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TPWD News Release — April 26, 2004

Teens Use Hunter Education Skills To Help Save Man’s Life

AUSTIN, Texas — Hunting accidents are relatively few nowadays, thanks mainly to safety skills gained from hunter education. Last year there were only 44 hunting-related mishaps in Texas among a hunting population of more than one million, and a majority of those incidents could be considered minor. Some were not.

One accident in particular nearly cost a man his life were it not for the swift response by a trio of young hunters who drew on the first-aid skills learned in their hunter education class.

It was the day before Thanksgiving and brothers Cody and Robby Cook were hunting deer on their uncle’s property when they heard a gunshot followed immediately by screams. While climbing into a tripod hunting stand on an adjacent ranch, a hunter had dropped his loaded 30-06 rifle, which discharged and struck him in his upper right arm.

The 44-year-old victim was not required to have hunter education because of his age, but had he taken the course he would have known that you never carry a loaded firearm when climbing into a stand, according to Terry Erwin, hunter education coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. "Also, if you are climbing into anything higher than you can reach, you always use a hauling line to raise your firearm," he emphasized. "This was an accident that likely could have been avoided had the hunter used the basic firearms safety rules we stress in hunter education."

The Cook brothers received their hunter education training at age 13 from their local agriculture science teacher during a summer class. Fortunately for the victim, they knew how to apply pressure to the gunshot wound and used their cell phone to get help.

While Robby tended to the victim, Cody called their mother, some 20 miles away to obtain the 911 address of the location of their uncle’s property. She quickly called the local 911, since Cody’s cell phone is serviced out of College Station, and of no direct help. She gave them Cody’s cell phone number and then proceeded to call her niece, Jill Halfmann, who lived on the property where the boys were hunting. Halfmann, who is also hunter-education certified, went to the scene, assisted with the first aid and provided the exact 911 address so Cody could direct EMS to the area via cell phone.

The sheriff arrived on the scene and transported the victim to a waiting ambulance nearby. EMS treated and stabilized him, but the wound was so severe that he was airlifted to the hospital in San Angelo. He was further stabilized and later flown to another hospital in the Dallas metro-area for extensive reconstructive surgery. He is now recovering and undergoing physical therapy.

"This is a testament to these youth who took the hunter education course," said Erwin.

Texas has a national reputation for making access to hunter education convenient and plentiful with more than 4,400 courses offered across the state and at least one in all 254 counties each year. The summer months when school lets out are an ideal time for new hunters to take the course.

"Kids usually have plenty of free time during the summer and it’s a good way to be prepared before the September dove-hunting season," Erwin said.

According to the 2003 Texas Hunting Accident Report, 25 percent of the accidents occurred during dove season and the most common error in judgment involved covering the victim while swinging on game.

Texans have several options available for fulfilling hunter education requirements, including the traditional classroom environment, a home study course and an online course. Texas certifies about 33,000 students annually.

The hunter education course is a minimum 10-hour class that teaches hunting safety, modern and primitive sporting arms, wildlife conservation, outdoor skills and responsibility. When the course is completed, the certification card is good for life and is honored by all states, Mexico, and all Canadian provinces that require hunter education. Proof of certification, which includes the card or the hunter education certification number printed on the hunting license, must be carried at all times while hunting.

Any hunter born on or after Sept. 2, 1971 who is at least 17 years old must pass the course to legally hunt in Texas. Hunters ages 12-16 must either pass the course or be accompanied by a person who is at least 17 or older licensed to hunt in Texas. Hunters younger than age 12 may take the course but they will not be certified and must be accompanied by a person licensed to hunt in Texas who is at least age 17 or older.

Accompanied means within normal voice control and preferably within arm’s length. Hunters can purchase a license before becoming certified, but they must carry proof of certification while hunting.

More information about hunter education as well as the schedule of course offerings are available at local TPWD offices, by calling TPWD at (800) 792-1112 ext. 62 or by visiting the Web (