Hunter education at the 11th hour

Nearly every year as summer begins the wane into fall, the emails, phone calls or questions on the street start coming in.

“Do you know of any hunter education classes?” someone will ask me.

Procrastination can be costly, and each year around this time many aspiring hunters find themselves on the waiting list to get their hunter education courses completed. Most want to get it under their belts by deer season, but they’re also missing out on the small-game seasons that are crucial training ground for young hunters.

We in the hunting community are always complaining about the fact that our numbers are dwindling. Yet, each year finding a seat in a hunter education class becomes a waiting game. Once announced to the public, these courses fill up quickly and often there are last-minute sessions organized by sporting clubs to accommodate more.

In New York, the completion of a hunter education course is required for those planning to hunt with any type firearm (rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader). There is also a trapper education course, which is required to obtain a trapping license. There is an additional bowhunter education requirement for archery, which at this time does not include crossbow. The hunter ed courses are a minimum of seven hours in length and the student must be age 11 or older.

The biggest change in recent years is the home study requirement prior to the instructor portion of the course. Students can either download the course study material from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website (dec.ny.gov/outdoor/92267.html) or obtain a copy at a regional DEC office. There is no cost for this course or materials.

A second option is to take an online course provided by a separate entity, which does charge a $15 fee upon completion of the course. A company called Kalkomey Enterprises, LLC manages the hunter-ed.com website and the New York course is offered. (Note: You will still need to attend a DEC class to complete the field portion of the course.)

Getting back to the standard method, the best course of action for new hunters looking to complete the course is to start with DEC’s aforementioned website, where there is a list of courses to scroll through. It doesn’t hurt to check any local fish and game clubs or the calendar or sports section of your local newspaper, but most courses should be already listed online.

If a course is listed as full, don’t fret. Hunter education instructors are constantly frustrated by the fact that people sign up for courses and then fail to show up. In many cases they haven’t done the homework. My advice is to get serious about your hunter education, obtain the course material now and be prepared. If you contact an instructor, let them know you are taking the initiative to do your homework. They may just a oblige and let you in.

By the time you read this, the earliest of hunting seasons will be about to open, or perhaps already will be open. Don’t miss out – get your hunter education requirement out of the way and join the rest of us in the woods this fall.

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