Hunter education courses are a waste of time for people who have hunted for years. At least that’s what I thought when I walked into my first hunter education class.
The instructor asked why the size of a shotgun is described as a “gauge” rather than a “caliber.” Puzzled, I sat up and leaned forward. I didn’t know the answer. It turns out shotguns are measured by an old system. First, you took a lead ball that just fit into the barrel. Then, you determined how many of those balls it took to make a pound. Twelve balls meant the gun was a 12-gauge.
I started paying closer attention after that. Through the course, I learned about firearms safety, ethics, wildlife identification, first aid, and outdoor survival skills.
“We have fathers and grandfathers—people who have been hunting a long time—take the course with their kids or grandkids,” says Bill Balda, who runs the hunter education program for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Above all, hunter education emphasizes firearms safety. Even people who don’t hunt—but have guns at their house—find the course useful. “Hunter education came about to reduce hunting accidents,” Balda explains. “And since it became mandatory in 1991, we’ve had 33 percent less gun-related fatalities among hunters.”
Courses are free, and usually involve two night classes followed by a third day at the range. Participants fire some type of gun at the range to make sure they know and can follow safety rules. At the end, there’s an 80-question test to pass.
Hunter education is mandatory for all licensed-required hunters born on or after January 1, 1975, for anyone hunting in Kentucky.
Last year, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife started a one-time temporary hunter education exemption permit. You take an online test, for a $5 fee, and if you pass you are exempt for one year, but you must be supervised when hunting by an adult who has met the hunter education requirement.
Visit the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Web site at www.fw.ky.gov to find out more about the test or for the course nearest you. If you don’t have the time to take the night classes, you can call (800) 858-1549 and request a disk to play on your computer, check out a VHS tape available at many libraries, or take the course on the Internet. If you use these alternative methods, however, you still must attend the range day and take the test in person.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife offers a variety of quota hunts on public land for deer, pheasant, rabbit, quail, and waterfowl. Because the number of hunters is limited, you must apply for a drawing. Applications are accepted only during the month of September by calling (877) 598-2401. Consult the current hunting guide for locations, hunts, and further information.