The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) announced in late May that the agency is awarding Lester Wojnar of Pawling the fifth annual DEC Region 3 Wayne W. Jones Award of Excellence in recognition of his outstanding participation in DEC’s Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor Program.
“Les Wojnar has proven to be an invaluable asset and a credit to DEC’s Sportsman Education Program, the DEC in general, and the community he serves,” said Kelly Turturro, DEC Region 3 Director.
All first-time hunters, bow-hunters, and trappers must pass one or more courses before receiving a hunting license in New York. Trained instructors certified by the DEC, such as Wojnar, teach safe and responsible outdoors practices while stressing the important role of hunters and trappers in conservation. Volunteer instructors provide invaluable support to the implementation of New York State’s Sportsman Education Program.
Wojnar became a Volunteer Sportsman Education Instructor in 2008 and is a vital member of the Sportsman Education Program team as the lead instructor for 39 courses since 2009. A mentor to his fellow instructors, Wojnar was asked to become a Master Instructor for the program in 2016.
“Les is an extraordinary example of true conservation principles, not only through his personal demeanor in the classroom, but through his activities in the field. He is an active outdoorsman himself who practices what he preaches during each open hunting season and leads by example in the field whether it’s fishing, hunting, trapping, or just scouting,” said long-time fellow instructor Frederick Manger. “Les has touched many students, instructors, coordinators, and DEC staff in a positive way. My experience with Les is one-of-a-kind.”
The hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) in New York State is in decline. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has plunged more than 80 percent. The past five-year average is 3.5 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s. The 2016, New York’s hunting season had the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents on record, in part because of the more than 60 years of dedicated efforts of some 2,500 volunteer sportsman education instructors.
The award is named for Wayne Jones, the Sportsman Education Program Administrator for New York State between 1992 and 2008. Jones was instrumental to building the program and during his tenure achieved many significant accomplishments, including his important work on the international level to develop online educational tools and national standards for course content.
The award recognizes active volunteer instructors that have contributed to the advancement of the DEC’s Sportsman Education Program through enhancing students’ understanding and enjoyment of our wildlife resources; creating awareness of responsibilities and instilling respect toward habitat, wildlife, non-hunters, hunters, and themselves; and by enhancing public understanding and acceptance of hunting and trapping as legitimate public recreation activities and beneficial wildlife management practices.
To learn more about the Sportsman Education Program and hunter safety classes, visit www.dec.ny.gov and search “classes and training.”