48 Degrees North

Hunter Education Rooted in Safety and Tradition

Hunter education courses cover basic information and skills related to the safe handling of firearms

By Tristan Scott
A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ hunter education course. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Hunting has been a Montana tradition since before it was even a state, and some of the first laws enacted after the territory became a state in 1889 were regulations to protect big game populations for future generations — and hunting seasons. Since the 1950s, the state has required new hunters to take hunter education courses that teach ethics, regulations and basic skills for venturing into the wilderness, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Regional Information and Education Program Manager Dillon Tabish. The courses are typically held for a few hours every night for one to two weeks. Nearly all are led by volunteers.

“These people aren’t doing it for the money,” Tabish said. “They’re doing it because they’re passionate about hunting and they care about the future of the sport.”

Hunter education courses cover basic information and skills related to the safe handling of firearms as well as basic instruction in wildlife management, game identification, landowner/hunter relations, hunter ethics, and Montana hunting laws and regulations.

The courses include a review of the four tenants of firearm safety that every student must master before being certified:

1. Always point the muzzle of your gun in a safe direction

2. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded

3. Always be sure of your target and beyond

4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire

To purchase or apply for a Montana hunting license, anyone born after Jan. 1, 1985, must complete a hunter education course issued by Montana, any other state, or any Canadian province. The Apprentice Hunter program allows anyone 10 or older to hunt for up to two years without completing a hunter education course. Certain restrictions apply, and anyone certified as an apprentice must be accompanied by a certified mentor. 

For more information, call your local FWP office or (406) 444-9947 or visit https://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter-education.

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