Safety first: Hunter safety instructor of the year shares her love for teaching

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Evelyn Stanley is the 6th district hunter safety instructor of the year.

RIPLEY — Growing up, Evelyn Stanley would follow her father and brothers into the woods for hunting excursions. She would always come with a blanket and a book in hand. 

With her nose deep in a book, she'd hear a gunshot. Her brother got a groundhog. These are some of her favorite childhood memories that's why she became a hunter safety instructor 15 years ago. 

She has never hunted herself, but she loves venturing out into the woods and has a deep respect for the sport. She never had any close calls while her family was hunting, and she wants to teach others how they can make memories safely, too. 

She knows people who have died hunting. One was her preacher. He loved hunting and one day when he was setting up camp in a tree stand he fell.

Every class, which is 10 hours long, she hammers the importance of appropriate gun handling in her students' minds. Never carry a loaded gun. Always face the gun toward the ground when loaded. Always pack ammunition separately. 

Stanley doesn't shy away from challenges. She tackles tasks head-on and is always working on something. It takes her 20 hours to prepare for each weekend-long class. She doesn't mind, though.

Her mentor and fellow instructor, Grant Offenberg, said he never has to repeat himself to Stanley. She's always listening. 

"You tell her something, she remembers," he said "That's important."

That's why she was selected as the 2019 hunter safety instructor of the year. Just like taxes, the award is handed out a year after a person is selected. COVID canceled the 2020 award ceremony so Stanley finally accepted her shiny plaque and brand-new jacket underneath autumn leaves in November. 

Sgt. Dwayne Duffield, regional training officer for hunters safety, said he selected Stanley for the award because of how team-oriented she is. 

The hunter safety course is free, and she used to bring in soup and chili for her students free of charge. She's had to stop that, unfortunately, because of the COVID pandemic. Now she just hands out crackers for students to nibble on. They seem to enjoy them. 

Whenever she gets donations, she uses the money to buy clothes for children in need.

Stanley, just like the other volunteer instructors, donates her time and energy to hunter safety in Jackson County. She wouldn't have it any other way though, she said. She loves teaching children.

Her love for teaching kids blossomed in high school. She volunteered at her church and often looked after the kids while their parents were in Sunday school. About three-quarters of her classes are usually filled with students under 18. 

She always advocates for her students. 

One time, a student was struggling with taking his hunter's safety exam. Everyone in the room had finished and Stanley could tell he needed a break. After a brief pep talk, he finished his test. He stood by Stanley as she was grading his test his eyes didn't leave the paper. A smile spread across his face when he found out he passed. 

He could finally go hunting with his grandfather. He was so excited he went around and shook all the instructors' hands twice. His excitement made Stanley think about all the memories she made going with her family hunting. 

"I care about the kids," she said. 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.