Safety is only part of the goalDNR class that gets under way this week teaches safe handling of a weapon and how to be a responsible hunter
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
Being a safe hunter is not the same thing as being a responsible sportsman, and for the past six years, Mike Kottwitz has been doing what he can to teach people the difference.
When Kottwitz teaches his Minnesota Department of Natural Resources firearm safety class, he focuses on more than just how to hold a rifle and when to flick the safety on. He teaches students about conservation, and about how to represent the hunting community to the world at large.
At a time when guns and the people who use them are under more scrutiny than they have been for years, that last point can be especially important.
In the wake of last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the gun-control debate that has followed, Kottwitz wants to make sure the students who go through his class represent gun owners in the best way possible.
“We’ve been very careful to talk to our students about how they represent themselves to the public, Kottwitz said. “I think to the public, the hunters represent probably the only source of information regarding gun use.”
Kottwitz shares his information as a volunteer instructor for the DNR’s safety class. This year’s edition of the class, which has been offered in Rosemount for more than 30 years, was scheduled to start Tuesday night at Rosemount Middle School but was delayed until next week by this week’s heavy snowfall. It will continue with weekly meetings through April 30. In those eight weeks students ranging in age from 11 years old to young adults will learn the basics of firearm safety, but they will also learn about what it means to be a hunter. Lessons include information about game laws and about being an ethical hunter. There is also a day of hands-on firing range instruction.
Not all of the students are would-be hunters. Some want to know gun safety tips simply because they’re around guns from time to time. Others want their children to know how to handle a firearm safely.
Instructors like Kottwitz want young hunters to appreciate the sport as an activity in itself, not just as an opportunity to go out and shoot things.
“We downplay the competitive attitude that can develop very easily in young people,” Kottwitz said. “The hunting experience can be a lot of different things. It can be camaraderie. It can be the family tradition. But for most of us I think it’s just being out there. Being a hunter places you in natural settings where most people would not normally go.”
Hunting is important to Kottwitz. He’s been a hunter for 24 years, he wants to see the sport stick around.
“I think it’s because we’d like to see the tradition of hunting continue,” he said. “We’re losing hunters faster than we can replace them.”
Kottwitz doesn’t just want quantity, though. His class is all about quality.