Students shoot computer turkeys
The turkey calmly pecks at the ground. Then, slowly, it raises its head, looks around and takes a couple of steps.
A gunshot rings out.
The oversized screen on which the image of the turkey is being projected shows a scattering of pellets where the student shooting at the Dart Target System has aimed and shot.
Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Tonganoxie junior high and high school students had the chance to try their hand at the simulator.
Hunter education instructors Richard Riedel of Tonganoxie, Dennis Smith of Kansas City, Kan., Dennis Vincent of Leavenworth, and Steve Harrig of Leavenworth volunteered their time to run the computer system for the students.
Riedel said this was the third time the system, which simulates different hunting conditions, has been used in the Tonganoxie schools.
The system has a large television screen that sits at one end of the room. As many as four students can sit at a table facing the screen and hold a rifle or shotgun.
One by one, the students at the table shoot at turkeys projected on the screen.
The hunter safety instructors offer advice about the best way to shoot the turkeys, and the machine scores the shots, giving points for a hit, more points for the best shot and no points for a miss.
According to Steve Woolf, junior high principal, hunter safety is an important part of the physical education curriculum in Tonganoxie.
"Even if they never become a hunter, at least they hear about safety," Woolf said.
And Riedel points out that even if families don't hunt, they need to be aware of the dangers of guns and the proper way to handle them.
Last year, seventh grade students studied hunter safety in P.E. This year, there is no hunter safety in the classroom because the course is being moved to eighth grade P.E. classes.
Woolf and I tried our hand at the simulator, sitting at the table and waiting for our turkeys to pop up on the screen.
Although our futile attempts might have resulted from lack of skill, I'd like to believe that the computer gave us the more devilish and cunning turkeys.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks owns the simulator used in Tonganoxie.
Wildtrust, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Fund, Friends of the NRA and members of the Kansas Hunter Education program are also sponsors.
Riedel said he was trying to get national funding for the hunter safety program. The school district currently has national funding from the NRA for the Eddie Eagle program in the grade school.