Hunter Education, It’s Much More Than Just a Class

By Steve Webner

Hunting is special in that it can be a solo sport, or you can get a few friends together and enjoy the outdoor experiences together. Some people are forced to hunt alone due to safety, or the lack there of, from others. Walking with a gun pointed at a friend, hunting private property without permission, not closing a landowner’s gate, shooting the wrong species or gender of animal, not providing an animal the respect of fair chase, or harvesting game beyond the legal bag limits. These are just examples of the types of actions that can ruin a great day of hunting. The best days in the field are those days in which there are no acts of unethical behavior, no injuries due to negligence, and everyone returns home, alive and well with hunting tales to tell. This is what the Iowa Hunter Education Safety Program strives to achieve; a lifetime of fun, ethical, and safe hunting.

Some may question the need for such a program. There are those who may believe that safe hunting is just common sense, or that they can teach their children the appropriate knowledge and skills on their own. I, for one, experienced a sense of relief when my two sons completed their hunter safety course. All of their lives they were taught proper hunting ethics and safety; even going as far as requiring them to hold their toy guns in a safe direction when they were little hunters in training, starting at age 3. However, I knew there were so many other bits of knowledge that I had missed along the way. Whether we like it or not, sometimes kids will listen better to a third party. That is where the trained hunter safety instructors come into play as a crucial piece in providing hunter education. Iowa hunter education instructors are trained to teach students about hunter safety, landowner relationships and rights, laws, conservation, identification of game, and ethics, to name a few.

So, who benefits from Iowa’s hunter education program? EVERYONE! The Iowa hunter education program provides valuable knowledge, tips, and reminders to everyone from the first-timer to the veteran hunter. Landowners will benefit with a new generation of hunters who understand and respect landowner rights; animals will be provided respect and fair chase by Iowa hunters; and families will be able to comfortably and confidently send their loved ones into the field for a safe and ethical hunting experience.

Additionally, safety in the hunting world has drastically changed, unfortunately the change is often due to injuries and fatalities. In hunter’s education, we learn the importance of wearing orange during Iowa gun seasons, like pheasant season, or the much-anticipated deer gun seasons. Faded and torn orange does not benefit us as the safety features are diminished. It wasn’t long ago when harnesses were non-existent. Every year hunters fall from treestands and are injured or worse, killed. Today, we see lifelines, full body safety harnesses and other safety procedures implemented into our routines. The older generations didn’t have this equipment available, so in this sense, hunter’s education is beneficial for all ages.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources Hunter Education Program is always accepting applications for volunteer instructors. The training process begins with an application, an apprentice program and then full certification. The hunter education program is also currently in need of experienced hunters to help introduce new hunters to a variety of hunting. In many cases, the new hunters are adults who have recently taken hunter ed, but just need a little help in getting started. Species include deer, waterfowl, turkey, and upland birds The DNR’s Learn to Hunt program is part of a national effort to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters due to the overall decline in hunting and outdoor recreation. For more information, contact the Hunter Education Coordinator Jamie Cook.

During an age when there is an all-out assault on gun ownership and hunting, the Iowa Hunter Education Program is more important than ever. Unfortunately, many view hunters as annoyances. This is due to the acts of the very few unethical hunters who are found poaching, leaving gates open, cutting fences, trespassing, exceeding bag limits, destroying property, and the list goes on. We need our next generation of hunters to help put these ethical and legal concerns to rest. Course instructors provide a solid foundation to help hunters enjoy their hobby in a safe, respectful, and legal way.

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources hunter education webpage, located at https://www.iowadnr.gov/hunting/hunter-education, “Iowa law requires that anyone born after January 1, 1972, must be certified in hunter education before they are eligible to purchase an Iowa hunting license. This minimum number of hours to complete the class is 10”. Students must be a minimum of 11 years old to enroll.

There are several course options: 1) classroom instruction; 2) online course plus a field day, 3) adult online only hunter education course, or 4) dual hunter education and handgun safety course. For anyone interested in taking the Iowa Hunter Education Program, visit the
https://www.iowadnr.gov/hunting/hunter-education. This site will provide all of the information you will need for hunter education. There is even a link providing registration information for all of the upcoming hunter education training events. Courses may vary in terms of instructional activities and events.

Iowa provides a multitude of great opportunities for hunter education offerings. Not only is the training required by law prior to obtaining a hunting license, it is a great way to educate our youth and provide a refresher for seasoned hunters on what it means to be an ethical, safe, and conservation-minded hunter. We owe it to the future of this great sport to support Iowa’s Hunter Education Program. Hunter’s education is more than just a class, it is the basic foundations of our life in the outdoors.