Changes proposed for Hunter Education program

Winter squirrel hunting. Photos taken in Shelby County 12-17-04 by Dave Baker.

Submitted

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 4, 2019) -- Inviting greater participation in hunting while still stressing the importance of hunter safety is the motivation behind a multipronged proposal that Kentucky's Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider at its next meeting.

The proposal includes multiple recommendations. Among them, range day would be optional for the state's hunter education program.

"Range day is where hunter education students familiarize themselves with the operation of a firearm," said Kentucky Hunter Education Branch Manager Brent McCarty. "This is in addition to the classroom or online training."

Not everyone needs the range day, however.

"A number of people who take the course -- such as veterans -- already have proficiency with firearms," McCarty said. "This proposal allows students to earn hunter education certification just by passing the education and safety portion of the course without having to take the range day component."

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will continue to offer range day training to any hunter education student who wishes to take it. The department also will offer advanced skills range day courses to supplement the basic course.

If approved, Kentucky would join 21 other states no longer requiring live-fire training in order to complete the hunter education certification course. The number of hunting incidents remained consistent or declined among those people who did not take live-fire training, according to those states that responded to a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife survey on the topic.

Kentucky, which depends on volunteer instructors to do the bulk of hunter education training, can only offer a limited number of locations and dates for classroom work and range firing. This can form a barrier for people wishing to earn their hunter education certification.

While the state does offer paid online courses in lieu of classroom work, McCarty said the department is working to provide students with a free online course. This course could be available by summer.

"If we are able to remove the barrier of travel from certification, and if we are able to eliminate the barrier of cost from certification, then we should strive to have every hunter in the woods of Kentucky hunter education certified," McCarty said.

The proposal also would require children of landowners to obtain hunter education certification. Landowners are license exempt, and currently not required to have hunter education training.

The proposal will be discussed at the Friday meeting of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission. The meeting will be held at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern) in the Arnold Mitchell Building on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's campus at 1 Sportsman's Lane in Frankfort. The entrance is off U.S. 60, approximately 1½ miles west of U.S. 127.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings are open for the public, with agendas available online at fw.ky.gov.

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