By Doug Leier
Every year, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department certifies between 4,500 and 5,500 hunter education students. This is the time of year when many of those students begin looking for classes so they can legally hunt when their chosen season comes around.
It’s particularly important for youngsters who will turn 12 prior to the fall hunting seasons, and anyone older than that, as state law requires hunter education for those age 12 and older before they can purchase any type of license. The only exceptions are people who hunt only on their own land, anyone born in 1961 or earlier, and anyone age 12 and older who is eligible for an apprentice hunting license for one year.
I can’t stress enough the importance of enrolling a child or yourself at the earliest possible class, as I’ve handled way too many frantic parent calls as fall approaches and the available class offerings have dwindled to just a few options in the state’s largest cities.
Before you know it, there will be summer fishing, boating, baseball and a whole gamut of other activities that make it much more difficult to work in the typical 14 hours of class time. So, if you have a child, friend or relative who will need a hunter education certificate to purchase a hunting license this year, now is the time to make sure scheduling a class gets into the calendar.
Kids under age 12 may still hunt with their parents or other adults before they take hunter education. There is no minimum age for hunting small game in North Dakota, but students are first eligible to take the class during the calendar year in which they turn 11.
In North Dakota, hunter education classes are taught by more than 600 volunteer instructors, a great group always looking for new members (yes, that’s a hint). These instructors offer most classes during the winter and into spring.
Enrolling yourself or a youth is easy. All it takes is a trip to the Game and Fish Department website at gf.nd.gov. The website contains information to sign up for text and email alerts as well.
The website has information on when and where classes are offered. On average, about 200 communities in North Dakota will host one of 240 separate classes. Instructors in many smaller towns will hold only one course each year, so if you or someone you know will need hunter education, check out the details now to make sure you don’t miss out.
Once you’ve found the best fit for a class, you also can sign up online and check the status of the course.
The goal is to put safe and educated hunters into the field. No exceptions. In fact, one of the more common questions is generated by people looking for an age or occupation exemption from the law. Current and former military personnel, police officers and adults often inquire whether their status qualifies for any exemption. The answer is no. The law is straightforward.
It’s clear that North Dakota’s hunter education laws have worked. Mandatory hunter education classes began in 1979. Since then, more than 238,000 people have taken the course in North Dakota.
Those who suggest they know all about gun safety through previous training or experience also will find the comprehensive course includes wildlife management concepts, biology and the ethical and moral aspects of becoming a well-rounded hunter.
Plain and simple, hunter education is making the outdoors a safer venue for all.
Leier is an outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game & Fish Department.
Featured Photo: Each year, the NDG&F Dept. provides courses with volunteer instruction to more than 4,500 hunter education students. NDG&F Photo.