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Find tips on Hunting, Firearm News, Reviews, & Training

Hunter Safety Courses by State

by Jason Wimbiscus
Father and son wearing hunter safety orange vests



So, you’ve decided to take up hunting. Congratulations and welcome!

Hunting is a not only a great way to get exercise and stay fit while immersing yourself in the outdoors, it’s also a great way to obtain a supply of delicious, free range, organic meat without ever having to set foot in a Whole Foods. 

So what’s the first step?

Unfortunately, getting started as a hunter involves more than simply buying a rifle, shotgun, or bow and taking to the nearest patch of woods. Before you can set about trying to turn Bambi and Thumper into tomorrow night’s dinner, you’ll need to make sure you’re doing so in compliance with the various state and federal laws regulating the pursuit and harvest of wildlife (at least if you want to avoid a hefty fine and potential jail sentence).

A good (and typically mandatory) way to stay on the right side of fish and game laws is to attend a good hunter education course.  Here’s how to get started.

Who Needs Hunter Education?

Currently, all 50 U.S. states and most Canadian provinces require most individuals to successfully complete a hunter education course in order to be eligible to purchase a hunting license.

While there are a handful of exceptions to hunter education requirements in some states, these so few and far between that hunter education should be considered universally mandatory.

Father and son cartoon where son is trailing father who's wearing jacket saying, "Is your safety on?"

What You’ll Learn in a Hunter Education Class

While the purpose of such programs is to reduce the number of accidents (such as a purported 50% decrease in Wyoming’s hunting accident rate since the implementation of that state’s hunter education program), hunter education courses have more to offer than the basics of how to safely handle firearms.

The details of hunter education curriculum will vary from state to state topics covered will likely include:

1. Firearms Safety for Hunting

While the basic rules of gun safety apply to hunting, proper firearm handling practices in woods, fields, and duck blinds are somewhat more complex than at the local firing range. Aspiring hunters will learn how to safely handle firearms where the terrain is rough, visibility is low, and as part of a group.

 

2. Relevant State Fish and Game Laws

Most hunter education courses will act as a primer on laws regulating methods of take, hunting hours, hunting weapons, and license requirements.

3. How to Identify and Locate Various Game Animals

Many species of legal game have protected species that look very similar at a glance. Hunter education can help avoid cases of “mistaken game identity”.

4. How to Field Dress and Properly Care for Harvested Wild Game

An important part of ethical hunting is ensuring the harvest reaches the plate in edible condition. Hunter education participants will typically learn the basics of field dressing and game processing. If a state has laws prohibiting hunters from wasting wild game, such rules will be addressed.

5. Rudimentary Wilderness Navigation and Survival Techniques

No, you won’t be the next Les Stroud after completing your hunter safety course, but you will likely learn the basics of orienteering, first aid, recognizing the signs of hypothermia, and what basic survival tools should be carried.

6. Local Hunting Opportunities

Hunter education programs may be able to direct participants to public land where hunting is allowed and will go over the tremendous importance of respecting private property and maintaining positive relationships with land owners who keep their property open to hunting.

Silhouette of man shooting ducks at dusk or dawn.


Hunting Classes: Online vs. In-Person

Increasingly, hunter education courses are being offered online. While online courses are of great benefit to those with hectic, busy, work and life schedules, there are definite benefits to attending a traditional class in person. Specifically, in-person classes offer an opportunity to network with other hunters, both aspiring and experienced, and potentially learn useful hunting tips, tactics and strategies and even where the local hunting grounds are.

By the way, if you're brand new to hunting, check out our Beginner's Guide to Hunting for a getting-started guide. 

 

Links to State Hunter Safety Information

To learn more about hunter education requirements throughout the 50 U.S. states, see the overviews below courtesy of the International Hunter Education Association.  Click the links for more detailed hunter education information by state. Stay safe, have fun, and welcome afield!

Alabama

Anyone born on or after August 1, 1977 must show proof of completing a Hunter Education course prior to purchasing a hunting license except active duty U.S. military personnel, Alabama residents who are active members of the National Guard of the United States, and persons certified by the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission as law enforcement officers who are employed by a law enforcement agency (source). 

