Decades of Service
When Jerry Reed returned home one Thursday night after teaching a hunter education course, he didn’t expect to have one of his most memorable experiences involving one of his students. Hunter education is only one of Reed’s volunteer positions, and on this evening two of his passions collided. Reed also volunteered for the Sheridan County Search and Rescue Unit. When Search and Rescue called him about a local boy who got lost while attempting to mountain bike on the Tongue River Canyon Trail, he was ready for action. 

Bruce Campbell, back, has taught hunter education classes in Wyoming since 1981. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Campbell)

As Reed mobilized with other search and rescue volunteers, he learned the missing boy was one of his former hunter education students. After a storm system moved in, Reed set out while executing many of skills and lessons he taught in hunter education class. He hoped the missing boy was doing the same.

Reed is one of 360 certified hunter education instructors in Wyoming. About 100 of those instructors are Wyoming Game and Fish Department staff, but most courses are hosted and taught by one of 260 public volunteers. Hunter education in Wyoming, formerly known as hunter’s safety, is a required certification for all individuals born on or after Jan. 1, 1966, who hunt with firearms. 

Instructors volunteer thousands of hours annually and dedicate their time, experience and expertise to new hunters all over the state. Several of these volunteers have been teaching for three to four decades. Meet a few of the dedicated instructors.

Edward Mignery, Richard Steedly, Doug Ramsey and Joe Whittemore

This group has taught hunter education together in Sundance since the 1970s. Each member of this team has taught hunter education for about 45 years. With these four long-time instructors in Sundance, the community has benefited for decades from their courses. 

Mignery, a former Commissioner on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission (2007-13) has taught for 46 years. Mignery enjoyed mentoring hunters in his class, and enjoyed teaching ethics and responsibilities. Mignery also is a former school teacher, and as an electric co-op employee he worked on avian protection plans with power stations. 
Steedly got into teaching hunter education with the local rifle club and has been helping ever since. Steedly likes to teach marksmanship and firearm safety. He has worked as a rancher and for True Oil of Casper. 

Ramsey moved to Sundance in 1975 and also got involved in teaching through the local rod and gun club. He enjoys teaching primitive hunting methods for the class. Ramsey worked as an engineer for the highway department. In addition to volunteering as a hunter education instructor, Ramsey volunteers as support staff for the Iditarod in Alaska. 

Whittemore credits his 45 years of teaching hunter education to the shared workload of teaching alongside a team of volunteer instructors.

Whittemore recalled a favorite story when the instructors took their students on an overnight camp with two other instructors, Donal Denzin and Bob Baxter. They taught outdoor survival skills and asked the students to prepare a fire and collect enough fuel to keep them warm through the night. Often times, experience proves to be the best lesson. The students didn’t gather enough fuel, and their fire and supplies dwindled. Eventually the students joined the instructors at their roaring fire. The students learned a valuable lesson about outdoor survival that night, and the experience helped demonstrate how important those skills can be. The outdoor survival unit of hunter education is Whittemore’s favorite to teach.

 “It is an important topic to everybody, not just hunters. Especially in our state, you need to be prepared,” he said.

Whittemore believes hunters have a heavy burden to be safe and responsible and always need to set a good example for the whole community. Whittemore wants his students to know hunters are accountable to others and wildlife in every phase of the hunt. 

“If hunters are not paying attention and being careless, the nonhunting public will pick up on that,” Whittemore said. “You can do 50 things right and one thing wrong, and that is the thing that will get in the news.” 

Bruce Campbell

Campbell moved to Wyoming in 1968, was a certified hunter education instructor in Colorado before he came to Lander and has taught hunter education in Wyoming since 1981. Campbell started instructing at the Lander Valley Sportsmen's Club before the state mandated hunter education. Campbell was a science teacher and loves applying scientific observation skills to his hunter education classes.

Campbell said one of his most memorable students was a young woman who wanted to learn how to shoot. Campbell took her to the shooting range and coached her on shooting positions, aim and finger and breath control. Following the lesson, she was a pretty good shooter. She went hunting with her brother that fall and harvested her first deer. Campbell recalls how excited she was when she told him the story. Since then, Campbell taught her daughter and granddaughter in his hunter education classes.

Campbell wants to ensure his students are safe and ethical when they go hunting. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Campbell)

Campbell has seen many changes in his 41 years of instructing in Wyoming. “The course curriculum focused primarily on marksmanship when I first started, but over time Game and Fish added a curriculum for game management and ethics. Those were great additions,” he said. 

