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DNR Team Changes Leadership

By Staff | Sep 30, 2009

Beulah and Bill Talkington are honored with a cake at their final West Virginia Hunters Education Class. (Photo by Tammy Wayman)

West Virginia is know for its hunting seasons throughout the year and many residents take the these seasons seriously. They are there for a reason, to regulate and control the wildlife that could get over populated if there was no hunting allowed in the state.

Taking a youth outdoors to learn hunting skills is a family tradition for many West Virginia and Wetzel County residents. But a youth in the woods without the proper training of safety and hunting skills is a dangerous situation. West Virginia realized this and began having the West Virginia Hunter Education Program with the youth in mind. The first classes were held in 1968.

The course takes 10 hours to complete and so far, according to the Department of Natural Resources Web site, 360,000 students have passed the course since it has been applied as a law.

All persons that born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, must complete the course before purchasing a hunting license. When one purchases a hunting license, they must present their certificate of completion.

The program is free of charge and consists of gun safety, wildlife management, ethics, survival and first aid, game identification, and how to hunt safely. Conservation officers also come and give support to the volunteers in teaching these classes.

Pictured is the New Martinsville Hunter Education team that has assisted in teaching many students the required course needed in West Virginia. from left: Beulah Talkington, Bill Talkington, Mike Rokles, Rick Rutter, David Kemp, and Jeff Montgomery.

One couple in New Martinsville has, over the last 41 years, taken the time to volunteer to teach the West Virginia Hunters Education Class to many youths and adults in Wetzel County, or whoever wanted to attend.

Bill and Beulah Talkington have taught a total of 3,789 students in past 41 years of the hunter education course. According to the WV DNR office, the Talkingtons class was one of first classes that began in 1968. Beulah stated at that time it was just a four-hour course. They did that for 23 years.

In 1991, the WV DNR required the course to become 10 hours of instruction time. The Talkingtons then changed to the new format.

In 1972 and in 1998, Bill and Beulah were named the WV DNR Volunteer Instructors of Year, in recognition of the education they provided in promoting ethics, responsibility, and safety.

Any child that has gone through their course will always remember them, primarily because they take the hunter education course very seriously. Adults and children were taught skills that many remember each time they go hunting.

Mike Rokles will be taking over the teaching of the future local hunter education classes. He has volunteered with the Talkingtons, as shown in this photo.

Countless stories can be retold of past students of Talkingtons’, recalling something Bill told them concerning a loaded gun when they were hunting that may have saved their lives. Or maybe they recall Beulah helping them learn the information required to pass the course and then smiling as she handled them their hunter education card when they passed the test, with a hug to go with it.

Their classes demanded attention at all times from the students. Talkingtons’ classes were to teach and to show hands on what is involved in hunting and being safe.

They and other volunteer instructors stressed to the classes how to avoid hunting accidents and many stories were told of past gun related accidents to insure they will remember safety at all time. Bill and Beulah literally took the education of each student personally, because they are all about prevention. Any youth or adult passing their class knew how to properly handle a gun when he finished the course.

Their three-day classes were usually held from 6-9:30 p.m. in the evening in cooperation with the WV DNR. And all the kids remember that Beulah always had snacks for them, with a side dish of encouragement.

Volunteer Mike Rokles, assisting in the hunting education course at the Mollohan Center last week, stated “Hands down, Bill and Beulah had the best hunter education course around. Beulah is the most organized person and Bill taught the skills you needed.” Rokles commented on how he had been to other hunter education classes to only be disappointed on how they were done after learning from the Talkingtons.

Conservation Officer Kevin Goff added, “The Talkingtons were more dedicated to this cause and selflessly gave of their time. They are the best the West Virginia Hunter Safety program has to offer.”

Many children know Beulah from being at Wetzel County 4-H Camp, where she taught gun safety to the students since 1969. Beulah noted that Bill was the behind-the-scenes guy, getting all of her supplies and equipment ready for the classes she held.

All the youth at the 4-H camp learned safety education first before ever shooting a BB gun. The breathing techniques she taught the children before pulling the trigger are still instilled in the minds of many youths in Wetzel County. Beulah also taught at Scout camps, at schools, and other educational events.

Rokles will be taking over the teaching of the future local hunter education classes and he is very qualified. He is certified in the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Beulah stated, “He will need volunteers to assist him,” concerning the classes he will be teaching.

But watching Rokles on the last evening of the class demonstrate and talk to the students, you could see he learned from the best.

As squirrel, deer, and raccoon season soon starting in the state of West Virginia, we can thank Bill and Beulah Talkington and their New Martinsville team of Hunter Education teachers for their countless hours of volunteer time, safety they have promoted, and help in passing on the tradition of the love for the outdoors.

For more information about hunting, fishing, and West Virginia wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources has a Web site to check out at www.wvdnr.gov that is online wealth of information. It also lists youth hunting days in the state and the rules and regulations.