40 years of safety: Grand Meadow firearm safety instructor honored for four decades of service

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

For 40 years, certified youth firearms safety instructor Steven Hovda has been helping kids become proficient and safe in the use of firearms.

On Saturday, during the Youth Firearms Safety Field Day at the Grand Meadow Gun Club, Hovda was honored for his work.

“He’s been such a mentor,” said Greg Lamp following the award’s presentation by Conservation Officer Meng Moua on Saturday. “He’s done a fantastic job working with youth.”

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Over those four decades, a large number of students have benefited from Honda’s instruction.

“Do the math,” Lamp said. “That’s 1,000 kids that he’s run through this program and got them off to a safe start in firearm safety.”

Hovda accepted the award from Moua in front of this year’s class and other volunteer instructors.

And while he was honored to receive the award, Hovda said the true satisfaction of teaching gun safety is working with the people.

“The award is fun … the class is the real reward,” he said. “The kids — seeing them trying to work their way through it and figuring it out. That’s the reward. The reward is the number of kids going through the class and being respectful.”

The lifelong Grand Meadow resident has been an avid outdoor enthusiast for much of his life, taking advantage of the opportunities to get outside whenever he could.

It comes from a simple desire to just be in nature.

“I would probably say I’m avid,” he said. “I’m not a great hunter, but I love the outdoors.”

Whether its hunting, trapping, fishing or even gardening, Hovda has thrived in the opportunities he’s been given over the years.

“To be in these sports, you need a friend,” Hovda said. “Some do these things solo, I have really good friends. I have several really good friends that participate in fishing and hunting, target shooting and that’s what’s kept me in for all my life.”

The gun safety aspect is an extension of this love of the outdoors and while kids are the primary target of this kind of training, Hovda has always tried to preach the benefits to families as well.

“I really encourage parents who haven’t had the course, who have a child who is interested in guns or hunting, to take the course,” he said. “Or take the course with them.”

Every year kids are taught gun safety through these types of programs across the state.

Moua said that the volunteers who contribute to the success of young hunters make the program thrive.

“The instructors are the backbone of our fire safety program,” Moua said. “They spend their time to come out here and make sure the youth learn firearm safety, safe handling of firearms and the ethics of hunting.”

What makes that backbone even stronger is the collective knowledge the volunteers bring, not just with the knowledge the program requires, but also the real life experiences that students can draw on when they take to the fields.

“Someone who’s been doing it that long, they’ve seen things, heard things or know things you just can’t read out of a book,” Moua said. “They’ve experienced it, they’ve lived it. I would say it’s vital for the experience of the kids and what they get out of the classrooms.”

In total on Saturday, there were six certified instructors as well as a number of knowledgeable people ranging in age helping out, but weren’t certified.

All of this knowledge, held by Hovda and others, goes into the classroom and the field day opportunities.

“The most important thing is ensuring safety,” Lamp said. “None of these kids are going to do anything unsafe under (Hovda’s) watchful eye. They have to learn safety first. Once that bullet comes out of the gun, it’s not coming back.”

For Hovda, teaching gun safety has been an extension of his own love of being outdoors. But it’s also been an opportunity to get the kids going early on a safe and responsible love of the outdoors themselves.

“I just think it’s wonderful when kids get a head start in anything they do,” Hovda said. “I like to see kids have a good time. It’s fun. Over the years I’ve had kids call me up … ‘I got a deer.’ They want to talk about it. They’re excited. It’s fun to be around someone who is excited.”