Alabama Hunter Education Information

Alaska

Persons under 16 years of age, must have either successfully completed a Basic Hunter Education course or be under the direct immediate supervision of a licensed hunter who is (a) 16 years of age or older and has successfully completed a certified hunter education course, OR (b) born on or before January 1, 1986. Persons 16 years of age or older AND born after January 1, 1986 must have successfully completed a Certified Hunter Education Course before you they hunt (source). 

Alaska Hunter Education Information

Arizona

Hunter Education graduation is required for 10 to 14 year-olds who wish to hunt big game (source). 

Arkansas

It is unlawful for persons born after 1968 to hunt wildlife without having on the person a valid Arkansas hunter education certification. EXCEPTIONS: (1) Youths hunting under direct supervision of an adult at least 21 years of age. (2) Persons possessing a valid hunting license/permit displaying the dealer imprinted code DHE (Code 01.00C, Deferred Hunter Education). Requirements for a person to be eligible to hunt with DHE-coded licenses/permits are as follows: (a)Be at least 16 years of age and born after 1968 and not hunter-education certified. (b)Be in the immediate presence of an adult hunter who is at least 21 years of age and possesses valid hunter education certification, or who was born before 1969. (c)A DHE-validated hunting license/permit may be obtained once in a lifetime. (d)Not eligible if convicted of prior violation of this regulation. (3) Any person who has successfully completed a state approved hunter education training course and has on his person a valid hunter education certificate issued by another state or province (source).

Arkansas Hunter Education Information

California

All hunting license buyers must have either a CA license, a hunting license from another state that is not more than 2 hunting years old, or H/E certification from CA or another state or province (source).

California Hunting Information

Colorado

Hunter education is required of anyone born on or after January 1, 1949 to purchase any hunting or trapping license (source).

Colorado Hunter Education Information

Connecticut

A hunter education certificate is required of all persons regardless of age who have not held a resident firearms license in the past five years or for a first time licensee. Bow hunting: Connecticut Advanced Bow hunter Education Certificate or its equivalent (NBEF/IBEP content) from another state required for all archery permit applicants. Previous resident bow hunting license does not qualify (source).

Connecticut Hunter Education Information

Delaware

All persons born after Jan. 1, 1967, must satisfactorily complete a Hunter Education course before obtaining a Delaware Hunting License (source).

Delaware Hunter Education information

Florida

Hunter Education is required of all persons born on or after June 1, 1975 (source).

Florida Hunter Education Information

Georgia

Residents and non-residents born on or after Jan.1, 1961, must successfully complete a hunter education course before purchasing a season hunting license. However, a hunter education course is not required to purchase a one (1) day or seven (7) day hunting license. Hunters age 12-15 must complete a hunter education course before hunting unless under supervision of a licensed adult hunter. Hunters age 12-15 must be under adult supervision while hunting on a WMA. Hunters under age 12 are not required to complete a hunter education course, unless hunting on National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs), or Park Services lands, children 10-16 must carry a valid hunter safety certificate. Hunter education is not required to hunt on one's own land or land of a parent or guardian (source).

Georgia Hunter Education Information

Hawaii

To purchase a Hunting License you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course. A "Letter of Exemption" can be issued if you were born "before" January 1, 1972, and can provide proof of a "Hawaii" hunting license purchased before July 1, 1990 (source).

Hawaii Hunter Education Information

Idaho

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course if you were born after January 1, 1975 (source).

Idaho Hunter Education Information

Illinois

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course if you were born on or after January 1, 1980 (source).

Illinois Hunter Education Information

Indiana

Hunter education is required of anyone born after December 31, 1986 (source).

Indiana Hunter Education Information

Iowa

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course if you were born after January 1, 1972 (source).

Iowa Hunter Education Information

Kansas

Anyone born on or after July 1, 1957 must successfully complete a certified hunter education course in order to hunt in Kansas (source).

Kansas Hunter Education Information

Kentucky

All hunters born after Jan. 1, 1975, shall have a valid hunter education card in possession while hunting. A card is not needed for purchase. Exceptions: 1) Children under 12 may hunt without a card if accompanied by an adult. 2) Persons exempt from a hunting license are also exempt from hunter education card requirements (i.e., landowners; military on furlough). 3) Persons with a Hunter Education Exemption Permit may hunt without a card while accompanied by a legal adult hunter (source).

