You’ve eaten venison and heard amazing bowhunting stories, and you’re eager to start bowhunting! That’s great, but have you earned your hunter-education certificate?
If not, you probably can’t buy a bowhunting license unless you pass a hunter or bowhunter education course. These courses teach you about safety, ethics, wildlife, conservation, hunting tactics, hunting laws, shot placement, blood trailing, field care, and equipment needs. They help turn people of all ages into safe, responsible hunters.
Although the course content is similar in all states, each state wildlife agency has unique rules and requirements for earning a hunter-education certificate.
The International Hunter Education Association – USA is a professional organization affiliated with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The IHEA works with all 50 state wildlife agencies to ensure course materials for hunter-education programs meet IHEA standards. However, states can create their own hunter-education requirements. The IHEA summarizes those requirements here.
Some states require students to pass a written test and field test, while other states require one or the other. For example, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish require students to pass a written test, but the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Maryland Department of Natural Resources require students to pass a written test and complete a field day.
States also administer tests differently. Some let students complete their studies online, while others require in-person meetings and field days taught by qualified instructors or conservation wardens. Most states let students take the written portion online, but require they take the field test in person. Most states still offer classroom-based courses.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies require prospective bowhunters to pass a bowhunter-education course in addition to a hunter-education course. These courses cover bowhunting-specific skills, and archery-specific regulations and equipment requirements.
Find your state wildlife agency’s website here to determine its hunter-education requirements. You can then decide how and when you’ll earn your hunter-education certificate.
Online Course Benefits
Online courses ensure everyone has access to hunter education. The courses are convenient and let students work at their own pace from home. They’re readily available for most U.S. citizens. According to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, 45 states offer hunter education online.
Online courses have been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states changed how residents could earn their hunter-education certificate. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation, for example, waived the in-person field day. Students who got certified online could immediately buy a hunting license after passing the course.
The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources canceled in-person classes and range days, and helped students get certified at home. Students could take a free online course, and submit a video of them working with a mentor to complete the program’s range requirements. A KDFWR staff member watched the video to determine if the student passed.
What to Expect in Online Courses
Online courses are self-guided and easy to follow because they’re broken into sections and topics. Expect the following:
– Options: As online classes become popular, students have more options. The Georgia DNR, for example,lets residents take the course through one of four providers, including Hunter-Ed.com, HunterEdCourse.com, BeASafeHunter.org, and HUNTERcourse.com. Each course is IHEA-approved, but offers different features. One group might use pictures and videos with narration and closed captions, while another might include animation, illustrations, and customer service and support. These options let students choose the course that best fits their learning style.
– Cost: Online courses are cost-effective. Course materials and the study guide are usually free, but students pay a small fee to take the online exam. Most tests cost $20 or $30. Courses overseen by the Georgia DNR, for example, range from $9.95 at BeASafeHunter.org, to $29 at HUNTERcourse.com; while the Hunter-Ed.com course is $28.95 and the HunterEdCourse.com is $13.
– Time commitment: Whether the courses are taught in classrooms or online, they take about eight to 10 hours. The final exam takes about an hour.
Click here to find your state wildlife agency’s website. Type “hunter education” into the search function to explore your options.