By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN The children of Howard Lake have been learning how to safely handle a gun from Walter “Irv” Luhman for 40 years, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recognized him for this accomplishment last Monday.
Luhman, who is also the treasurer of Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club, became involved in the program when his oldest child was 11 years old.
“I had five children who would be coming up through the classes,” he said.
That being the case, Chuck Dahlberg approached Luhman to help teach the class.
Dahlberg, along with Howard Barth, Dick Glessing, and Ken Durdahl were all responsible for starting gun safety classes in Howard Lake.
“They were very young at the time. I think they started teaching right out of high school,” Luhman said.
Barth and Glessing stopped teaching after about 30 years, but Durdahl is the secretary of the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club, and still helps with the gun safety classes, Luhman noted.
“What I like is the children are really enthused, they want to learn,” Luhman said. “I don’t have problems with foolishness or the kids not paying attention.”
“There are classes in all the small towns, and at the one Irv runs, there are no complaints ever. All I get are compliments,” said DNR Conservation Officer Brian Mies of the Annandale station, who presented a plaque to Luhman for his years of service.
One thing that has changed throughout the years is the number of students in the gun safety classes, Luhman said. There used to be about 30 kids in each class, and now there are a lot fewer.
Luhman attributes this to more school activities for children to be involved in, but also the change in hunting.
He noted the habitat for waterfowl and pheasants has been disappearing, with sloughs being drained, fence rows disappearing, and trees being cut to make way for plowed fields.
However, there are still plenty of deer hunters. The majority of students in his classes nowadays are planning to go deer hunting.
If students are going pheasant or duck hunting, they are usually going on a trip to South Dakota, Luhman noted.
Another change, especially in the last eight to 10 years, is the number of adults taking the class, he added.
There are mothers and grandmothers who take the class because their children or grandchildren are taking it.
“They want to know the safety aspects, too. I thought that was cool,” Luhman said.
In his 40 years of teaching, he is aware of only one accident involving a student of his, but it was a minor accident in which nobody was severely injured, he said.
The student was in a deer stand, and dropped his gun, which went off.
With half of the instructors in Howard Lake being in their 70s today, Luhman said they are always looking for new instructors.
However, Steve Bobrowske, one of Luhman’s former students, is one of the newest instructors.
Those who are interested should contact Durdahl at (320) 543-3372.