July 2020 - "The Unsurpassed Value of the Live Instructor"

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In This Issue: Hunter Education Builds Character!

Coordinator's Column - Telling Our Story


We have introduced you several times to the Honorable Hunter created by Michael Sabbeth, a Denver lawyer and writer, who specializes in helping hunters and the hunting community better articulate, defend and advance hunting through skills such as moral reasoning, making stronger arguments, teaching ethics and "telling our story!"

Through collaboration, Mike is putting the final touches on an Honorable Hunter Instructor Manual -- a supplement that puts forth thoughts and recommendations that enable hunter education instructors to refocus and retool the character building aspects of hunter education -- "the teaching of ethics" and other skills.  As 'story tellers', it helps us further demonstrate our passion for teaching safety & responsibility and passing on the hunting and outdoor heritage. (See Honorable Hunter article below.)

As I poured over Mike's draft materials, I found myself thinking about "my own story -- my own upbringing", alongside five older brothers and four sisters, who, because of involved parents, received a heavy dose of outdoor adventures. It was when we invited our friends to go hunting and fishing with us that we were able to "sell them" on our WAY of LIFE.  Hunting and fishing activities were normal! In a word, they were FUN! We didn't have to know that our experiences benefited wildlife through conservation, were safe and improved our health, spirit, education, mind and diet.  We "told our story" every time we ventured outdoors and mentored others, which was typically every weekend. We continually told our stories at school and at family gatherings. Our 'way of life' even paved a path for brother Tom and me (youngest two in photo) to careers in wildlife management & natural resources. I believe, very strongly, that our outdoor exploits shaped our character and passion for conservation and lifelong nature skills, among other values and assets. 

Especially in these difficult INDOOR times, THANKS for all you do to pass along positive, character-building OUTDOOR values and ethics, and for serving as role models for responsible sporting arm, hunting and target shooting practices!

Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator

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Spotlight - COVID UPDATE

open tx

If wanting to instruct, please complete a required form - the COVID Protocols.

On June 1st, the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas allowed for the opening of “Youth Sports” Day Activities and Camps.

These guidelines came the 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 was for you NOT to set up a course in June or July.  WE NOW ADD AUGUST to that directive, with the recent spike in COVID cases in Texas. (TPWD continues to encourage the widest possible use of virtual program delivery.) Go to: https://gov.texas.gov/organization/opentexas/

On June 25th, the Governor announced a Temporary Pause of "Additional Reopening Phases" due to the late June spikes in COVID-19 cases in Texas.

Therefore, Instructors must remain cautious and not schedule courses in July or August, at this point. For those of you still wanting to conduct courses, such as smaller courses or at camps, please complete the following form and submit it to Instructor@tpwd.texas.gov to gain approval from TPWD Hunter Education staff before proceeding.

COVID Protocols Form HED

This form outlines the precautions that should be in place prior to conducting hunter education activities, even for the smaller groups or in rural Texas.

Added Resources:

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Training Tip - Building Character in Hunter Education


A Honorable Hunter Series

- Excerpt from Manual that will be made available to Texas Hunter Education Instructors 

Value of the Live Instructor

{"Through my lectures to hunter education audiences, I have come to understand that my comments on the value of the live instructor were among my most impacting and resonating." - Michael Sabbeth}

A statement by Professor Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School, illuminates the value and impact of the live instructor: Fortunately, Christensen says that there is one thing that online education will not be able to replace. In his research, he found that most of the successful alumni who gave generous donations to their Alma Maters did so because a specific professor or coach inspired them. Among all these donors, "Their connection wasn't their discipline, it wasn't even the college," says Christensen. "It was an individual member of the faculty who had changed their lives. Maybe the most important thing that we add value to our students is the ability to change their lives," he explained.

Several lessons from this quotation should be absorbed like Vitamin D from the sun. First, students are inspired primarily if not exclusively by live people. Students want flesh and blood, something with a pulse. Second, the written text cannot answer questions as a living person can. Third, the instructor is the most persuasive and credible source of information. Students want YOU!

