Hunter Education Instructors Honored at Annual Conference

Katy Schaffer, 512-389-8046,

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HOUSTON – Individuals who teach safe, responsible hunting and firearm safety were honored at the Texas Hunter Education Instructor Conference in Houston April 9-10.

Sponsored by the Texas Hunter Education Instructor’s Association (THEIA), the conference is an annual opportunity to recognize the contributions of the 2,600 volunteers, school teachers and game wardens who train and certify nearly 70,000 students annually in the department’s hunter education program. As a result of their efforts, Texas enjoys higher participation in hunting & shooting sports, a much reduced hunting incident rate, a higher compliance to game laws and an improved image of hunting and hunters.

Statewide Hunter Education Volunteer Instructor of the Year was José Garcia from Irving. An instructor since 1993, Garcia earned his Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame Award in 2009 and is credited with over 2,150 students. He is an active “huntmaster” for the Texas Youth Hunting Program, conducting youth hunts for over 20 years. He has participated in many outreach events including the Dallas Safari Club/Dallas Ecological Foundation “SAFETY” event held semiannually for 250 youth participating in all shooting disciplines, hunter skills and wildlife activities.

While receiving his award, Garcia said, “I will continue to serve the youth of Texas. It is a great thing we do getting kids outdoors!”

The following Regional Hunter Education Volunteer Instructors of the Year were also honored:

South Texas

Ruben Rangel, Brownsville

Among Rangel’s many accomplishments is his activity coordinating youth mentor hunts (waterfowl hunt for 25 youth/dove hunt for over 200 youth), his assistance at Hunter Education Instructor Workshops and his activity leading Rio Grande Valley efforts with his mobile Hunter Education trailer.

Southeast Texas

Joe Drobniak, Friendswood

Drobniak earned the Texas Hall of Fame award in 2009 and is credited with teaching over 1,750 students. He developed curricula and gave it to the Hunter Education Program along with other teaching strategies and tools. His creativity and development of resources from scratch were cited as main factors in his list of accomplishments.

North Texas

Charles Preslar, Garland

He will enter the Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame in 2016 and has certified over 1,300 students. He is active in many North Texas outreach events, including an annual event held at the TPWD’s Law Enforcement Academy and Dallas Safari’s SAFETY event.

West Texas

Hartmut Mueller, El Paso

Mueller has taught over 1,000 students since 1989 and is a longtime trainer in Far West Texas.

Central Texas

Garland Walker, Kyle

Walker will enter the Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame in 2016 and has certified over 1850 students.

Statewide Hunter Education Professional Educator of the Year went to Cecario Guerrero of Houston for his many years of involvement as an inner city agriculture science teacher and Texas Youth Hunting Program Regional Coordinator. He is credited with teaching over 1,000 students, but he also is a top Huntmaster, having led over 50 youth hunts and taken hundreds of Houston youth on their first hunting trips — several to Colorado to enjoy a Western Big Game experience.

“It is extremely important what we do,” Guerrero said, “and it is always a team effort anytime we teach hunter education or take kids on youth hunts.”

Statewide Hunter Education Game Warden of the Year honored for his efforts was Cpt. Jerry Gordon, Hamilton. Gordon is the current Captain at TPWD’s Law Enforcement Cadet Training Center near Star. In raising his daughters as young natural resource leaders, they have orchestrated an annual 4-H Hunter Education Camp at the Academy grounds each year. Gordon also assists Hunter Education staff in certifying game warden cadets and has been active in hunter education workshops, training hunter education students, conducting volunteer instructor interviews and background checks and presenting at state and International hunter education conferences in 2013 and 2014.

Others honored during the three-day conference were those reaching top levels in hunter education for earned points, including the top award of Texas Hunter Education Hall of Fame. This year’s recipient was Jeanette Hammonds of Ft. Worth, who has taught over 3,400 students alongside her Hall of Fame husband, David. They have also served as longtime coordinators of the North Texas “Youth Hunter Education Challenge.”

Jimmie Caughron of Ballinger received the top THEIA Honor, the T.D Carroll Award. Caughron is a retired West Texas Hunter Education Specialist for the department, former agriculture science educator, Lifetime THEIA member and active shooting sports specialist for the department and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program.

The Texas Hunter Education Program has served Texans since 1972 and was mandated in 1998 for those born on or after September 2, 1971. For more information about the program, you can visit the program’s website.