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Forum staff reports, Published January 07 2014

Leier: Hunter education classes a smart idea for offseason

WEST FARGO - Since pheasant, grouse and archery deer seasons just ended a couple of weeks ago, don’t blame hunters if they aren’t already planning for next fall.

But if you have a child, friend or relative who will need a hunter education certificate in order to purchase a hunting license in 2014, now is the time to make sure that gets into the calendar.

In North Dakota, hunter education classes are taught by more than 700 volunteer instructors, a great group always looking for new members (yes, that’s a hint). These instructors offer most classes in winter and into spring.

Hunter education certification is required for anyone born after Dec. 31, 1961to buy a hunting license in North Dakota. The exceptions are landowners hunting only on their own land, youngsters who will not reach age 12 prior to 2014 hunting seasons, and anyone age 16 and over who is eligible for an apprentice hunting license for one year.

Youngsters under age 12 may still hunt with their parents or other adults. There is no minimum age for hunting small game in North Dakota, but students need to reach age 11 before taking the class.

Enrolling yourself or a youngster is easy. All it takes is a trip to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website atgf.nd.gov.

The website has information on when and where classes are offered. On average, about 200 different communities in North Dakota will host one of 240 separate classes. Instructors in many smaller towns will only hold 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 the class, you can also signup 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 a no. The law is straightforward.

It’s clear that North Dakota’s hunter education laws are working. Mandatory hunter education classes began in 1979. Since then, more than 150,000 people have taken the course in North Dakota.

Another statistic that stands out is class participation. About 30 percent are adults, and 34 percent are women. Hunter education is for hunters of any and all ages.

When I assist with local courses, I find myself learning along with students and instructors alike.

Those who suggest they know all about gun safety through prior training or experience will also 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. The thousands of safe hunters across the prairie would not want to jeopardize those statistics, and there is a degree of comfort in knowing that most hunters in the field have been through the curriculum meeting standards from the International Hunter Education Association.


Leier, a biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in West Fargo, can be reached at dleier@nd.gov

Leier’s blog can be found online

at dougleier.areavoices.com