Hunting is a treasured tradition in Missouri with skills often passed down by generations of families and friends. But hunting is also a sport that welcomes newcomers. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) offers a Hunter Education Program and classes, workshops or special hunts. Participants learn how to hunt with skill, safety and ethics.
"Safe firearms handling and hunting is the number one thing we teach," said Jake Strozewski, a Conservation Agent in Livingston County and Hunter-Ed instructor.
Hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, and who are 16 or older, must successfully complete an approved Hunter Education course to qualify to buy firearms hunting permits. Since autumn brings a new round of hunting seasons, the Hunter Education classes fill up quickly, so new hunters who need to be Hunter-Ed certified should take the course early to avoid the fall rush.
For more information on Hunter Education visit www.mdc.mo.gov/node/3095 or contact your local MDC office.
MDC recently revised the Hunter-Ed course for student convenience and to emphasize hands-on training. Students can take the first part as an online course, or with a printed manual, or by signing up for a four-hour classroom session. The second part is a mandatory, four-hour, hands-on skills session with an exam. Students rotate to stations where they demonstrate their ability to safely handle firearms and ammunition.
Students completing the course receive a temporary certificate so they can immediately start hunting while their Hunter Education Certification card is being processed.
Youths 6 through 15 may hunt without Hunter Education certification when accompanied by a qualified adult mentor. Mentors are required to be Hunter-Education certified, unless exempt by age. MDC recommends that youth begin hunting with an adult mentor to become familiar with hunting and terminology before taking the course. Hunters who have completed an approved Hunter-Education course in another state are not required to take Missouri’s Hunter Education course.
MDC also offers an Apprentice Hunter Authorization to let people 16 years of age and older try hunting without requiring certification as long as they hunt with an adult mentor who certified in Hunter Education, unless exempt by age.
Special youth hunts or outdoor skills events are offered in various seasons. Conservation partners and MDC staff often cooperate to help introduce young people to shooting sports. Go to www.mdc.mo.gov and check the newsroom or the regional pages for information.
For example, volunteer Hunter-Ed instructors and Strozewski partner that offered an annual youth dove hunt for ages 10 to 15 at the Poosey Conservation Area, from 4 p.m. to sunset on Sept. 1. Hunter-Ed teachers mentor the youths. Participants attended a safety meeting but did not need Hunter-Ed certification since they are with mentors
"We’ve had people that were new to hunting, perhaps the child was interested and the parent brought them," Strozewski said. "We teach them and they went out and had an awesome time."
MDC also offers classes and workshops that can introduce adults to hunting or help them sharpen skills if they are experienced. For example, the Lake City Shooting Range near Independence will offer an Effective Wing Shooting class Sept. 20 and Sept. 21. Instructors will talk about best applications for non-toxic shot, chokes, shotgun patterning, judging distance and hunting skills. The Parma Woods Shooting Range on Sept. 8 will offer a class on Hunting the White-tailed Deer.
Hunting is a sport that requires knowledge about gun safety, nature and outdoor skills. But these skills can be learned and MDC classes can help people get started or improve success. Contact your local conservation office or watch the MDC web page for more information.
MDC began providing Hunter Education in 1957 and has trained more than 1.1 million students. Since hunter education became mandatory in 1987, there has been a reduction of hunting incidents by more than 70 percent. Missouri is among the top five states in annual hunter education graduate numbers.