Students want to learn from experiences that only a live instructor can be vividly and passionately share. Only the live instructor can stir the student’s soul. Tim, from Texas, told me that the best instructors teach him to think of honor and character as he considers doing something. Tim stated, "The instructor can make me feel I can make a difference in protecting wildlife. They make me think I can do something good for future hunters."

Editor's Note:  I would add to Mike's writings number 4 -- the value of ethics exercises that can best introduced to students only through in-person methods such as:

  1. Trigger videos and instructor facilitated discussions
  2. Brainstorming, processing and feedback
  3. Dilemma Methods -- "Is it safe, legal and ethical?" exercises
  4. Open Discussion -- Open-ended questions and facilitation

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ATAT - July 27th Virtual Instructor Course


Ag. Teachers Assn of TX

The annual Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas (ATAT) In-Person Conference in Waco - July 27-31, 2020 is now officially cancelled. In accordance to their web site "Due to limitations of the Waco Convention Center and the desire to maintain the health and safety of our members, our association will not be hosting an in-person event this year."  ATAT added, "This means that the Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas Professional Development Conference will move to an online format for 2020." Outdoor Tomorrow Foundation outdoor education instructors can also join in the training this year, since it is on a ZOOM virtual format.

Therefore, the annual Hunter & Boater Education INSTRUCTOR COURSE will be held virtually on Monday, July 27th beginning at 8:00 a.m.  To register, please follow the steps below:

  1. Complete hunter education and boater education Student courses
  2. Complete these Instructor Documents
  3. Scan and email Instructor Packet to instructor@tpwd.texas.gov
  4. Register for Hunter Education Course at:  https://tpwd.elementlms.com/course/hunter-education-instructor-course-115/
  5. Register for Boater Education Course at: https://tpwd.elementlms.com/course/boater-education-instructor-course-29/

For questions, please email Monica Bickerstaff at: monica.bickerstaff@tpwd.texas.gov.

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Hunter Ed Instructor Happenings


Baylea Herring, Asst. Hunter Education Instructor, Three Rivers, went alligator hunting, thanks to Area Chief, Benny Ham, Whitsett, shown below mentoring Baylea on properly cleaning and skinning an alligator.  Joining Baylea and Benny on her adventure were Matt Ruiz, Kaitlyn Noel, Tony Santagato and South Texas Hunter Education Specialist, Brock Minton.  Baylea donated the meat to be used at the next Becoming An Outdoors Woman workshop.

game care


N TX Community Archery Specialist, Immanuel Salas, San Marcos, conducted a USA Archery Level 1 Instructor Course in early June at Camp Allen near Navasota, while practicing social distancing.  Certified were Becca Crosby, Sarah Heinze, Hannah Hoffman, Abby Fuller, Ellie Knight, Kathryn Scott, Shelby Rowe and Aaron Porter. (See Archery Contacts below.)


Outdoor Texas Camps

Albert Flores, retired Game Warden and new instructor recruit, Laura Anderson, former Illinois Hunter Education Instructor (red bandana), both of Rockport, are shown here with six new hunter education graduates from the Outdoor Texas Camps Girls Hunting Camp held at In-Flight Outfitters near Mathis.  A total of 22 girls (4 groups) shot archery (below with Camps Owner, Peter Velasco), shotgun with hunter education instructor, Melanie Sturgis, Carrollton, and rifle, along with basic hunter education taught by Anderson and Steve Hall, Hunter Education Coordinator (orange shirt). Congratulations to the graduates!



Baylea Herring, Three Rivers, along with Brock Minton, S TX Hunter Education Specialist, certified a dozen students at the Outdoor TX Boys Hunting Camp in late June.  While practicing social distancing, Baylea takes the students through proper shot placement, shot angles and vital zones -- all to prevent wounding loss while hunting.  Great job, Baylea and Brock!