Kentucky Hunter Education Information

Louisiana

Any person born on or after Sept. 01, 1969 must have proof of completion of a hunter education course to hunt in the State of Louisiana. Except, a person may hunt without hunter education if they are under the direct supervision of a person born before Sept. 1, 1969 who has a valid hunting license or under the direct supervision of a person 18 years of age or older who has proof of successful completion of a hunter education course. Minimum age for certification is 10 year of age (source).

Louisiana Hunter Education Information

Maine

An applicant for an adult hunting license must show proof of having previously held an adult license to hunt with firearms in any year beginning with 1976 or successful completion of an approved hunter safety course from this or any other state. To obtain an adult archery hunting license, you must show proof of having held an adult license to hunt with bow and arrow in any year after 1979 or successful completion of an archery education course. To obtain a crossbow permit, you must complete crossbow education or have proof of having hunted in another state that allowed crossbow use (source).

Maine Hunter Education Information

Maryland

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course unless you hunted prior to July 1, 1977. Three day non-resident waterfowl hunters are exempted (source).

Maryland Hunter Education Information

Massachusetts

It shall be unlawful for any resident or non-resident to hunt for any bird or mammal in the commonwealth unless such person has successfully completed a hunter education course as prescribed by this section, or unless such person held a license to hunt before January 1, 2007 (source).

Massachusetts Hunter Education Information

Michigan

You must take hunter safety if you were born after January 1, 1960. A hunter safety certificate or previous hunting license is required to purchase any Michigan Hunting License. Hunters anticipating an out-of-state hunting trip need to obtain a certificate prior to their trip, most states require hunters to carry their certificate when hunting and need it to purchase a license. * Michigan also offers the Mentored Youth Hunting program for individuals under the age of 10 (source).

Michigan Hunter Education Information

Minnesota

Hunter Education is required of all persons born after December 31, 1979 in order to purchase a big or small game hunting license (source).

Minnesota Hunter Education Information

Mississippi

Hunter Education is mandatory for all persons born on or after January 1, 1972, and plans to purchase a Mississippi hunting license. Also, anyone 12-15 years old must have a certificate of satisfactory completion of a hunter education course approved by the department before hunting alone in this state. Anyone under the age of 12 must be in the presence and under the direct supervision of a licensed or exempt hunter at least 21 years of age when the child is hunting (source).

Mississippi Hunter Education Information

Missouri

Any person 16 years of age or older, those born on or after January 1, 1967 shall obtain and display an approved Hunter Education certificate card prior to purchase of any firearms hunting permit. Minimum age is 11 to be certified by the Missouri Hunter Education course, youth under 16 must provide birth certificate as proof of age at course (source). 

Missouri Hunter Education Information

Montana

Effective Oct. 1, 2003, anyone born after Jan. 1, 1985 must have a hunter education card to purchase a Montana hunting license. We honor cards from all states and provinces (source).

Montana Hunter Education Information

Nebraska

Hunter Education all Hunters, age 12 through age 29, must have on their person, proof of completion of Firearm Hunter Education while hunting with either a firearm or air gun. Hunters, age 12 through age 29, hunting deer, antelope, elk or mountain sheep with bow and arrow or crossbow must carry proof of completion of Bow Hunter Education (source). 

Nebraska Hunter Education Information

Nevada

Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1960, must show proof of Hunter Education each time they purchase a hunting license. Proof of Hunter Education is: An official original or duplicate Hunter Education certificate, or a past year's hunting license with a Hunter Education number or unique mark verifying Hunter Education (source).

Nevada Hunter Education Information

New Hampshire

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course, or

provide proof that you have previously held a hunting license in any state or province. Hunters and trappers in New Hampshire must attend training courses specific to the license type they wish to purchase. By state law, anyone planning to buy a basic hunting license, archery license or trapping license must complete the respective hunter, bow hunter or trapper education course. Individuals may purchase each of these licenses by showing a certificate of completion from the appropriate course, or a previously issued license of the same type (source).

New Hampshire Hunter Education Information

New Jersey

Hunter Education is mandatory for all first-time firearms hunters. Students 10 to 15 years of age are issued a free youth license, which includes a pheasant stamp, upon completion of the course. While hunting, youths ages 10 to 13 must be accompanied by a properly licensed adult 21 years of age or older. If you lose your hunting or trapping license and had never taken a hunter education course, you must also take one of these courses (source).

