June “Outta’ the Woods”
By Tony Young
“Taking a hunter safety class is one of the best things someone can do to have a safe and enjoyable time hunting,” said Bill Cline, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hunter safety and public shooting range section leader. “Hunter safety courses are designed to equip hunters with techniques to keep themselves and others safe outdoors. Even the most experienced hunters will learn something, which will help them become better, safer hunters and mentors.”
Students can take a hunter safety course for free. The FWC offers traditional classroom courses at no cost. Students also can complete the classroom portion by taking an FWC-approved online course, including one that’s free. After the online classroom portion is complete, students must sign up and attend a free field day. This no-cost training is available thanks to certified volunteer instructors and funding from the Wildlife Restoration program. The WR program provides federal grant funds to agencies such as the FWC to support wildlife conservation, research, access to public lands, shooting range development and hunter safety education. The program is funded by the sporting arms and archery industries, and the people of Florida who participate in these outdoor activities.
People born after May 31, 1975, are required to complete a state certified hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt unsupervised in Florida. Even if you were born before then and are exempt, it’s still a good idea to take the course because you’ll learn so much. While safety is an integral part of the course, students also learn about wildlife conservation, and hunter ethics and responsibilities.
“These classes will make you aware of Florida’s hunting laws, which is especially helpful if you are new to our state,” Cline said. “Or if you just relocated from another town, the classes are a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.”
Register for a class
If you haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, summer is the perfect time to sign up. You can register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.
Youth who are already into hunting are encouraged to take a hunter safety class before they turn 16. If you have a younger son or daughter, the Junior Hunter Safety Program is a way for parents and educators to introduce youth to hunting safety.
To accommodate busy schedules and different learning styles, the FWC offers the following hunter safety course formats.
Online training and field day
More than 90% of students choose to take an online hunter safety course and then complete an in-person field day.
Before beginning the online training, you’ll need to register to attend a field day. Field days are led by volunteer hunter safety instructors who teach hunting laws and regulations; hunter ethics and responsibility; safe firearms handling; clearing, matching, loading and unloading firearms; safe and effective shot placement; and marksmanship. This day takes between four and six hours to complete and wraps up with a test. You need to score 80% or higher to successfully complete the course.
Traditional classes and summer camps
For those who prefer learning in a classroom setting, traditional hunter safety courses are offered by volunteer instructors, and you can find when the next one will be offered near you by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.
Youth 10 to 14 years old can also complete their hunter safety certification by attending a weeklong summer camp at either the Ocala Outdoor Adventure Camp or the Everglades Youth Conservation Camp in Palm Beach County.
Florida Virtual School
Florida also offers a virtual school outdoor education course. This course, which combines hunting and boating safety, is free and open to Florida residents ages 12 to 18.
Participants will develop outdoor skills and learn about the benefits of physical activity while using proper safety procedures to experience a range of outdoor activities.
By meeting all the requirements of the Outdoor Education course, students will receive their Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card and be eligible to obtain a Florida Hunter Safety Certificate. They’ll also earn half a credit for high school and meet public school requirements for taking an online course and a physical education course.
Registrations for these instructor-led courses are limited. Those who are interested can find out more at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.
- Bowhunter education courses teach students about hunting with a bow and certifies those wishing to bowhunt in states that require it.
- Youth Hunter Education Challenge offers youth 18 years old and younger who have successfully completed a hunter safety course an opportunity to learn more.
- Youth Hunting Program of Florida provides safe, educational mentored hunts for youth 12 to 17 years of age.
- Becoming an Outdoors-Woman introduces adults to a variety of outdoor activities at a weekend workshop.
Safe hunting is NO accident!
“Hunter safety is about educating hunters, so we can continue the heritage of hunting in Florida by developing safe, responsible, knowledgeable and informed hunters and shooters,” Cline said.
Register to take a hunter safety class today so you can purchase your Florida hunting license and get ready for the 2019-20 hunting season!