2020 Texas Ag Clays State Tournament Results - June 8th

Ag Clays

Alumni/Parent/Coach Fun Shoot

  • Alumni Winner - Hayden Oliver - Goliad FFA
  • Coach (M) - Richard Hodge - Navarro FFA
  • Coach (F) - Brandy Elrod - Concordia FFA
  • Parent (M) - Gary Mabry – Ridge Point FFA
  • Parent (F) - Jill Philbrick - Gonzales FFA


  • Sporting Clays (F) – Alyssa Tate (88) – Johnson HS
  • Sporting Clays (M) – Logan Lotz (96) – Anahuac HS
  • Trap (F) – Sidney Coffin (96) – Smithson Valley FFA
  • Trap (M) – Matthew Kutz (99) – Goliad FFA
  • Combined SC and Trap (F) – Alyssa Tate (182) – Johnson HS
  • Combined SC and Trap (M) – Logan Lotz (195) – Anahuac HS


  • Sporting Clays (F) – Ridge Point FFA (255)
  • Sporting Clays (M) – Neches HS (268)
  • Sporting Clays (F & M) – Ridge Point FFA (263)
  • Trap (F) – Smithson Valley (278)
  • Trap (M) – Goliad FFA (291)
  • Trap (F & M) – Neches (288)

Thanks to the Texas State Rifle Association Foundation executive director, Angela Gerlich, C TX Hunter Education Specialist, Morgan Harbison, Mobile Shooting Sports Coordinator, Operation Game Thief (Scott Haney and Danny Shaw, TPWD Game Wardens - retired) and the National Shooting Complex, for their hosting, coordination & support!


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History of Hunter Education in Texas

HE Program

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) started a voluntary hunter education program in 1972, mainly to provide training for Texas hunters traveling to other states requiring hunter education. The most notable of these was Colorado, which passed a mandatory requirement in 1970 that affected hunters born on or after January 1, 1949. NRA’s existing 'hunter safety' program was used and it was four (4) hours in length. Many NRA instructors in Texas were recruited as the first Texas hunter education instructors. By 1987, over 150,000 students completed the voluntary course. The required minimum for a course, then, was ten (10) hours over two (2) days (requirement recommended by the federal government which monitored the excise taxes returned to states for hunter education and target range development). In June 1987, The Texas legislature passed S.B. 504, the mandatory hunter education law for the State of Texas. The law allowed the TPWD Commission to adopt regulations requiring hunter education for Texas hunters under 17 years of age at the time. The effective date chosen by the Commission was June 1, 1988. Beginning that date, anyone born on or after September 2, 1971 (“Grandfather Date” for Texas) would have to complete the training to legally hunt in Texas.

The first course officially registered in the State of Texas was with volunteer instructor Thomas Womack in Austin on Feb. 28, 1972. There were “pilot” courses created and held by then “Information & Education Specialists” in 1971 with the approval of a voluntary program in Texas, as administered then by T.D. Carroll (R in photo above with Game Warden Trainer, Lynn Stanley). During that era, Carroll hired Darrell Holt to lead the program along with assistant hunter education coordinator, John "J.D." Peer. They recruited and taught game wardens and new volunteer instructors (pre-service training) and created an in-service program to improve quality of instruction. They also recruited professional educators (e.g. PE & Outdoor Education teachers) to integrate hunter education into existing school curricula such as the 6th grade 'firearm safety' curricula.

Michael Fain was registered as the official first student!  He was among 9 students in that first course of volunteer Womack.  Talk about an impact!  Mike went on to become a game warden! Unfortunately, after he retired from the Department, Mike passed away in 2010 .


Thomas Womack, Austin (L), accepted an incentive award from John "J.D." Peer, Asst. Hunter Education Coordinator, in the1970's during the first years of the program. Womack held the first official course in Austin on Feb. 28. 1972.  Below, Target Talk newsletters were the first official communications with the volunteer hunter education instructors beginning with the 1st edition, April 12, 1972.


