We officially welcomed summer on June 21st, so instead of rifles, shotguns, bows, and wild game, most folks are probably thinking about baseball, swimming, barbeques and mowing the lawn. But “now” is the time to start thinking about the various options available for completing hunter education so you’ll be ready for hunting season this coming fall.
Hunter education has come a long way since 1974, when it became mandatory in the state of Nebraska. Today’s hunter education for both firearm hunting and bowhunting are intensive and thorough, covering not only the safety aspects of firearms and archery equipment, but also the conservation management and ethics that go hand-in-hand with the great tradition of hunting.
The NGPC trains and maintains the certification for around 1,000 volunteer instructors who teach the state mandated hunter education and bowhunter education curriculum. As unpaid volunteers, these dedicated folks are the backbone of our state’s hunter education programs.
Since the establishment of mandatory hunter education, hunter incidents in the field have dropped dramatically, not just in Nebraska, but nationwide. Statistically speaking, hunting today is much safer than playing contact sports such as football or soccer, cheerleading, mountain biking, or even golf and bowling! There’s no denying, hunter education is important and it makes a difference. Anything that’s this important takes some time, so planning now for when, where and how to complete hunter education will eliminate unnecessary stress later this fall if you or someone in your family plans to go hunting in Nebraska.
No two states are the same when it comes to the requirements for hunter education. Here in Nebraska, all hunters age 12 through 29 must carry proof of successful completion of a firearm hunter education course when hunting any game species with a firearm or airgun, or proof of successful completion of a bowhunter education course while hunting deer, elk, antelope or mountain (bighorn) sheep with a bow and arrow or cross bow.
Although hunter education is not required until age 12, students can complete the course at age 11. A number of options are available. A traditional classroom courses for firearm or bowhunter education is a required minimum of 10 hours of instruction, usually broken up into several short sessions over several days. Students must attend all of the sessions and complete a written true/false, multiple choice exam in order to be issued a certificate. More and more instructors are offering “dual” classes, which include the curriculum for both firearm and bowhunter education. These dual classes are a minimum of 14 hours of instruction, after which, both certificates are issued to successful students. Although live fire is not a mandated requirement in Nebraska hunter education, instructors who have the facilities available to offer this important, hands-on activity frequently do so, which may extend the course.
NGPC also offers online hunter education for both firearm hunting and bowhunting. Students age 16 and older may complete all of the requirements online. They will then receive their permanent firearm or bowhunter education certificates in their online permitting profile after successfully completing the course exam and paying a vendor fee. This fee does not go to NGPC; it is required by the online vendor for maintaining the website and processing the student’s information. Students age 11 to 15 may also complete their firearm or bowhunter education online. They take the same course online, but receive a voucher after paying the vendor fee. They are then required to sign up for a 2-hour Hunt Safe Session review and show their online course completion voucher to the instructor in charge of the session. During the Hunt Safe Session, volunteer hunter education instructors will spend some face-to-face time discussing the most important safety aspects of the course. After successfully completing the Hunt Safe Session, these younger students will also be issued their certificates via the online permitting system. The online courses are self-paced and include text, video and interactive media. The online courses can usually be completed in 6 to 10 hours depending on the students reading comprehension and previous knowledge of hunting.
Just like hunting, hunter education seems to have its own “seasons.” Although you can find classes throughout the year, most traditional classroom courses and Hunt Safe Sessions are offered in the fall and spring. As the weather starts to change and summer begins to wane, things really get rolling with hunter ed. Mid-August through mid-November is packed with course offerings throughout the state as hunters young and old get ready for fall hunts. Things slow down mid-winter, but pick up again in February and March as spring turkey season and trap season are on the minds of many. So if you’re looking for a hunter ed class and don’t see one in your area, don’t fret. It may just not be the right season. Keep checking back. And when you see a class that fits your schedule, don’t hesitate to sign up. Classes fill up quickly.
For a listing of all currently posted traditional classroom courses and Hunt Safe Sessions, as information for the online courses, go to www.huntsafenebraska.org and look for the links in the middle of the page. All traditional classroom courses and Hunt Safe Sessions are offered free of charge. Again, the fee for the online courses goes directly to the vendor who maintains the course website, not to NGPC. If you have any questions about hunter education and can’t find the answers on the NGPC website, please call the Hunter Education staff at (402) 471-6134.
Spending 10 to 14 hours over a few days may at first seem like a lot of time, but once the requirements are completed, you’ll have your lifetime firearm hunter or bowhunter education certificate. Make it a priority so you too can help carry on the great tradition of safe, ethical and responsible hunting in Nebraska.