New Jersey Hunter Education Information

New Mexico

Hunter Education is required of hunters* under 18 years of age to apply for, or buy, any type of firearms hunting license unless the youth is registered in the New Mexico Mentored Youth Hunting Program (youth 10 and over). Youth hunters must have proof of passing a state certified hunter education course and/or have a current MY number in their possession while hunting.*All hunters hunting McGregor/Ft. Bliss military installations are required to have hunter education. Bow Hunter Education is not mandatory, but is highly recommended (source).

New Mexico Hunter Education Information

New York

All hunters, regardless of age, are required to present either a hunter education certificate or a previous hunting license to qualify for a license (source).

New York Hunter Education Information

North Carolina

On or after July 1, 2013, a person, regardless of age, may not purchase a hunting license in North Carolina without producing one of the following: a hunter education certificate of competency, a NC hunting heritage apprentice permit, or a NC hunting license issued prior to July 1, 2013 (source).

North Carolina Hunter Education Information

North Dakota

All persons born after 1961 shall submit or exhibit a certificate of successful completion of a hunter education course before purchasing any hunting license. A certificate of completion for the same course of study issued by other states, provinces or countries is valid in North Dakota (source).

North Dakota Hunter Education Information

Ohio

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course or present evidence of having previously held a hunting license (source).

Ohio Hunter Education Information

Oklahoma

Hunter education is required for all hunters except those who have an apprentice license and are accompanied by a fully licensed hunter (source).

Oklahoma Hunter Education Information

Oregon

All persons under 18 years of age must possess proof of hunter education while hunting any species by any means, except when hunting on own property or parent's property. Proof of hunter education is carrying a hunter education certificate or having hunter education certification printed on a valid hunting license (source).

Oregon Hunter Education Information

Pennsylvania

To purchase a hunting license you must complete an approved Hunter Education course, if you have not held a hunting license in Pennsylvania or another state or nation (source).

Pennsylvania Hunter Education Information

Rhode Island

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course unless you present evidence of holding a prior years Rhode Island license (source).

Rhode Island Hunter Education Information

South Carolina

All residents and nonresidents born after June 30, 1979, must successfully complete a hunter education course that is approved by the Department of Natural Resources before a hunting license can be obtained (source).

South Carolina Hunter Education Information

South Dakota

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education Course if you are under the age of 16 (source).

South Dakota Hunter Education Information

Tennessee

Persons born on or after Jan 1, 1969, must have proof of successfully completing a hunter education course (source).

Tennessee Hunter Education Information

Texas

Every hunter (including out-of-state hunters) born on or after Sept. 2, 1971, must successfully complete a Hunter Education Training Course (source). 

Texas Hunter Education Information

Utah

A person born after December 31, 1965, may not purchase a hunting license or permit unless proof is presented to the Division or one of its authorized wildlife license agents that the person has passed a Division-approved hunter education course offered by a state, province or country (source).

Utah Hunter Education Information

Vermont

An applicant for a hunting license must present either a previous or current hunting license from any state or Canadian province, or a certificate or letter of proof showing satisfactory completion of an approved hunter or firearms safety course from Vermont or any other state or province, or other satisfactory proof of prior license or hunter/firearms safety certification (source).

Vermont Hunter Education Information

Virginia

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course if you are twelve to fifteen years of age, or sixteen and over and have never held a license to hunt. Hunter Education is not required for those purchasing an apprentice license, but they must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed adult. Likewise, those under 12 must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed adult (source).

Virginia Hunter Education Information

Washington

Hunter education is required for all first-time hunters purchasing their first Washington license and who are born after 1/1/72 (source).

Washington Hunter Education Information

West Virginia

A hunting license may not be issued to any person who was born on or after Jan. 1, 1975, unless the person submits to the license agent a certificate of training or proof of completion of a course approved by the I.H.E.A. or Director of WV DNR (source). 

West Virginia Hunter Education Information

Wisconsin

To purchase a hunting license you must have completed an approved Hunter Education course if you

were born on or after January 1, 1973 (source).

Wisconsin Hunter Education Information

Wyoming

No person born on or after Jan. 1, 1966, may apply for and receive any Wyoming hunting license, nor take any wildlife by the use of firearms on land other than that of his own family, unless the person possesses and can exhibit a certificate of competency and safety in the use and handling of firearms (source).

Wyoming Hunter Education Information