After 15 years the Ohio Division of Wildlife has made major modifications to its hunter education classroom instructional material, upgrading the reading and comprehension level from a Fifth-Grade level to a Sixth-Grade level.
In the process the agency also has lowered the ante in order to pass the exam following 10 to 12 hours of instruction. Enrolled students must now correctly answer 75 percent of the test’s 100-question format. Previously, the number was 80 correct answers out of 100 questions.
But since implementing the new curriculum the Wildlife Division has seen a spike in the rate of student failure since the new study material began being used in March; as high as 40-percent in one southeastern Ohio class setting.
However, the Wildlife Division’s hunter-trapping education coordinator Matt Ortman says this rate will fall as both instructors and students become more familiar with the new material, assembled by the product’s only vendor, Texas-based Kalkomey Enterprises.
The state graduates between 16,000 and 17,000 hunter education students annually. These students are taught by the Wildlife Division’s all-volunteer corps of hunter education instructors which numbers in the neighborhood of 1,500 individuals.
Even so, only one-third of this instructor cadre has yet to undergo any sort of boot-camp refresher in order to fully understand and successfully teach the new curriculum.
Yet that instructor educational re-arming number will increase as the peak hunter education training season gets underway. This time period runs roughly between September 1st and the start of Ohio’s firearms deer-hunting season when about 80-percent of all students take the course, Ortman says.
Which still does not sit well with some of Ohio’s hunter education instructors. Among them is “Ohio Outdoor News” contributor Larry Moore of Jamestown, Ohio.
Moore has also been a volunteer Ohio hunter education instructor for 35 years and now teaches between 50 and 60 students annually.
For Moore the Wildlife Division’s roll-out of the new curriculum has proven anything but smooth and efficient. Not by a long shot, says Moore, who is frustrated that the lack of consulting with and request for input from instructors is a far cry from previous curriculum updates.
“This has been the most disappointing effort on the part of the Ohio Division of Wildlife I have ever seen,” Moore said, not mincing any words. “Ford sold a lot of Pintos but it still was not a good automobile. Same here with the launch of this new curriculum.”
In an August 9th electronic exchange with the state’s certified hunter education instructors, Ortman noted that the Wildlife Division “...also be offering additional training in September and October in order to maintain your certification.”
“We will be sending out additional information on this soon,” Ortman said. “We are also working on a revision to the test. All answer sheets and answer keys will remain the same.”
Then, too, said Ortman in a later telephone conversation, that it “was time to do something different,” noting that some hunter instructors were chiming in that the previous training materials had “become out-dated.”
Ortman later explained as well how the agency had conducted about 15 instructor training sessions across the state from March through early May but only that 563 volunteer teachers attended, making it more difficult to see that the revamped course is being adequately taught.
This is part of the reason why, Ortman says, mandatory training will be required at some point in order for a person to be either certified or re-certified as a hunter education instructor.
“Hopefully by the end of October we’ll have all of our instructors trained,” Ortman said also. “It’s been tough for all of us.”
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn