The only three-generation teaching team in Montana’s Hunter Education program has spent more than 60 years training young Montana Hunters in west central Montana.
Bob, Andy, and Danny Larsson are considered the cornerstones of Hunter Education in St. Ignatius. Bob, who has taught since 1957, is one of the first Hunter Education Instructors in Montana. His son, Andy, joined the instructor ranks in 1991. Andy’s son rounded out the team in 2002.
When Bob first taught Hunter Education nearly the entire focus of the program was on firearms safety. Over time, the training has evolved into a 12-18 hour course covering wildlife identification, hunting regulations, hunting ethics, and survival. Firearms safety is still a priority, but hunting ethics has taken a more central role.
Bob brought Andy into the classroom for the first time when Andy was about four years old. After graduating from college, Andy became an instructor, too, because he had enjoyed hunting and wanted to give back to youngsters in return.
Andy’s son, Danny, followed the same path into the Hunter Education program that his father did. Grandfather Bob made Danny part of his firearms demonstrations to students when he was only about six. Now, at 16, Danny is a certified assistant instructor.
“I used to be able to get in different positions to demonstrate firearms handling,” says Bob. “Now my grandson does that for me.”
Bob says that one of the most satisfying aspects of being an instructor has been watching three generations of hunters come through his classes.
“Students that I had in class in the early days brought in their children, and now sometimes bring in their grandchildren to the class,” he says. He’s also enjoyed watching his own son and grandson develop into skilled and responsible hunters.
Bob maintains a serious tone in his classes, making it clear to students that they must pay attention and follow instructions, or get kicked out of class.
“We have the luxury of demanding this kind of responsible behavior in our classes,” he says, “because hunting is a privilege. If the public schools were able to motivate kids that way, things would really improve.” When asked if students have changed over the years, Bob says they are no better or worse, just more independent.
The Larsson’s partnership has other dimensions as well. Bob founded the St. Ignatius Christian Church decades ago and served as Minister. He is now the Associate Minister; his son Andy is the Preaching Minister.
How has this partnership worked? “We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything,” Bob says. “But we agree on enough things to work together well.” The Larssons also started a children’s ranch in the mid-1970s. Andy and Bob are co-directors, and Andy incorporates the Hunter Education Program into their curriculum.One of the major points Bob Larsson makes to his students is the importance of consistency, both in following hunting regulations and firearms safety rules. As Bob marks 47 years of teaching Hunter Education, and 56 years of marriage to his wife, Nancy, he represents a pretty good model of both consistency and a lot of other qualities his students benefit from seeing in action.