If you were born after January 1, 1972, taking a hunter education class and earning a certificate is a prerequisite for obtaining a hunting license. These mandatory classes will teach you about keeping yourself and fellow hunters safe while hunting.
Preparation Begins Long Before Open Season
Before hunting season opens, you need to know season dates, license and permit requirements, fees, and hunting limits for your area. License and permit requirements can change, from year to year, and season dates and limits can also change on short notice, depending on game populations and health.
When applying for a hunting license, you will need a hunter education class certification. Visit your local Department of Natural Resource (DNR) web page. This will provide guidance on what the requirements are for a hunting license and what education courses are available. Consider registering early, as classes fill up quickly as fall approaches.
Also, be aware that every state has different age limits for certification and, in some states, participants are old enough to take the classes but not yet old enough to obtain a hunting license.
Make sure you keep up-to-date with your state’s regulations. It is never a bad idea to take additional classes, such as trapping, muzzle loading, and deer hunting, among others. Some states require these classes, as well, but, even if your state doesn’t, the more you know, the safer you are, and the better a hunter you will be.
If you plan on hunting in another state, or if you plan to go hunting with out-of-state guests, make sure your states have reciprocal agreements. Many states recognize each other’s certification but, also, verify licensing requirements before going hunting.
Options for Basic Hunter Education
Although there are many types of certification, the entry level course is basic hunter education. These classes are offered in-person and online.
The in-person class is the more traditional approach to undergoing certification. Hunters are taught about safety, ethics, firearm types and safe handling, marksmanship, wildlife management and identification, and survival. These classes require you to bring some of your own equipment, so make sure you read the class syllabus carefully so you understand what the requirements are and what materials and equipment you will need for participation.
Online courses are also available. Training content is much the same as the traditional classes—the online class contains slideshows and video demonstrations. Online classes are popular because training takes less time and can be done at the student’s convenience. Once the course material has been completed, students go to a designated location to take the certification test.
With both the traditional class and the online class, students are required to attend a field day to have some hands-on instruction and to put into practice the skills that were taught in the classroom portion of the course.
The Department of Natural DNRs in some states offer an online course, with no field day requirement. This option is usually only open to experienced hunters who want (or need) to take a refresher course to keep their hunting license current.
Advanced and Mandatory Hunter Classes
Once hunters have the basics hunter education certification, state DNRs recommend taking advanced classes. Some of these classes are mandatory; others are elective. The advanced hunter education class provides more in-depth training on survival and hunting techniques. Topics include map reading, how to use a compass, taking care of your hunting partner, and how to tell if your hunting partner is experiencing physical or emotional distress.
During the survival portion of the class, additional uses for your hunting equipment, such as your treasured hunting knife, will be discussed. For example, hunting knives can be used for first aid or to help you build a shelter!
Whether you need a hunting skills class to be granted a hunting license or not, the knowledge you gain is invaluable and will help keep you, your hunting partners, and the environment safe. Check out your state’s Department of Natural Resources to see all the tools that are available to make you a better hunter.