Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Hunting seasons are getting underway throughout Montana with thousands of men, women, and youngsters getting out in the woods to enjoy the sport.

The University of Montana is doing its part to foster safe and ethical hunting practices by utilizing the latest technology available to help a new generation of hunters.

KGVO News spoke to UM Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz about the project.

UM Working on Using Virtual Reality to Teach Safe Hunting Practices

“We're just around the corner from hunting season, began Kuntz.” And as you said, hunting is a big way of life here in Montana and specifically western Montana. Really over recent years the university has done a good and interesting job at incorporating hunting into some of our curriculum. We've done classes where we take a lot of first time hunters out to the Rocky Mountain Front with the support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to teach them the basics of hunting and harvesting and conservation.”

Kuntz said UM is using state-of-the-art technology through virtual reality to help students learn and enjoy an age-old sport in a safe and responsible manner.

“Now we've entered into a new phase of that effort through the launch of some virtual reality hunting and hunting safety courses that the university is taking the lead on,” he said. “These are the products of a cross discipline effort between our visual and media arts departments here at the university that does a lot of computer design and game programming, with our conservation and the College of Forestry to be able to build these courses that provide the technology needed to train a new generation of hunters to hunt and do so in a responsible way.”

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The Technology will Eventually be Made Available to Everyone

Kuntz said the technology will also be made available to everyone.

“This will be for the general public,” he said. “This is proprietary information and properties that the university is developing. But it's our hope that this can be a tool that people can use to develop the next generation of hunters. So instead of just learning from a book, or learning from the elders in your family, that this can be a tool that folks can use to get comfortable with hunting, to get comfortable with hunter safety to get a better understanding of what it's like to be out there in the field.”

Kuntz said the project is still in the planning stages, but he hopes that all Montanans will have the chance to learn to enjoy hunting virtually with help from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“We'll keep working together with them,” he said. “We're still little ways from rolling this out to where can be used in large scale, but we've done some demos in and around Missoula in recent months, and we'll continue to do that this fall. We really have strong partnerships, not only with the states, but with some of the hunting and conservation groups around the region to make sure that we're doing this responsibly, and it can be a tool that helps keep that heritage going here in Montana for years to come.”

Kuntz said UM is looking forward to being a part of Montana’s hunting heritage for a long time to come.

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