Eugene “Gene” Vennes was honored for his 45 years of service as a Hunter Ed instructor in Fallon County. Vennes was the only 45-year honoree, and he was surpassed in experience by only one 50-year instructor and three 60-year instructors.
FWP Outdoor Skills and Safety Supervisory Wayde Cooperider said, “How honored we all felt to be in the presence of so many truly passionate and dedicated individuals. Any organization, volunteer or paid, that has as many 20, 30, and 40-plus volunteers, it truly says something about them to stay involved that long.”
Vance O’Donnell was also honored for 15 years as a Hunter/Bowhunter Education instructor for Fallon County.
The workshop, held Friday through Sunday at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds, marked the 60th anniversary of Hunter/Bowhunter Education Program. It was held in place of smaller annual workshops in FWP’s eight regions. There are more than 1,300 volunteer instructors in communities all across the state.
About 230 instructors attended the workshop. They chose from a range of classes including firearm range safety, survival skills, bear awareness, first aid/CPR, elk calling, tree stand safety, public speaking, buckskin and parfleche, ethics and orienteering. A banquet was held Saturday evening, during which service awards were given.
Gov. Steve Bullock officially opened the workshop Saturday morning. He spoke of the significant impact that hunting has on Montana’s economy and thanked instructors for their contribution. The governor noted that sportsmen and women account for 2.4 million field days each year, and spend $350,000 million in the state.
“Hunting is a rich tradition in Montana that creates lasting memories and unforgettable adventures,” Gov. Bullock said. “Hundreds of volunteer instructors across the state pass along this treasured heritage to future generations and share their knowledge, time and passion so that we can safely enjoy this tradition on our prized public lands.”