Campbell added newer hunters practice more ethics than the previous generations. He loves hearing successful hunting stories from his students. He applauds hunters when they make excellent decisions about taking an ethical and safe shot, like passing up a big buck walking the ridge of a skyline because the didn’t know what was beyond the target.

When asked why hunter education matters, Campbell immediately responded with two points.

 “First of all, there is a new generation that can experience the enjoyment, stewardship and adventure that hunting brings,” he said.

“Second, I want to ensure my students know their responsibility to be safe and ethical, and how important it is to be responsible stewards of the land and the wildlife.”

Alan Brumstead

Brumstead is a former high school teacher in Jackson who moved to the area in 1991 for his job. He was recruited by Central Wyoming College to teach hunter education and was trained by former Game and Fish Hunter Education Coordinator Larry Adams.

Brumstead said hunter education has good safety instructions for those that might not be interested in hunting. He remembers a woman in his class representing a nonprofit organization that wasn’t historically in favor of hunting. She took the class to see what was being taught even though she wasn’t a hunter. During the time at the shooting range, Brumstead recalled she lit up with excitement and exclaimed, “This is really fun!” Years later, her daughter took hunter education from Brumstead and reported her mom still enjoyed safe, recreational shooting.

Over the years Brumstead said his classes are about 70 percent adults and about 30 percent youth. He said most of his students did not grow up hunting and had several 60- and 70-year-olds earning their certification to hunt in Teton National Park or the National Elk Refuge where hunter education is a requirement with no age exception. They always leave the class saying they learned something valuable. 

Brumstead said there is much more to hunter education than firearm safety. Ethics are a big piece of hunter education. 

“It is not just about killing the animal,” he said. “Hunting includes everything from our responsibility toward other hunters to the footprint we leave on the landscape. For that new hunter, there may be some things that we teach them that sparks them to get more involved in hunting. As instructors, we aim to educate them and give them a direction to get started. We have a responsibility to get them started safely and positively.”

Allen Jaggi

Jaggi has taught hunter education since 1977. He moved to Wyoming in 1968 as a biology teacher. Jaggi instructs with a team of instructors in the Bridger Valley, and they try to offer up to four courses a year. Jaggi also is a former Wyoming legislator. 

Jaggi enjoys teaching the units on responsibility and ethics, wildlife identification and outdoor survival. He said all hunter education can be tied back to responsibility. Things like properly identifying wildlife, practicing good marksmanship, taking safe shots, tracking game and utilizing the meat all reflect the responsibility of the hunter. 

Jaggi said hunter education matters to him for many reasons. “Hunting helps perpetuate the enjoyment of the wildlife, and outdoors we are surrounded by,” he said. “Hunter education matters because being a responsible hunter creates a safe environment where you can enjoy incredible experiences with family, friends and wildlife. I am safer every time I teach, and it helps me reinforce safety procedures. I enjoy the team of instructors I teach with, and we help each other be safer for each other and our students.”

Jerry Reed

Reed began teaching hunter education in 1974 with the local sportsmen’s club and continued when Game and Fish took on the facilitation of hunter education in 1978. He has taught hunter education classes in Lovell, Sheridan, Dayton and Clearmont.

Over the years Reed has noticed more girls and women in his classes. He estimates his classes used to be 1 to 2 percent female, but that has steadily increased. Women now make up about half of his students. He’s also noticed a significant decline in hunting incidents across the state since the 1980s. He estimates mandating hunter orange helped with that safety. 

Reed is recognized often by people in his community. He laughed and said, “I don’t recognize them because their physical appearances has changed so much from when I taught them as kids.” Reed has taught many generations of families and has even certified several Game and Fish employees, including Sheridan Regional Supervisor Dustin Shorma. A new group of Sheridan instructors has affectionately nicknamed Reed, “The godfather of hunter education.”

Reed looks at hunter education as a way to give back to his community and doesn’t think of it as a chore. “It is important to bring on other generations for the sport and lifestyle that I hold dear to my heart,” he said. 

Over the decades, Reed has taught generations of students. When he was searching for the lost mountain biker who once took his class, he was optimistic knowing the young cyclist has been taught basic survival skills. Reed and his team of three rescuers found the boy huddled near a rock. In the storm, the boy missed his turn-off and got stuck on a cliff. When the team found the boy, he said, “I know you! You’re my hunter-ed instructor.” 

The boy said once he realized he was in trouble, he remembered what Reed taught him — stay put and wait for help. The best reward was when the rescuers and Reed reunited the boy with his mother. She took the same hunter education course with her son and said, “I know you. You were our hunter ed instructor.” 
— Katie Simpson is the hunter education coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Photographer Info
Bruce Campbell

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