Charles Perry, of Winona, has been named the 2017 DNR firearms safety volunteer instructor of the year. He has been a longtime advocate for firearms safety and outdoors education and a certified instructor with the DNR since the early 2000s.
Perry, who is president of the Lewiston Sportsmen’s Club, works tirelessly to encourage youth involvement in the outdoors. (Pictured: Enforcement Regional Training Officer Chelsie Leuthardt and Chuck Perry.)
Along with a teaching team of at least 14 other instructors – many of whom he recruited – Perry teaches both traditional and online firearms safety courses. In addition, he leads a “Kids in the Outdoors” program, assists with two high school trap-shooting teams, organizes and teaches a program aimed at introducing archery and outdoor safety to kids, and has provided individual firearms safety days for youth who weren’t able to attend group classes.
“The time and effort that Perry puts into his classes and outdoor education for kids in general is staggering,” said Tom Hemker, the Winona-area conservation officer who nominated him for the award. “He does everything. He wants to give back and mentor others in the outdoor activities he’s always loved.”
Known as the go-to person in his community for questions about safety education or organized outdoor activities, Perry has taken kids hunting who don’t come from hunting families but have shown an interest in the outdoors. He shares his knowledge about places where people can hunt and shoot and constantly looks for ways to spark in kids a connection with the outdoors. During the winter, for example, he’s organized events that revolve around hunting for shed deer antlers.
“We all need to do our part to ensure the continuation of our proud tradition of hunting and conservation, and Chuck is a shining example of the difference that dedicated and motivated individuals can make,” said Capt. Jon Paurus, safety training education manager for the DNR Enforcement Division. “The commitment he shows to youth education is vital in a changing society where fewer people have a strong connection to fishing, hunting and the outdoors.”
More than 4,000 volunteer instructors teach DNR firearms safety courses across the state, certifying annually an average of about 24,000 adults and youth. Since the firearms safety program began in 1955, more than 1.3 million students have been certified. DNR firearms safety certification is required of anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979 to buy a hunting license in Minnesota. Youth age 11 and older can attend a firearms safety certification course and receive their certificate, which becomes valid at age 12.
For more information on the dates and locations of available safety courses, see mndnr.gov/safety/firearms/index.html or call 800-366-8917.