What Do You Learn in a Hunter Safety Course?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: February 19, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Recreation
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Prepare for hunting season by taking a hunters safety course! Have you already taken one? That’s okay too! Regulations change every year and a refresher course never hurts. Once the Hunter’s Safety Course has been completed, you’ll have a firm grasp on how to conduct yourself on your first or next expedition!

Hunter safety courses teach safe firearms and ammunition handling, safety tips, hunting techniques, field dressing, wildlife identification, basic first-aid, and more. After successfully completing a hunter safety course you will have a clear understanding of how to have a fun, successful, and ethical hunt.

The idea of being able to provide clean natural meat for yourself or your family is a thought on many Americans’ minds. If you have never hunted before, you may be surprised at what information is covered in a hunter’s safety course.

What you learn in a hunter safety course

What information is covered in a hunter safety course?

The words hunter’s safety course can be misleading as to what you may have in mind when taking one. The content covered is designed to give anyone who takes the course a well-rounded and clear understanding of what it means to hunt safely. This includes more than just knowing where to point that thing! First aid is a skill many people don’t consider when planning a hunting trip. Think about it, you are in the woods, alone, more than likely far away from civilization. First aid skills could save your life.

Core Topics Include:

Firearm safety

Personally, I feel as though firearm safety is the most important part of the course. This skill will literally save lives and limbs, including your own. Although most of what you read will seem like common sense, there has been a staggering number of hunting-related incidents and deaths reported every year. Don’t be a statistic! And speaking of statistics, there is good news! The incident rate is on a steady decline. I would feel confident in saying I think this is a result of the increase in safety awareness and certification of hunters.

Prior to 1988, the hunter’s safety course was voluntary. In 1988 when the course became mandatory, the incident rate was reduced by almost half and the fatality rate was reduced by almost 75%. The course also covers bow-hunting safety. The same rules apply to bows as they do with firearms. Although you can clearly see if a bow is loaded or not, precaution should be used around all weapons. remember, they’re called “accidents” for a reason, no one intended for them to happen.

By committing the following 4 rules to memory, you will be on the right path to hunting safely.

  1. Always point your muzzle in a safe direction.
  2. Always treat every gun as if it’s loaded, and check the chamber first.
  3. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it. Avoid rocks and metal, which could cause a ricochet.
  4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire. Your finger should be outside the trigger guard unless you’re firing.

A personal rule for hunting I was taught by my brother-in-law is, “Don’t point your gun unless you intend on pulling the trigger.”

Keep the Game Warden Happy!

Part of taking a hunter’s safety course includes knowing what time of year you can legally take certain animals. Know the maturity and gender legal requirements of what you plan on hunting, and the quantity of that certain animal you may legally take.
I have developed a checklist in the event I am ever questioned by a game warden:

Game wardens are peace officers and enforce the law with the same authority as a police officer or state trooper. However, their jurisdiction is greater than police officers. A game warden has legal permission to enter private property, including boats. They also have the power to look inside any container without cause. These extra allowances in what is legal for them to conduct are imperative to prevent poaching, which is an ongoing threat to wildlife and hunting.

Drugs and alcohol

Although this would seem like a dead giveaway, no one should ever hunt or handle firearms/archery after or while drinking or taking drugs of any kind. Avoid any substance that impairs you. Drugs and alcohol affect mobility, thought process, and emotions. When you are using firearms/archery and knives, sober is the most effective state of being you can, well, be in!
I understand the temptation to bring a bottle of ol grandpa’s “cough medicine” or a cold 6-pack of oat soda to the blind, but it’s best to leave the brew at home. Save the shots for a post-hunt celebration. There is something about a victorious hunt that makes everything taste sweeter.

Taking hunter safety online or in-person

Decisions decisions! Which do you prefer? The convenience and comfort of learning with an online hunter safety course? Or the fun and social aspect of a classroom setting? Both have their advantages, and both provide the same end result. Online is a quick, easy way to fly through the course or take your time, and the dress code is “come as you are”. However, if you have questions and you prefer speaking to a real person instead of searching the internet for answers then a classroom setting may be right up your tree. Upon completing the safety course either online or in the classroom, you may be required by your state to take a field day course to finish completing your certification. Check with your local gaming commission to see if you are required to participate.

So you’ve decided to go hunting! Where will you hunt?

Your hunting safety course will also cover where you can legally hunt. Besides the legal aspect of where, you must consider the land you plan on hunting.

The obvious and most ideal place to hunt is your own land. Owning your own property gives you the most freedom out of all the options of location. This option gives you the most privacy, however, owning your own land to hunt on can be expensive, not only with purchasing but with ongoing upkeep and wildlife maintenance.

Private hunting leases are widely available. With private hunting leases, you are limited to certain animals and firearms at the discretion of the property owner. This is an option that is normally expensive however it is convenient. Another aspect of this choice to keep in mind is that you will usually not be the only hunter. Hunting leases generally are priced per person hunting. The property owner leasing out the land can choose how many hunters are allowed on the lease at one time. This means you may cross other hunters and increase the chance of an incident.

The last option is the most affordable. Public hunting land is available throughout the entire nation for an annual fee. These public hunting lands are clearly marked on each state’s game and wildlife website. Of course, the obvious downfall to this option is in the title, “public”. You run the risk of encountering other hunters which can make people such as myself leary of attempting anything of this nature.

Related Hunter Safety Course Questions

How long does the course take to complete online?

The length of time spent in the course is 4-6 hours, but you can take as much time as you need, all progress is saved when you log out.

Does my certificate expire?

Nope! Once you’re in the club, you’re in! Once you have completed the hunter’s safety course, you never need to recertify. However, since regulations change every year, it never hurts to take a refresher course every few years to stay sharp.

What if I don’t take the course and still go hunting?

You have a one-time option of omitting the safety course for one year. You must be 17 years of age or older and pay a fee to do so.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.