One of several youth firearms training classes was conducted Sept. 22, at the Itasca Gun Club located on County Road 61 north of Grand Rapids. Twelve Minnesota youth ages 11 and older, came from as far away as Fargo, N.D., Duluth, Cloquet, Side Lake Minn. and the surrounding area, to complete the final requirements for the Minnesota Youth Firearms Safety program. When asked, “Why come to Grand Rapids for the training?” the students agreed they wanted to be in an early posted class, get their certification and start hunting early in the season. These students had already successfully passed the alternate on-line classroom training.

On July 1, 2012 the Itasca Gun Club was awarded a $1,500 grant from the National Shooting Sports Foundation for the use of purchasing non-firing safety training rifles to be used in the youth firearms training classes.

“We are very pleased Chief Range Officer Vince Rittmiller had the foresight to apply for the grant,” gun club president, Joe Oliver stated. “These rifles will come in handy so the students can see and handle the different types of guns.”

The guns were all made by Mossberg and ranged from .22 caliber, 30/30,12 gauge over/under, 12 gauge auto loader, 20 gauge pump. All firearms came with either soft or hard carrying cases.

On Saturday under the watchful eyes of trained qualified instructors Mike Hughes, Bob Pittack, Joe Oliver, Dave Samuelson, Chuck Johnson and special guest speaker, Minnesota Conservation Officer Sarah Sindelir the students participated in classroom review of gun safety, firearms handling, compass reading, what to do if lost and ammunition identification. From the classroom to the field activities the students had the opportunity to walk the outdoor course with an instructor, and practice crossing a fence, climbing a deer stand, crossing a creek, loading and unloading a firearm and finally to the firing range to practice with 22 rifles.

Upon successful completion of the Minnesota D.N.R. Firearms Safety Training for Youth, these students can now purchase a Minnesota hunting license.

Although hunting is a safe and rewarding sport and a heritage, handling hunting equipment, such as firearms or bows, does pose significant risk. Hunters who act in an irresponsible or unsafe manner are a danger to themselves and others. Through hunter education, youth will obtain the knowledge and skills to be safe, responsible, ethical and involved hunters. Minnesota is one of many states that require hunters to take a hunter education course before they can purchase a hunting license.

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