Lance Morgan of North Branch has been named the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Firearms Safety Volunteer Instructor of the Year for 2016. Morgan recently received his award at Game Fair, held in Anoka.
Morgan has been a firearms safety instructor for 10 years and has worked tirelessly to organize, teach and recruit youth hunters through the program, as well as recruiting new instructors to expand the capacity and availability of safety training.
Outside of the classroom, Morgan is 4-H club coach, National Wild Turkey Federation chapter president, and an avid turkey and big game hunter. Morgan has volunteered his time to be a youth turkey hunt mentor every year since the program began and his local NWTF chapter is consistently one of the most active in the hunt.
In 2016, he and other firearms safety instructors joined the Chisago Lakes Sportsman’s Club, NWTF and the DNR to host an outdoor skills and safety field day for more than 60 local youth.
“I’d like to thank my fellow instructors and volunteers for their help. I couldn’t do it without them,” said Morgan.
From the many volunteer hours spent organizing youth training, to securing permission from landowners to allow kids a place to hunt, and encouraging a camaraderie between youth and their mentors, Morgan’s commitment to growing the next generation of ethical hunters and conservationists is evident.
“Lance’s emphasis on safety is second to none and has a lasting impact on the hundreds of students he has taught in the classroom and in the field over the years,” said DNR Conservation Officer, Phil Mohs, who nominated Morgan for the award. “I have had the great pleasure of checking several of his students last fall while they were hunting and was pleased to see first-hand that they were focused on safety and ethics during my contact with them. The students were a true reflection of Lance and the other volunteer instructors he surrounds himself with.”
The firearms safety program began in 1955 and has certified more than 1.3 million students to date. More than 4,000 volunteer instructors teach DNR firearms safety courses across the state, and, on average, they certify 24,000 youth and adults each year.
“Without the dedication of these men and women teaching these courses, this program would not be possible,” said Jon Paurus, DNR enforcement education program coordinator.
A DNR firearms certification is required of anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979 to purchase a hunting license in Minnesota. Youth ages 11 and older can attend a firearms safety certification course and receive their certificate. The firearms safety certificate becomes valid at age 12.