Leoti resident Dean Wiegers receives 2009 statewide award
PRATT — With a record low number of hunting accidents in 2009, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) staff are celebrating. So are volunteer hunter education instructors. In a timely announcement, the volunteer Hunter Education Advisory Committee to KDWP's Hunter Education Program has named Dean Wiegers, Leoti, the 2009 Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

Wiegers has been an active instructor since the program began in 1973. He is a master instructor and has received the program's Order of the Buffalo for extraordinary service twice. He was also honored in 1993 by the Kansas Wildlife Federation with the Outdoor Skills Instructor of the Year award. Wiegers was one of the first instructors in the state to offer female-only classes, while extending a welcome to women and girls to attend any of his classes. In 37 years, he has never missed a hunter education class in Wichita County. A leader in promoting youth shooting and hunting events, Wiegers started the 4-H Shooting Sports program in Wichita County.

"Dean uses local doctors, EMTs, law enforcement officers and Wildlife and Parks officials in the classroom and on the shooting range," said fellow instructor Jerome Luebbers, Leoti, in making the nomination. "He is especially good with kids, teaching them respect while encouraging them to ask questions."

In addition to Wieger's award, exceptional instructors in KDWP's five regions were named Regional Instructors of the Year. These instructors are listed below, along with quotes from their nominations.

Region 1 (northwest Kansas)
Roy Folk, Holyrood (nominated by Ray Fisher, Claflin) — "Roy is always ready, willing, and able to assist with a class. He has been from one end of the state to the other with our trailer, setting up and conducting trail walk, shotgun, and rifle venues."

Region 2 (northeast Kansas)
Shannon Luthi, Solomon (nominated by Steve Britt, Abilene) — "Shannon has always been an excellent instructor. He keeps the students involved, and you never see him standing in one place during the class. He circulates throughout the classroom and really keeps the students' attention."

Region 3 (southwest Kansas)
Dennis Sharp, Holcomb (nominated by Anthony Luebbers, Garden City) — "Dennis has recruited instructors, trained new instructors, assisted with classes across southwest Kansas, and was on the Hunter Education Advisory Committee for one year. In 2005, he also received KDWP Law Enforcement Division's first Natural Resource Education Advancement award."

Region 4 (southcentral Kansas)
Noel Pollard, North Newton (nominated by Larry McAdow, Halstead) — "Noel is a very, very good instructor who quietly goes about the business of getting people involved. He teaches a class a month at Gander Mountain in Wichita, helps with one of the largest hunter education events in North America at Lake Afton, and was active in formation of the Kansas Hunter Education Instructors Association. Noel often helps other instructors without credit."

Region 5 (southeast Kansas)
Michael Schainost, Garnett (nominated by Ben Rockers, Garnett) — "Mike is an excellent instructor and mentor, dedicated to improving and upholding the hunting tradition. He is the backbone of the Hunter Education Program in the Anderson County area. Mike can teach in any capacity that he is asked with skill and knowledge of the subject. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his instruction easily understood."

Wiegers will receive a CZ side-by-side shotgun with his award, and the regional honorees will each receive Henry Golden Boy .22 caliber rifles.