Hunting instructor honored for service to community

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Norman Gates (left) receives a framed letter and certificate, as well as a special Order of the Buffalo pin, recognizing his work as a hunter education instructor, from Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks Conservation Officer Jim Bussone on Tuesday at Max's Way Station. Gates was honored by many of his friends and colleagues for his years as a hunter education instructor in a local KDWP-sponsored course.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)

Norman Gates plans to put aside his work teaching area youth about proper gun handling and safety -- at least for now.

The 82-year-old Mapleton native said he plans to take a break from his job as an instructor in a local hunter education course sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to pursue other activities. Gates helped teach classes offered periodically throughout the year in Uniontown.

His teaching method was simple -- keep the classes fun and not too serious.

"It was all fun," Gates said, looking back on his years as an instructor. "I made a lot of friends. I enjoyed the camaraderie. I'm not a serious teaching person. If you get too serious, then you get bored."

Several of Gates' friends and colleagues surprised him with a lunch and celebration in his honor Tuesday afternoon at Max's Way Station. During the gathering, Gates was presented with a letter, certificate and special pin recognizing his work as a hunter education instructor.

"I'm taking a little time off this year," he said. "I have some other things I want to do."

Darrell Bloomfield, master hunting safety instructor and Gates' friend and coworker for several years, said Gates is a "safety minded person" and a "rifle range master."

"The man knows his guns," Bloomfield said.

Gates said his work as a hunter education instructor has given him "great satisfaction." He said he's been teaching local hunter education courses since the 1970s.

"To see the kids out there not taking any chances and doing it right ... I really enjoyed teaching kids."

Gates said his specialty is gun actions, and he is also very knowledgeable on black powder weapons. He was born in Mapleton, attended school in Uniontown and has been a hunter and fisherman his entire life.

"I've been a firearm enthusiast ever since I was a young boy and I went hunting with my folks," he said.

Bloomfield said he does not look forward to seeing his longtime friend and coworker leave his teaching post.

"I hate to see him retire, but he knows what he needs to do," he said.

Gates said the hunter education courses have contributed to keeping the rate of local hunting accidents down -- an achievement he's proud of.

"Hopefully, we did some good," he said. "The accident rate went down so hopefully we did something right."

The three-day hunter education course is offered to hunting enthusiasts who are at least 11 years old. It tests each participant's ability to master rules and regulations regarding safe hunting practices.

Classroom work takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the final portion of the course, which includes field work and testing, taking place on Saturdays. Classes are also offered in Fort Scott.

Students receive a combined score for all course activities at the end of the three-day session.

Those who pass all the tests receive a certificate noting his or her weapons qualifications and understanding of hunting rules and regulations. Participants must be present for all three sessions to become qualified. The program is free.

Bloomfield said 2011 courses will begin sometime in August. For more information, call him at (620) 223-5418.