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Partner News - National Shooting Sports Month (Aug)


Jim Curcuruto, Director, Research and Market Development, says "The first half of 2020 has seen record firearm sales with nearly 10 million firearms being sold in the first six months. Retailers are telling us that approximately 40 percent of their firearm sales are to first-time buyers, so that means there are almost four million new gun owners out there looking to be recruited and retained in the shooting sports. The timing couldn’t be better to activate these newbies as August is National Shooting Sports Month®. Last year there were more than 3,200  events that brought thousands of participants to ranges across America. Nearly 20 state wildlife agencies have held events over the past few years and we truly appreciate all your efforts.   This year we are offering promotional packages to state agencies that register events on our website. The packages include free National Shooting Sports Month branded hats and t-shirts that you can give away to the participants. Also new this year is our Summer Shots challenge target (8x11 and 11x17) which provides you with a new, fun target game to engage your patrons as they test their skills, introduce friends and family and get active on social media by sharing their experiences that promote firearm safety and shooting sports awareness."  Hunter Education Instructors interested in hosting socially distant events in August should contact and work with your regional Hunter Education Specialist to help promote NSSF programs and events and bolster participation in target sports.

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Partner News - Tree Stand Safety Awareness


Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA) Foundation Awards 10 Sets of Tree Stand Safety Banners to State Hunter Education Programs from Whitetails Unlimited Grant

ROANOKE, Va. (June 22, 2020) – TSSA is pleased to announce that at its June 16th Board of Directors meeting, ten state hunter education programs were selected from applications to receive a free set of tree stand safety banners. According to Glen Mayhew, President of TSSA, “this project would not have been possible without the support of grant funding from the Whitetails Unlimited Foundation.” TSSA also wants to thank the International Hunter Education Association – USA (IHEA-USA) for their support in this process. 

The ten (10) states receiving the banner sets were determined based on applications that were submitted to the TSSA Board. The state recipients are Vermont, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, North Carolina, Iowa, and Missouri.

If you need to borrow the banner for your bowhunter education event, please email steve.hall@tpwd.texas.gov

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Recruitment - Retention - Reactivation - R3 Update


In finalizing the Texas R3 State Plan which should be ready for partner involvement this Fall, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission should be 'next up' to review and provide further input, internally, hopefully at their meeting in August, but possibly later. For overall strategies, you can review 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 August, and has been moved to next year, 2021, most likely in Tulsa, OK.

Key roles continue to be provided by TPWD's Hunter Education Program and our Texas Youth Hunting Program.   Instructors & Huntmasters have always encouraged the following:

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

Texas R3 Vision

Increasing participation in the outdoors is an ongoing process and a strategic approach is needed to develop successful R3 efforts as part of TPWD’s overall agency mission. Commitment from partners and pooling of resources are imperative in implementing the strategies of this plan. The aspirational outcomes the department seeks for this plan are to:

  • Create lifelong participants in hunting, fishing, boating and shooting sports
  • Increase revenue from users’ participation in these activities to fund mission
  • Increase public support for hunting, fishing and shooting sports

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NASP and Community Archery Program Updates


National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) WEBINARS Beginning in July for NASP- trained Instructors

Burnie Kessner states, "We are going to offer NASP Coaching topics via a webinar series beginning Tuesday, July 7th at 10 am. The plan is to offer 50-minute web sessions twice monthly on different topics. The first “keynote" webinar is with Roy Grimes, President of NASP, who will present Updates & Status of NASP"

Register at: https://naspbai.org/ClassView.aspx?cid=9820

TPWD has a full complement of statewide "Community Archery" staff to assist with you with your archery and bowhunting training needs.  Please contact them to host a training in your area and to possibly assist you with your bowhunter education course efforts (e.g. potential resources & expertise).

