Forty Years Of Teaching About Safe Hunting


By VERNON ROBISON

The Progress

Overton resident Kevin Pratt (left), and his father Gary Pratt (center), of Las Vegas, were recognized by the Nevada Department of Wildlife on Saturday for 40 years of service as volunteer Hunter Education instructors. Also pictured is NDOW Conservation Education Supervisor Doug Nielsen (right) who expressed appreciation for their service.

A southern Nevada father and son team were recognized last weekend for their positive effect on generations of sportsmen and hunters in the region.

Kevin Pratt, of Overton, and his father Gary Pratt, of Las Vegas, were honored by the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) for their 40 years of service as certified Hunter Safety Instructors in the state. The awards were presented at a special outdoor banquet held at the Clark County Shooting Complex in north Las Vegas.

The role of Hunter Safety Instructor in Nevada is completely voluntary. The instructors do not get paid. Instead they do it because they love hunting and teaching others about the sport.

In an interview last week with The Progress, NDOW Public Affairs and Education Supervisor Doug Nielsen had high praise for Kevin and Gary who he said are his good friends and, betimes, even hunting buddies. Nielsen said that the two had even instructed his own children in the required hunter safety course.

“I came to the Department in 1993 and they were already seasoned instructors here by then,” Nielsen said of the father-son team. “They have just been very dedicated to keeping hunting a safe and enjoyable sport in the state.”

Nielsen said that Gary and Kevin have always been concerned that their students understand the importance of ethics in their behavior in hunting.
“They wanted their students, when they went out, to be good ambassadors for all hunters out there,” Nielsen said. “They taught what it means to represent hunting well.”

Gary Pratt, 72, grew up moving to various places in rural Nevada. He said that he was raised with hunting and fishing and spending time in the outdoors.

Gary first got involved with teaching hunter safety classes in around 1982 when one of his younger sons was going through hunter training in Henderson where they were living.
“I wasn’t very impressed with the course and how it was taught,” Gary said. “So I went to the NDOW office and told them about it.”

Gary got to talking to the NDOW official about his experience in hunting. By the time he was finished, the official had him on a track to becoming an instructor.

Kevin, 56, was only 16 years old at that time. He had been spending a lot of time doing archery and muzzle-load rifle hunting and had built up some expertise in these areas.
“My dad didn’t know that stuff as well so he asked me if I would come and teach about it in the course he was teaching,” Kevin recalled.

That is what got Kevin started down the road of getting his own Hunter Safety certification and begin teaching.

Over the years, the two have sometimes taught classes together as partners and sometimes separately. They have taught classes in Henderson, Green Valley, Las Vegas, Alamo and more. Kevin has been teaching the class in Moapa Valley for 20 years now.

Gary said that one of the most important lessons he has wanted to teach his students is a respect for the land, and for the rural land owners out there.

Gary noted that hunters in the rural areas of Nevada are bound to find posted No Hunting signs out there. That is not usually because the land owners are opposed to hunting, he said.
“More often it is because they have had a bad time with hunters,” Gary said. “Usually those are city people who go up there and run all over the land and make a mess as they go.”

Kevin said that he gained a lot while teaching the classes. “We actually learned things from the kids we taught,” he said. “Sometimes they would talk about what their dads did and certain hunting techniques they had been taught. Or sometimes they talked about places they liked to go. I gained a lot from that.”
Kevin said that teaching the classes over the years has been rewarding.

“We don’t get anything special for doing it,” Kevin said. “We don’t get paid because it is all volunteer. Some people think that we get priority spots in the draw or something. But we don’t. I do feel fortunate, though, to have passed on the love and knowledge of hunting to so many others over the years. And it was always good to get feedback from students or their parents about how valuable the class was to them. That was always my reward for doing it. It was always for the kids.”

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