photo/Lindsey Mulcare

Hunter Education Moves Online: First-Time Hunters, Get Started Now

With COVID restrictions redefining public spaces across the country, most states have moved hunter education to an online model. And some are offering free tuition.

New hunters in the United States must pass a hunter education course before buying a license for the first time. Before the pandemic, most hunter ed courses consisted of an in-class learning structure or an online learning requirement, coupled with an instructed field day component complete with the final test. Certifications mandated the completion of the in-person field component to complete the course.

But, with pandemic restrictions, a different kind of safety is being considered. Because of this, state agencies are modifying their hunter and bowhunter education structures to better accommodate new hunters.

States Waive Fees, Create Virtual Field Days

In an effort to make hunter ed more accessible, states are getting creative. States like WashingtonWisconsin, and Florida have moved their instructor field day to a virtual classroom, where volunteer instructors or virtual instructors lead students through the information typically studied.

Other states are moving to an online-only course with testing, and Montana is offering both hunter and bowhunter educational courses online for free. This is restricted to Montana residents. And these courses will still have reciprocity across the U.S. for out-of-state hunting.

Online Option Opens Up Access for New Hunters

The bright side of online hunter education options means that more folks are likely to take the course on their own time. And the majority of hunter ed courses are already affordable, ranging from $10 to $30 per hunter.

It’s a smart idea to go ahead and get the bowhunter certification — whether your state requires it or not — while it’s easily accessible online. Some states require a bowhunting certification, others don’t. But taking it now will ensure your ability to archery hunt nationwide for the foreseeable future.

Find your state’s requirements by going to their wildlife agency’s hunter education page. Companies like Hunter-Ed and the NRA offer online courses, but each state is responding to the current pandemic differently. Some, like Utah, are still requiring small in-person courses for some hunter demographics.

Nicole Qualtieri

Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt + Fish Editor. She also serves as a Board Director for Orion the Hunters Insititute, a non-profit promoting fair chase and hunting ethics nationwide. A DIY hunter, she comes from a non-traditional hunting background and began hunting and fishing in her 30s. She's been a voice for hunting, fishing, and conservation since 2014, when she got started working on the television show MeatEater. She's an avid horsewoman, bird dog aficionado, snowboarder, hiker/backpacker, food nerd, and all-around outdoorswoman. Find her online at @nkqualtieri.