on Jun 11, 2010 12:00 AM • Views 5056
Media Contact: Travis Casper, Assistant Hunter Education Coordinator
(919) 707-0030

RALEIGH, N.C. (June 11, 2010) – Wes Blair, a Hunter Education Specialist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, has been recognized as the “Professional of the Year” by the International Hunter Education Association.

This award puts the Lenoir resident into select company. Honorees must perform an outstanding service to their agency and state in hunter education and have supported the International Hunter Education Association mission in doing so. Selections are based on efforts in education of hunters, community service, recruitment, hunting activities for youth and innovation in training.

The International Hunter Education Association is an organization for 67 state and provincial wildlife conservation agencies and their professional staffs, along with over 70,000 volunteer instructors who teach hunter education in North America.

Blair, with 13 years of experience in hunter education, was recognized for his excellent rapport with the 127 volunteer instructors in his 11-county work district in western North Carolina. His recruiting efforts show a 40 percent increase in active volunteer instructors in his district, and a 35 percent increase in course enrollment. He also developed local and regional instructor workshops, which have saved the volunteers time and money, while lowering agency costs and without sacrificing superior training.

Most telling is his work with youth. Under his leadership, there has been a steady increase in participation in the Youth Hunter Safety Education Skills Tournament, a competitive component of hunter education designed just for students. Blair also coordinates conservation outreach programs specifically for youth. He has assisted the Hunters Helping Kids program, and serves as a mentor for teen-agers through a local church and the local Optimist club.

“I am very honored and extremely proud to have received this national award,” Blair said following acceptance at the annual conference, held this year in Estes Park, Colo. “I would like to thank Capt. Ted Brothers and lieutenants Mike Hatley and Rusty Byerly [officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission] for nominating me. I would also like to recognize our other eight Hunter Education Specialists in their respective districts for their professionalism and dedication towards making N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission's hunter education program one of the highest regarded and emulated programs in the country.

“Most of all, though, I want to thank our statewide volunteer instructors, who provide countless hours in ensuring that our hunting heritage safely continues. Without the dedication of this all-volunteer force, our hunter education program would not be successful!”

Hunter education is required for all first-time hunting license buyers in North Carolina and offered free by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Courses cover hunter ethics and responsibility, conservation and wildlife management, survival and first aid, specialty hunting and tree-stand safety. For more information, click here or call (919) 707-0031.