Hunter education began in the late 1950’s with a very narrow focus on basic safety. It concentrated on topics related to conservation, knowledge of firearms, safety, ethics, and responsibilities. Since its inception, over ¾ of a million youth and adults have completed the course. Initially, it was voluntary, but in 1979 it became a requirement that all first time hunters successfully complete the course in order to purchase a license. This requirement exists in 49 states and all provinces in Canada. Presentation of a valid Hunter Education Card from one state will allow the purchase of a license or permit in other states, however, there may be additional educational requirements for hunting with archery, a handgun, or muzzle-loading equipment.
This course and other conservation activities are paid for by sportsmen. The Pittman-Robertson Act, also called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, was signed into law in 1937. The act provided funds for states to acquire hunting land, conduct research, manage wildlife populations and pay for hunter education programs by placing an excise tax on firearms and ammunition.
The course curriculum includes firearm safety which includes shotguns, rifles and handguns. It emphasizes the four primary safety rules that apply to all arms: (1) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, (2) Treat every gun as if it is loaded, (3) Always be sure of your target and beyond, and (4) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. The course also places a strong emphasis on being a responsible hunter and on wildlife conservation.
These educational programs have made hunting one of the safest of all the outdoor recreational activities. In Ohio, in a typical year, fewer than 7/100,000 of 1% of Ohio hunters are injured with a gun or bow while actively hunting. In fact, you are at greater risk while traveling in your vehicle to and from your hunting location.
There are several ways in which the sport of hunting benefits our society. First, the license fees, self-imposed taxes, and hunting permits and stamps finance many wildlife management activities. Second, wildlife has benefitted from regulated hunting and habitat protection, resulting in more species of wildlife than ever before. And finally, there are the benefits to the hunter himself. For some, it is the solitude or the appreciation of nature, while for others it may be time shared with family or friends. Others may enjoy the challenge presented in outwitting a particular species.
As shown in this article, the Hunter Education Course not only provides instruction leading to safe hunting practices, it also funds wildlife protection, habitat, and management. It provides new hunters with the knowledge to challenge the great outdoors and the skills to do it safely.