The Missouri Department of Conservation is this year introducing a new hunter education program designed to allow students more flexibility in obtaining hunter education certification.

The program is now split into two separate segments, and students will have to pass both a knowledge and individual skills portion to obtain a certificate. Students can take the first part as an online course, by way of a printed manual (available for no charge), or by signing up for a four-hour classroom session. The second part is a mandatory, four-hour, hands-on skills session including a 35-question multiple-choice exam.

Thanks to the newly added individual skills portion of the program, students will spend more hands-on time learning how to safely perform various firearms actions and how to safely handle specific hunting scenarios.

“Instead of just having them read about things in a book and look at pictures, we’ll be able to actually show them procedures and actions,” Texas County conservation agent Chris Ely said. “Reading about it in a book is fine, but there’s nothing like doing it for real.”

By allowing students more hands-on time, the MDC hopes to promote safe hunting habits that in turn reduce hunting related injuries and fatalities. Ely said both the classroom and skills segments of hunter-ed are open to new hunters of all ages, but they’re designed such that kids can comprehend their content.

“It’s basically designed for both youth and adults, but it’s kind of geared toward younger people,” Ely said. “Of course, there would be a problem with younger people understanding it if it was written for adults, but everybody takes the same course. For example, if somebody wants to go to hunting in Colorado and they don’t have hunter education, they’ll take the course.”

MDC Texas County resource forester Travis Mills is a former conservation agent and has been involved in hunter education since 1997. He said part of the skills portion of the course will put students a station-to-station situation.

“They’ll have to demonstrate proficiency in matters like proper muzzle control, loading and unloading, checking whether their firearm is loaded or unloaded, crossing a fence, and other situations,” Mills said.

No matter how a student completes the knowledge portion of the program, registration is required for attending a skills session, and a qualifier certificate (obtained after completion of the knowledge portion either online or in the classroom) or a study guide with all chapters completed must be shown to gain entry.

After successfully completing both parts of the program, students will receive a temporary certificate that will allow the purchase of a hunting permit.

Both portions of the MDC’s new hunter education program will be offered in Texas County in October, at Faith Fellowship Church in Bucyrus (on Highway 17, about four miles west of Houston). The knowledge portion (featuring lectures and videos) will take place Friday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 10 p.m., and the skills portion on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 8 a.m. to noon.

Both segments will be limited to 45 students, and online individual preregistration is required for each at http:/my.register-ed.com. Instruction will be provided by Mills, Ely, Texas County conservation agent Jeff Crites, and various qualified volunteers (both male and female) who have completed MDC hunter education instructor certification courses.

Study guides for the knowledge portion may be obtained at the MDC field office in Houston, or by calling 417-967-3385. The knowledge portion may be completed online by logging onto http://www.hunter-ed.com/missouri/.

Ely and Mills both figure it’s likely that the classes at Faith Fellowship will fill up quickly (particularly the skills portion) and local residents who want to be hunter-ed certified should sign up without delay.

“Signing up has to be done online and it’s first come, first served,” Mills said. “When it hits 45, that’s it.”

For more information about MDC hunter education, log onto http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/hunter-education-and-safety.

Hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1967, and who are 16 or older, must complete an approved hunter education course and must provide a hunter education certificate to purchase a permit to hunt with firearms. Hunters must be at least 11 years old to receive the certification. Youths ages six through 15 can hunt without certification, when accompanied by a qualified, certified adult, unless exempt by their age.

The MDC also recommends that youth hunters begin with an adult mentor to become familiar with hunting and it’s terminology before taking the course. Hunters who have completed an approved hunter education course in another state are not required to take Missouri’s course.

The MDC also offers an apprentice hunter authorization that allows people 16 years and older to hunt without hunter-ed certification. The apprentice must hunt with an adult who is certified in hunter education, unless exempt by age.

For further information about MDC hunter education, log onto http://mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/hunter-education-and-safety, or call the MDC field office in Houston at 417-967-3385.

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