Bright Eyes and Minds (with Colonel Smoothbore)
By angelamontana


A while back I wrote a bit about the volunteers of the Montana Hunter Safety Program and how over the years we will never know just how many lives have been saved by their hard work. Well this past week I had the pleasure of working with other instructors in our spring Hunter Safety class.

There were about 25 youngsters in this class, most around 11 or 12 years old, and split about 50-50, girls and boys. This was a very welcome change for me as there were no girls in my Hunter Safety class in 1964. I’ve been involved in youth programs off and on for decades. In all that time and with all the children involved, I’ve never seen a more precocious, at times even raucous, group of youngsters than the bright eyed kids in our class.

The enthusiasm of every one of them really raised the spirits of this oft time’s grumpy old man. Posing what seemed like thousands of questions per hour, these kids made us really work hard; it was truly amazing to hear all the very good and pertinent queries that were asked of us. And when we asked a question, nearly every arm in the room shot upward, waving wildly, while the bodies attached to those arms squirmed in their seats with giddy anticipation of being able to give the right answer. It was really fun.

Perhaps the most fun I had in the class occurred when Josh Leonard, our local game warden came to lecture our class on Montana’s game laws. Josh has been a game warden for about three years and recently was assigned to our area. Let me say with great affirmation, I’m glad he’s here and we are lucky to have him. Josh is a big guy with a smile to match and his personality is such that I immediately felt I had made a new friend, and so did the kids.

Josh’s lecture turned out to be more of a conversation, a question and answer session that lasted over 1 ½ hours. During that time Josh was peppered with literally hundreds of questions. He answered every one, citing the law and regulations, offering examples that made the abstract seem commonplace, and perhaps most importantly he gave the children some advice that they can use for their lifetimes. In a way, it was fortunate that we ran out of time or Josh might still be answering their questions.

I believe Josh’s presentation was really a gift to our soon to be hunters. They now know wardens are people who will be their friends, are more than willing to help them, and that they love Montana’s outdoors as much as any of us. It’s my opinion that Josh Leonard is one of Montana’s finest, and I’m really pleased that he is our warden. Our game, our lands, and our people are all a little better off with Josh on the job; he really is the people’s warden.

Be safe and good shooting.
Colonel Smoothbore






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