By Jennifer Gallus
Keith Luhman and Ken Durdahl, both from Howard Lake, are volunteer firearms safety instructors who offer a combined 74 years of teaching experience.
The two have been witness to numerous changes both in safety laws and the number of youth who partake in hunting.
Durdahl started his volunteer instructing for the Howard Lake gun training course 39 years ago, and Luhman began 35 years ago. Howard Barth was in the 30-plus years club, along with Dick Glessing, before they retired from volunteer instructing.
The class has been taught by members of the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club since its inception in the late 1950s, according to Luhman.
“The instigator was Charlie Dahlberg, who was the Sportsmen’s Club president at that time. He loved kids, and he got a lot of young guys to help teach,” Luhman said.
Back then, accidental hunting shootings were common, and the gun training course was introduced state- and nation-wide in an effort to reduce the number of accidents, Luhman explained.
“We still have accidents, but they’re at different stages. Now, we have them falling out of trees, out of their tree stands, instead of shootings, so we have to train them differently now,” Luhman said.
One message remains the same, and that is safety. In addition to safety lessons, the instructors stress ethics.
As Durdahl spoke to the gun training class Monday night about ethics, he said, “It’s something I believe so strongly in that’s why I keep going on about it.”
Some big changes have taken place to the face of hunting in the last 30-some years.
“Kids are too busy, for various reasons, these days,” Durdahl said. “They have no time to hunt. Everyone seems so regimented now. The days when you could carry a gun to school, and hunt on the way home are over,” he added.
Luhman remembers, as a kid, strapping his gun onto his bicycle to get from hunting spot to hunting spot.
“There was more habitat back then, and you knew everyone. There were lots of places to go hunting. Those spots are gone. The fence lines (that were habitat for animals) are gone everything is plowed,” Luhman said.
“It’s hard for kids to go hunting because they can’t find a place to hunt. But if you look around, you’ll find places open to the public,” Durdahl said.
With all the experience Durdahl and Luhman offer, they seem like the perfect teachers for not only the participants in the class, but for the new and upcoming instructors.
“We’ve picked up a couple of young guys in the last couple of years who are interested in instructing, as well,” Luhman said.
Those instructors are Glenn Hofer, Paul (Buck) Utne, and Steve Bobrowske. Longtime Sportsmen’s Club member, and past club president, Jim Wackler continues to assist the class, as well.
This week, the class will get a visit from area conservation officer Brian Mies, who just happens to be this year’s state and national Conservation Officer of the Year.