of life for Mike was held Saturday, May 30, 2020 at The Cowboy Church of Orange County located at 673 FM 1078, Orange, Texas 77632.

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Hunter Education Staff & Contact Information

Hunter Education Staff

(From L to R) - Morgan Harbison (Central TX HE Specialist), Steve Hall (HQ, HE Coordinator), Heidi Rao (Southeast TX HE Specialist), Monica Bickerstaff (North TX HE Specialist); Eddie Kleppinger (HQ, HE Admin. Asst.), Brock Minton (South TX HE Specialist), Randy Spradlin (West TX HE Specialist)

N TX, Monica Bickerstaff, D/FW: monica.bickerstaff@tpwd.texas.gov; 469-601-8349

S TX, Brock Minton, Corpus: brock.minton@tpwd.texas.gov; 361-825-3249 w; 361-944-3617 c

SE TX, Heidi Rao, Houston: heidi.rao@tpwd.texas.gov; 713-829-1377

W TX, Randy Spradlin, Abilene: randy.spradlin@tpwd.texas.gov; 512-923-3509

C TX, Morgan Harbison, College Station: morgan.harbison@tpwd.texas.gov

HQ, Steve Hall, Coordinator: steve.hall@tpwd.texas.gov; 512-389-8140 w; 550-7330 c; Eddie Kleppinger, Asst., eddie.kleppinger@tpwd.texas.gov; 512-389-8142

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\

Texas State Rifle Association | Hunters Connect

Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Funding