(SD) Hunt Safe Courses begin in new facility


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Drizzt
April 18, 2003, 04:43 PM
Aberdeen American News (South Dakota)

April 18, 2003 Friday

SECTION: D; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 738 words

HEADLINE: Hunt Safe Courses begin in new facility;
Center named for former instructor, Terry O'Keefe

BYLINE: By Eric Burgess; American News Sports Writer

BODY:
Although it's not fully completed, the newly built Terry O'Keefe Hunter Education Center is far enough along to hold this year's annual Hunt Safe Courses.

The first session of Hunt Safe Courses actually began on Wednesday evening. Bill Bowen, hunter safety coordinator for the Sportsmen's Club of Brown County, said the center is about 95 percent finished and will soon be completed.

"We've got a few little odds and ends that need to be taken care of," added Bowen. "The actual building is done and we've got the floor coverings and all the painting pretty much done. There's just a few small things that need to be taken care of, like some of the trim work and other small things like that."

The center, named after longtime hunter education instructor Terry O'Keefe who died of cancer in 1999, is already set to hold three different Hunt Safe Courses in 2003. The first course is currently under way with two more nights of instruction on Wednesday and April 30. The second session takes place on May 7, 14 and 21 and the third session will be held Aug. 6, 13 and 20. Each evening of instruction begins at 6 p.m. and runs until 9:30.

After years of holding the courses at different locations like the National Guard Armory in Aberdeen and the old Aberdeen Recreation and Cultural Center, the center will offer a lot of perks to the future Hunt Safe classes. Bowen said that having a permanent location for the Hunt Safe Courses will also be easier on himself and the other members of the Sportsmen's Club of Brown County who are volunteer instructors for the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. Another convenience is that the center is built on-site at the Brown County Rifle Range, increasing the opportunity for more hands-on instruction.

"One of the things the classroom will have is animal mounts of a variety of South Dakota wildlife species," Bowen said. "That's something we certainly could not have had in any of the other classrooms we've used. We also plan to mount permanent charts and diagrams on the walls that our instructors use for teaching the course. That will be convenient because, before now, the instructors always had to bring their charts and diagrams from home. Occasionally, a chart or diagram would get left behind. This way, all the course materials will get to stay in the classroom.

"The classroom will also have an overhead projector, so that we'll have projecting capabilities to help teach the courses. We will also have a large-screen television. In previous courses, we had about 60 to 80 students crowding around about a 20-inch television to watch hunter safety videos. And the center is fully air conditioned, which is something that's pretty nice to have for our late summer courses in August because it can be pretty uncomfortable when it's really hot outside."

Bowen said that there were a lot of people and organizations that made building the center possible. The center itself cost about $40,000 to build.

"At least four years ago when the rifle range was built, the state had always planned space for a small facility to store the mowers and for the bathrooms," Bowen said. "The federal government has an excise tax on all sporting goods, and just like any other state, South Dakota gets its fair share of the dollars. The state gave us 75 percent of the money initially when the rifle range was built. They also gave us 75 percent of the money for the facility, but they said they would only give 75 percent for the storage and bathroom part of the building. That part of the building ended up coming to around $57,000.

"Well with the problems the other classrooms had, several members of the Sportsmen's Club of Brown County started talking about how nice it would be to expand the facility to include a classroom for the Hunt Safe Courses and other firearm safety type courses. A big portion of the money for the classroom came from the National Rifle Association Foundation, which donated $10,000 for us to add the classroom. After that, club members went around and got donations from local businesses, hunters and people who had a big interest in firearm safety courses in general.

"It didn't take much looking to get the money we needed," Bowen added. "There were a lot of people interested in possible firearm safety courses and the Hunt Safe Courses that we currently hold that were more than willing to donate money for our cause."

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