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Milwaukee school group passes hunter education test with flying colors

Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Outdoors

MILWAUKEE -- There's a first time for all hunters.

First hunter-safety class, first shot, first time afield, and, hopefully somewhere down the trail, first harvest and first wild-game meal.

The process of becoming a hunter can seem daunting to some, especially if you don't have a family member to mentor you.

It's not as easy as, say, learning to dance or play basketball.

And the formal teaching required to safely handle firearms obviously distinguishes hunter education from other activities.

But it is eminently possible, even if you're a young resident of Wisconsin's largest city.

The resources, instructors and support are available. It just requires desire.

Here's the story of Tamicia Nunez of Milwaukee, a 12th-grader at Escuela Verde, and the Inner City Sportsmen Club.

Like each senior at the public charter school, Nunez is required to do a 300-hour thesis project. Earlier this year, Nunez decided to do hers on outdoor recreation and education.

In particular, she wanted to answer the question: How does providing environmental education opportunities affect youth?

She selected a range of activities, including bird banding and hunting.

After helping fellow students get trained in each field, Nunez will attempt to measure any changes in the students' interests and behaviors.

So how did Nunez get herself and eight fellow students certified to hunt?

She told staff -- including teachers and counselors -- at Escuela Verde about her interest.

"They helped me get in touch with some key people," Nunez said. "Like Gervis, Reggie and Ken."

That would be Gervis Myles, conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Reggie Hayes and Ken Baker of the Inner City Sportsmen Club.

Myles has been a DNR warden in Milwaukee for 20 years and knows the community and lay of the land as well as the back of his hand.

Hayes and Baker, both city residents, are lifelong hunters and anglers as well as certified Wisconsin Hunter Education instructors.

When the three men learned of Nunez's project and desire, they did what people who care about the future do: they acted.

By early September, a special hunter education class was organized for the Escuela Verde students.

Hayes and Baker were joined by other Inner City Sportsmen Club members Larry Haines and Aaron Morgan.

The indoor sessions were held at the Milwaukee DNR office. They learned about wildlife identification, safe firearm handling, conservation history, biology and tree-stand safety.

Outdoor shooting and deer butchering sessions were held at McMiller Sports Center in Eagle.

It would have been possible for Nunez and the others to hunt without taking the full class.

Some state-sanctioned opportunities, such as Learn To Hunt programs or those covered under the Mentored Hunting Law, allow hunters to try the activity without being certified.

But the vast majority of hunters in Wisconsin must possess a valid hunter education certificate.

And Nunez said she wanted to go through all the teaching available so she and the others would be able to hunt anywhere and anytime in the state.

She also wanted to get instruction from people in her community.

"It can make a real difference who's doing the teaching," Nunez said. "These teachers have been great."

Firearms are a hot-button topic in every community in America. Milwaukee is no exception.

And the concept of going afield to gather wild protein has become foreign to most urban residents.

So for the Escuela Verde students, there was a lot of "firsts."

Shooting a shotgun, for example.

"It was better than I thought it was going to be," said 11th-grader Joshua Arnold. "I thought it was going to break my shoulder."

Not only did he handle the gun without injury, he learned that he was a natural trapshooter: He broke the last five clay pigeons he attempted at the range.

All eight students passed the written and field tests and are now certified Wisconsin hunters.

They are all first in their families to do so.

"This makes my job so worthwhile," said Myles, the DNR warden. "The thing that excites me the most is kids from the city want to do this. It kills stereotypes."

Myles and the Inner City Sportsmen Club helped the students successfully achieve several "firsts." Several more are planned, including squirrel and deer hunting outings.

"Now," Baker said. "When do you all want to go hunting?"

(c)2017 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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