Just learn the rules and stay safe

Sparta seventh-grader Jack Warner demonstrates one of the moves learned in the gun safety lesson under watchful eye of Officer Ben Dunneback

Ninth-grader RJ Mortensen is used to seeing School Resource Officer and Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Cook around school, and that is one of the reasons he enrolled in a hunter safety program run by Cook.

The course is a State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources program and open to people of all ages, but this one is geared for students. “We generally max out this program every year,” said Cook. “I have been teaching hunter safety for 16 years, and for four through the schools.”

Officer Cook shows Kent City seventh-grader Jaren Vogel how to handle a crossbow

Sixth-grader Ava Robinson and fifth-grader Olivia Helsen were excited to take the class. “I am very interested in getting involved in the 2019-2020 hunting season and need a hunting safety credit to do it,” said Ava, who said she signed up after hearing the announcements at school.

“My whole family basically hunts, and I knew I would get a chance to use a bow, so I came,” said Olivia. “When I was little I got to practice a bit at home and, of course, I shoot arrows at school.”  Archery is one unit of the Kent City physical education course for upper elementary students.

RJ is getting ready for his “first big hunt” in the Upper Peninsula with his grandfather Terry Fisk.

While Fisk has been hunting with small guns, rifles and bows for decades, he attended the course with RJ. “I think it is a great idea for the school to promote this,” Fisk said. “I wanted him to be ready for the big hunt, and it is good to see so many people here. I think it is easier for people to get involved when it is tied to the school.”

Kent City resident Terry Fisk and his grandson Kent City ninth-grader RJ Mortensen attend hunter safety course

The course included many Kent City students, but also home-schooled students as well as some from Cedar Springs, Sparta, and Algoma Christian.

Classroom topics included safety measures, how to load, shoot and clean a gun, how to aim, good marksmanship and rules for area hunting. Cook shared stories about weapon mishaps and hunters who were caught breaking rules or hunting on private property.

He talked about practicing with the same clothes that “you will wear” when out in the field. He told students that they “owe it to the animal” to know their own ability to hit “the vitals.”

“We don’t want you to be afraid, but it is important that you be responsible and follow the rules,” he said.

Cook was joined by Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Dunneback, who serves as a school resource officer at Forest Hills Northern. “It is important to us to be involved in students’ whole lives,” said Cook.

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Troy Atwood, Kent City eighth-grader, and Lucas Anderson, fourth-grader from Algoma Christian, check out a piece of equipment with Officer Cook
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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