Dear Writing Huntress,
This may sound silly, but I am nervous about going to a Hunter Safety class. I am 23-years old and I want to go deer hunting with my dad this year. He told me I have to do a Hunter Safety Education course in order to get my license, but I’ve heard only 12-year olds go to the class. Are there other options? Am I going to look like a dork being the oldest girl at the class?
Eager to hunt in Early, Iowa
Let me tell you a story.
There once was a huntress named Lisa. She was 21-years old and looking forward to her first deer season in New York. She, much like you, was nervous about attending Hunter Safety class amidst a group of 12-year olds. But, she ventured forth, silently pleading that her 4-foot,10-inch frame would convince others that she, too, was in middle school.
Alas, Lisa arrived to the class, with snacks to last the evening, and was surprised to find that many parents had decided to take the class with their children. Feeling much more at home, she settled down to learn all that needed to be learned about hunting, as per New York State’s Department of Conservation.
Hence, Eager, I feel your pain. I really do. But, luckily for you, there are options available now that were not back when I was mistaken for a sixth grader. In Iowa, according to the state’s Department of Natural Resources website, you have three options to completing your mandatory Hunter Safety course:*
1.) Classroom Instruction
Classroom instruction can be a tad daunting, especially when faced with a gaggle of middle schoolers. However, I learn best when in a classroom setting. So, even though it was my only option at the time, I would still sign up for a classroom-type situation, if given the option today.
You may want to see if your dad or a friend who is interested in starting hunting will accompany you to the class. It’s a great refresher for those old hats who have been around the block for a while. Also, be sure to bring along a drink and snack if the class is a longer one.
2.) Online Course + Field Day
According to Iowa’s DNR website, an online course is available. It will cover the same information that will be covered in classroom instruction, but is hosted via the Internet, and can be taken in the comfort of your own home. In addition, you are required to attend a field-day class.
If this method of study suits you, be sure to keep a pen handy to take notes on what you’re covering to reference later.
3.) Adult -Only Online Hunter Education Course
This option, intended only for students age 18 or above, is tailored for Iowa residents who have prior hunting or firearm handling experience. Please keep in mind that this test incorporates state-specific information, as well as hunting and outdoor quandaries.
Given that this avenue is focused on those who already have a background in hunting and firearm handling, it may be best for you to choose option 1 or 2. However, if you do decide to go with option 3, be sure to attend a field day or shooting refresher in lieu of any mandatory class.
A pair of adages were repeated over and over during my Hunter Safety experience, a duo that still hang like thought bubbles over my “camoed” visage each time I step afield, for they were impressed as the 2 most important lessons to learn: Always be 100 percent certain of your target, as well as what lay beyond it and always handle your firearm as if it’s loaded.
I don’t know if Hunter Safety classes still pound those sage bits of advice into the minds of new hunters, but I certainly hope they do, for I have hunted many safe and successful season based upon the knowledge I gained during my Hunter Safety week – lessons that will carry me through a lifetime of hunting fun.
Eager, I hope you take everything you can from the option you choose. Attending a Hunter Safety class is the beginning of a lifelong journey of fun, the outdoors and some pretty tasty wild game.
*Please note that states differ in the teaching and certification of Hunter Safety Education. While many states now offer online Hunter Safety courses, others do not. Refer to your state’s Department of Natural Resources (or wildlife agency) website to research your options.