Sjostrom's aim is safety
HAGER CITY -- "Hunt safely" might be advice given hunters by family and friends whenever they enter the field, but Doug Sjostrom takes it to heart.
Sjostrom received the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Hunter Education Instructor Award last week after having taught hunter safety classes at Prairie View Elementary School in Hager City for 30 years. Area Game Warden Brad Peterson presented him with an engraved wooden keepsake during one of those classes.
"I knew I had the time in," Sjostrom said Wednesday about the three-decade milestone that's traditionally recognized. "But I didn't know I'd be getting it that evening."
The warden is required to attend one of the seven classes which are part of each course session, the honoree said, so used the opportunity to make the presentation. It occurred in front of the instructor's latest group of students, with a total number of 61. The twice-annual course typically draws somewhat more interest in the spring than in fall; he estimated class sizes for the former are usually between 40 and 60, while for the latter they are anywhere from 20 to 30.
Teaching safety to prospective hunters is a volunteer proposition, Sjostrom said. Although he goes solo for classroom instruction -- accounting for the majority of the sessions over each three-and-a-half week course period -- he recruits help for the one involving actual shooting. He appreciates this assistance, besides the availability of the school's facilities for the face-to-face education and the Maiden Rock American Legion for providing the shooting lab.
"They consider helping youths their mission," he said of the club.
Despite the class experience not becoming valid until age 12, he's had younger participants. Alternatively, senior citizens also have been among the ranks, including one grandmother he remembered who'd never gone hunting but wanted to accompany her granddaughter into the field.
"A lot of parents and grandparents attend the class to support their children and grandchildren," he said, estimating around 2,100 people have taken the course during his tenure.
Upon successful completion, the students get a certificate. They must pass a written test at the end for the classroom portion. They're observed for their skill abilities at the shooting practical, where targets and clay pigeons are used, along with .22s and shotguns.
In the early 1980s, the honoree was teaching snowmobile safety when he was approached by then-Principal Jack Celt at Prairie View to organize a hunter safety course.
"He asked me to bring it to the school so students from the area wouldn't have to go to Ellsworth for it," he said.
Sjostrom said he then got training in hunter education from the local DNR warden. The teaching he does hasn't changed significantly since.
The Maiden Rock native went hunting with his father in their home vicinity as a youth, he said. While gun-deer hunting is the kind he's done the most in his lifetime, he was looking forward to turkey hunting last week.
He said he'll continue to teach hunter education at Prairie View, a position he agreed is rewarding.