* Outreach Manager (HQ) - Rob Owen - robert.owen@tpwd.texas.gov

* TX NASP Coord. (Athens) - Burnie Kessner - burnie.kessner@tpwd.texas.gov

* N TX Archery Specialist - Immanuel Salas - immanuel.salas@tpwd.texas.gov

* S TX Archery Specialist - Kendrick Gray - kendrick.gray@tpwd.texas.gov

* C TX Archery Specialist - Travis Glick - travis.glick@tpwd.texas.gov

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Hunter Ed Instructor Profiles - A Buck and a Duke


Thomas "Buck" Seitz, Austin (2013)

Why I became a Hunter Education Program VOLUNTEER - I became a volunteer when the Austin Rifle Club asked me to fill the position left vacant by the prior instructor's retirement as a way to give back to the sport I love and the hunting community.

My most prized sporting arm - Model 1100 Remington 12-gauge Shotgun - outfitted with a slug barrel for big game hunting.

My favorite hunt – Axis Deer Hunt - I feel the axis deer is superior to all other deer in appearance with its spotted coat and long antler, and they have better tasting venison.  It is a higher quality hunt because of axis deer herding instincts and communication skills.  It is a fine challenge!  



Elmer "Duke" Walton - Area Chief, Porter (1988)

Why I became a Hunter Education Program VOLUNTEER - I was President of the Aldine ISD FFA Booster Club and when Hunter Education became mandatory (1988), Aldine had four high schools, but no Ag. Science Teachers certified to teach the course as part of their curricula. So I was asked to become an instructor to assist the schools and never looked back.

My most prized sporting arm - Mauser bolt action .30-06 - When I was 15yrs. of age, I had a Cushman motor scooter that was on “auto pilot” towards the Airline Gun shop most days after school.  I started hanging out and pestering the gunsmith and asked many questions. I broke them down and they finally started to teach me, so  I built the .30-06 out of spare parts and carved a walnut stock out of a blank (thought it would take me FOREVER !).  I have taken many animals with it over the last 57 years, and now Jeremy, my Grandson, has claimed it for himself.

My favorite huntTurkey Hunt - at Fellow Area Chief, Billy Holt’s, with my grandson, Jeremy Bailey.  He didn't get a bird, but on our walk back to meet Billy, Jeremy said “This has been the best hunt of my life!” He watched me call in several birds and watched them strut and answer my calls. He now understands why I hunt!

My favorite T-shirt would say - It would be a Photo of my family!” – In a Kelly green tee shirt on St. Patrick’s Day prior to my dad passing.  I want my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to wear it every St. Patrick’s Day from here on in.

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Staff Retirements and New Hires



Photo:  A "COVID parade and gathering (some in a drive-by mode) was held on June 24th for Cappy Smith, (center), TPWD's CO-OP Grant Coordinator, who has now retired from a wonderful career at TPWD. Joining Smith were State Parks Director, Rodney Franklin (L) and other SP, Recreation Grant and Communications Division staff.

Wife of Outreach & Education Director, Johnnie Smith (R), Cappy started in Project WILD before taking several State Park positions, then moving to the Recreation Grants Program and leading the charge to assist local communities incorporate outdoor education and hunter education into their programming, places, schools and events.  Outreach to more diverse audiences is just one of criteria for added consideration in grants that develop, extend and enhance local efforts by millions of dollars since the program was first began in Texas. CO-OP is a unique, funding partnership between federal, state and local governments and non-profits.

Cappy worked near the hunter education offices at Airport Commerce Park in Austin and was a full of fun and spunk in all of her conservation endeavors. She will surely be missed at the department; however, we'll continue to see her around the conservation programs and at staff gatherings, you can bet on it!


In June, TPWD also welcomed Immanuel Salas, N TX Archery Specialist (See article/photos above.), and Clayton Wolf, formerly the Wildlife Division Director, the new Chief Operating Officer for the Department.  Like all Game Wardens, these gentleman will be working directly with Johnnie Smith, Outreach and Education Director, and his team, and with hunter education staff on a daily basis to ensure statewide impact, effectiveness and partnerships.  Thanks to both for helping hunter education achieve its mission of safe and responsible practices!

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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