As hunting seasons progress into the new year, the Missouri Department of Conservation is reminding those pursuing game with firearms that hunter education is required for most hunters.
While the firearms deer hunting season is over, hunting seasons for game such as waterfowl, rabbit, squirrel, furbearer and quail are underway. MDC offers hunter-education classes year-around online, through a self-study option, and in the classroom.
Missouri's hunter-education course is required for any hunter born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, who uses a firearm while hunting, unless exempt. Anyone 11 or older is eligible to take the course and exam. Hunters who have completed an approved hunter-education course in another state are not required to take Missouri's hunter-education course.
MDC officials said hunter education has reduced hunting incidents and deaths in Missouri by more than 70 percent since it became mandatory in 1987.
Hunter education covers: hunter responsibility and ethics, how firearms work and firearm safety, wildlife identification, game care, survival, first-aid skills, firearm-handling skills and hunting techniques, awareness about wildlife conservation and management, and rules and information unique to Missouri.
"Nearly 24,000 new hunters have taken hunter education so far in 2018, including about 11,400 taking the all-online course," said Kyle Lairmore, MDC outreach and education unit chief. "We're also seeing a pretty even split among male and female participants with most participants being ages 16 to 35, which are the younger hunters we are trying to reach."
MDC offers two options to complete hunter education. The "blended format" is for all ages and includes a knowledge session that must be completed online, in the classroom or through a self-study guide followed by a skills session and final exam. MDC's "all-online" option is for Missouri residents 16 years of age and older. They can complete the entire program online through coursework and a final exam without having to take the skills session.
For more information on MDC hunter education, visit huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/hunter-education-skills-training.
MDC also offers voluntary bowhunter education in the classroom and online. While classroom offerings are limited, the online offering can be taken any time through a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. It includes live-action, high-def videos complemented by a comprehensive instruction booklet. Participants must be at least 16 years old and a Missouri resident to take the online course. There is a $30 fee.