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What is a Hunter Safety Card and Do I Need One?

Hunter Safety Card
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Here's what you need to know about the hunter safety card.

For those of us who have been hunting for a while, hunter safety requirements represented our first real test of hunting knowledge. It's also a beginning of the wisdom we gain each and every time we go hunting. But way back in the day, there were fewer regulations around hunter safety. That's certainly changed, and for good reason.

Nowadays, each and every state requires new hunters to pass a test of knowledge and skills before becoming eligible to purchase a hunting license. The comprehensive course and final test covers all the things required to safety traverse the hunting woods and fields. Call it hunter safety training, a hunting education course, or field training, the bottom line is that everyone will need one.

The end result is your very own hunter safety card, your official recognition of completing the course and test. Some refer to it as a hunter education certificate, and it will include your name, an individual number, and likely the state that you earned your card in.

Hunter Education Programs

Since the prerequisite hunter education requirement states that an individual must pass a hunter education course, that means everyone who has the desire to go afield and hunt needs to go through one of these programs. In the past they were held as a strictly in-person, classroom-style course. Over time, online hunter education has become a beneficial tool in the process, even becoming the standard for many states. If you ask us, that's a good thing. More opportunities to earn a hunter education card should ideally lead to more hunters.

Course content typically covers things like basic hunting skills, firearms safety, responsibility, ethics, and even some survival skills. None of it is difficult to understand, and the information is pertinent even if you don't intend on using all of it.

How to Get Your Hunter Education Card

One visit to your state's Department of Natural Resources or Wildlife Conservation agency's website and a few clicks to the licensing requirements should be all you need to get the ball rolling. Often, direct hyperlinks to the online course, or a full schedule of in-person classroom courses, will be easily found. 

In addition, some states require a specific "field day" of firsthand, physical attendance-required education. Sometimes these are only required for youth hunters of a certain age (usually under 18). They're led by experienced (but mostly volunteer) hunter education instructors and very often directly connected with or facilitated by a state's wildlife agency.

If you want to go directly to the source, Hunter-Ed.com has become the industry standard. It's officially approved by the International Hunting Education Association, and every state honors a hunter education certificate earned through Hunter Ed. It's a quality online course that comes highly recommended.

It's worth noting there are both bowhunter education and trapper education courses offered by Hunter Ed, as certain states are requiring completion of these before issuing a license for those specific methods of take.

Once you obtain your hunting safety card, it's worth it to carry it on you alongside your hunting license. If you're able to show proof of your license with a smart phone, you'll almost certainly be able to connect your hunter safety certificate to the same account, and show proof that way.

In any case, keep your individual hunter safety number in a safe place should you need to recall it because of a lost or damaged card.

The Need for the Hunter Safety Course

A hunter education card may be the end result of the course, and the one thing needed to start your hunting life. But really, a certification card signifies that first-time hunters have learned what there is to know about hunting safety.

Wildlife law enforcement officers need to know that everyone they encounter in the field has had access to the latest safety education. Without that, the notions of wildlife conservation and wildlife management would be far more difficult to address and achieve.

Even though you can request a replacement for lost or damaged cards at any time, your hunter safety certification is a permanent certificate, showing that you have passed a recent hunter ed course and have the understanding of what it takes to be a true outdoorsman. That in itself is a powerful thing.

It's everyone's individual responsibility to know, understand, and abide by the rules and regulations tied to hunting. A hunting safety card serves as a reminder, but it's up to each of us to follow through with what we learned, and stay up to date on any changes as well.

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What is a Hunter Safety Card and Do I Need One?