Whether or not you’re interested in going hunting, taking a hunter education course can be an excellent way to learn about animals, conservation, hunting ethics and more from a knowledgeable instructor. Hunter education courses attract a diverse group of people – not just hunters – so no matter your age, ethnicity or stance on hunting, chances are you’ll meet people from similar backgrounds at the class. To help you prepare for your first hunter safety course, here are six things you need to know before stepping foot in the classroom.
1. It’s required if you plan to hunt, but everyone is welcome, non-hunters included.
Hunter education courses are open to the public. Most states require individuals to complete a hunter education class before they can obtain a hunting license or permit. But, even if you don’t plan to hunt, you can still participate.
In a post on Colorado Outdoors, a Colorado contributor took the class because she felt disconnected from where her supermarket food came from and was curious about how a piece of elk sausage, provided by a coworker, made it from field to fork. She confessed to enjoying the lessons and after the class wrote, “If you are unsure of how you feel about hunting, are all for it but have never experienced a hunt, or perhaps are dead set against hunting and want to know who on earth would kill an animal for any reason, I encourage you to take hunter education and expand your worldview.”
2. You don’t need any prior hunting knowledge to enroll.
The class is built for beginners and covers basic terminology. Katie Haymes, the Archery Trade Association’s education programs manager, said, “Learning about something completely foreign with people you don’t know can be worrisome at times, but it doesn’t matter what experience level you have when you get there, because everyone has to meet the same requirement in the end. If this class is your first exposure to hunting, just listen, learn, take notes, and absorb the information, and you’ll do just fine.”
3. The class touches on a variety of subjects including safety, wildlife and ethics.
Certified course instructors will teach you about ethics, equipment, habitat conservation, firearm safety and handling, hunting laws and regulations, wilderness survival skills, wildlife identification and management and more. You will walk away with a newfound knowledge about hunting and conservation.
4. Age is just a number, and the students aren’t all rednecks.
This may surprise some, including the Colorado blogger whose first thought after sitting down in a hunter education class was, “Looking around I realized the room had quickly filled up, not with gun-toting hunter stereotypes, but with children.” Her realization is a good reminder that since the class is open to everyone, there’s a good chance you’ll be sitting next to people of different ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. And everyone will be taking the course material seriously.
5. There’s no dress code and no equipment requirements.
Whether you’re clothed in cotton, polyester, silk or wool, the pattern on your shirt doesn’t have to be camouflage – or plaid for that matter. Wear something comfortable. You don’t need to own or bring a firearm or any archery gear to class. Nor will you need boots, binoculars or a facemask. Just bring a pen, a notebook and an open mind.
6. If you have questions, just ask.
Robyn, a blogger for modern-hunters.com, reminds us not to be shy in a post from 2014 and said, “Taking a hunter education course means that you will get to spend quite a few hours with a very experienced instructor.” Take advantage of the opportunity and be inquisitive.
“If you don’t understand what your teacher is talking about, ask,” Haymes said. “I guarantee you aren’t the only one needing more explanation.” Most instructors have a passion for hunting and conservation, and enjoy sharing their knowledge with people who want to know more about the activity. Your questions aren’t an inconvenience. They’re appreciated.
After passing the class, you’ll have the knowledge and skill set to begin hunting, if you feel confident enough. If you aren’t quite there yet, keep practicing! Or if you need more guidance, Haymes says many fish and wildlife agencies offer Hunt 101 courses, which often include a field component and range time. She also suggests talking to your local archery retailers who can offer guidance on equipment and shooting technique. Or contact and join your local conservation organization to get hunting and conservation tips, information and resources. They may even have a mentor program or training opportunities.