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Florida Hunter Safety Course Reminder

By Tony Young/FWC

With the dog days of summer fully upon us, it's sometimes hard to even think about hunting. But if you're age 16 to 38 and haven't completed the state's hunter safety course requirement, now's a good time to be thinking about signing up. Don't put it off; August is the best time to take a class in your area.

Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast during hunting season as people scramble to get certified. Often, August and the preceding summer months offer smaller class sizes and a better opportunity for students to take a class, because they have more free time than they will once school cranks up and they get busy with homework and school-related activities.

People born after May 31, 1975, must complete the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone. A law passed a few years ago by the Florida Legislature enables individuals to hunt without having to complete the state's hunter safety certification, but they may hunt only while under supervision.

It's called the Hunter Safety Deferral, and it allows people the opportunity to purchase a license to hunt while under the supervision of a licensed hunter who is at least 21 years old and meets the hunter safety requirement. It's designed to encourage experienced hunters to teach novice hunters safety, ethics, wildlife and hunting skills and respect for the great outdoors.

It's a great incentive for getting more people to try hunting. Also, I hope, the experienced hunters among us can hook some new folks on the sport we love. However, to hunt by yourself, unsupervised, you have to take and pass a hunter safety class and purchase a regular hunting license.

If you're a youngster and already hunt, I suggest you go ahead and take a hunter safety class before you turn 16. Of course, until then, you may hunt under adult supervision and don't need a license.

You can register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office. Also, there are two versions for your convenience.

There's the traditional course, which is 12 hours of classroom instruction plus a four-hour “field day,” or you can opt for taking the online or CD-ROM version at home. But, you'll still have to sign up for the “skills day” part.

The traditional course is offered during four weekdays or on a Saturday-Sunday. If you take it during the week, each session is three hours and offered after normal working hours. On the weekend, you'll spend eight hours Saturday and four hours Sunday morning in the classroom. The remainder of Sunday you'll move over to the shooting range to complete your certification.

The first thing you'll learn about in the traditional class is Florida's hunting laws. An FWC law enforcement officer gives this introduction. Volunteer hunter safety instructors teach the remaining curriculum.

You'll be taught ethics, hunter responsibility, parts of firearms, various hunting lingo and the proper way to shoot.

You'll discover the differences between various bullets, calibers and gauges; how to identify game animals; and learn wildlife conservation and best management practices for native species. In addition, you'll find out about outdoor survival techniques and learn how to administer first aid in the field. Archery and fundamentals of bowhunting also are taught.

In your last hour in the classroom, you'll be given a standardized test of true and false and multiple-choice questions. You need to score an 80 percent or better to move outside to the shooting range for the field day portion.

This part takes about four hours. During that time, you'll get to shoot clay pigeons with a shotgun, practice your archery skills and target practice with a .22 rifle. You'll also receive a muzzleloader demonstration, where you'll have the chance to shoot one if you'd like. All guns, bows, targets and ammo are provided. All you have to do is take aim!

After you complete the field day, you'll be given your hunter safety card. At that point you can purchase a Florida hunting license and get ready for opening day.

If you choose to take the hunter safety class online or by CD-ROM, you'll learn all of the above-mentioned material and be given a practice test to prepare you for the last segment – the skills day.

Skills days take about four hours to complete. You'll learn much of what is taught during the traditional course, including hunting laws and ethics, how to handle firearms safely, when to take a shot and where to place the crosshairs. Then you'll get to shoot on the range and be given the same standardized test.

Register today to take a hunter safety class, 'cause the 2013-2014 hunting season is just around the corner!

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