By Cassie Gasaway
Hunter and bowhunter education courses, also called bowhunter safety, are essential to becoming a bowhunter. Why? Because in many states you can’t buy a bowhunting license without passing a course.
These courses teach you about safety, ethics, wildlife, conservation, hunting tactics, hunting laws, shot placement, blood trailing, field care, and equipment needs. This makes them an excellent introduction into bowhunting, and you’ll learn much of what you need to know to safely, legally and ethically hunt in your state.
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.
For example, some states let students take the course entirely online, while others combine online instruction with in-person work. State wildlife agency websites provide the state’s hunter-education 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.
Bowhunter-education courses are taught at schools, colleges, archery clubs, archery shops and municipal buildings. Upcoming in-person courses are listed on state agency websites. When you see a course that works for your schedule, sign up early because they fill quickly.
What will you learn at a hunter education course? Hunting laws and safety are the main topics. Hunting laws can seem complicated and hard to understand, but bowhunter-education instructors review them in depth. By the end of the course you’ll understand your state’s hunting laws and season structures.
Additional topics include hunting tactics, treestand safety, hunter safety, hunting laws, shot placement, blood trailing, field care and equipment needs. You’ll also learn to safely use a full-body treestand harness, how to avoid common hunting accidents, and other important skills. After the course you’ll feel confident in knowing your local hunting laws and how to safely bowhunt.
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.
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.
Bowhunter-education courses are great, and often necessary, first steps for learning bowhunting knowledge. They’re also great for meeting other bowhunters.
Top bowhunter-education students do several things to prepare. First, visit your state wildlife agency’s website and review the game laws and hunting seasons. Next, read the Bowhunting 101 section at Bowhunting360. While studying the laws and the 101 section, write down questions and bring them to class. Also bring water, lunch, a pen and notebook.
By taking a bowhunter-education course and visiting an archery store to buy bowhunting gear, you’ll take the first steps to becoming a bowhunter. Find your state wildlife agency website here to determine your state’s bowhunter-education requirements.
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