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Spring is on the way. Take advantage of hunter education opportunities.

Francis Skalicky, Missouri Department of Conservation
Hailey Hindman, age six, and her dad Jake Hindman on a turkey hunt during youth weekend. This was Hailey's first turkey.

Now is the time to start preparing for spring turkey season or other hunting opportunities later in the year. If taking hunter education is one of the things you need to do to enjoy firearms hunting opportunities this year, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has several options available, but the opportunities are more limited due to COVID.

Individuals born on or after Jan. 1, 1967 hunting in Missouri during a firearms season or acting as an adult mentor to another hunter must have hunter education certification unless exempt (see exemptions listed below). You must be at least 11 years old to take hunter education in Missouri. MDC offers two hunter education options; an all-online format and a blended format.

The all-online format may be completed by Missouri residents age 16 and older. It consists of an online course and requires a fee paid to the online course provider (not MDC). The all-online option requires the passing of a final exam, but does not require attending a hands-on skills portion. In addition to the convenience this option offers, it is also encouraged at this time to avoid any COVID risks.

The blended format has two parts. The knowledge portion provides information to participants on all aspects of hunter education and can be taken online (there is a fee with this option), or through a free student manual requested online at:

https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/hunter-education-skills-training/hunter-ed-study-guide-order-form. In the southwest part of the state, these student manuals can also be obtained at MDC’s Southwest Regional Office (2630 N. Mayfair, Springfield), Springfield Conservation Nature Center (4601 S. Nature Center Way, Springfield), Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center (4897 N. Greene County Farm Road 61) and the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center (201 Riviera Drive, Joplin). No in-person knowledge sessions are being offered this spring in southwest Missouri.

Participants must also complete an in-person four-hour skills session that includes a multiple-choice final exam. The skills portion is a hands-on demonstration of skills learned by participants. Participants must complete and pass both portions to earn certification. For youths in the 11-15 age range who aren’t offered hunter education at their schools, there will be classes offered in southwest Missouri at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center, and at the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center. Individuals are encouraged to visit mdc.mo.gov/huntereducation to find upcoming in-person skills sessions at these three MDC facilities because classes are limited and will fill quickly. The absence of in-person knowledge sessions and the limited number of in-person skills sessions being offered are due to COVID concerns.

At these in-person skills sessions, MDC will abide by applicable local health requirements and strongly encourages participants to bring and wear masks. Hand sanitizer will be available to participants, but masks will not be provided by at the above-listed classes.

“To help staff, volunteers, program participants, and others stay safe, MDC has changed the format and structure of some of our programs, including hunter education,” said MDC Hunter Education and Shooting Range Coordinator Justin McGuire. “MDC still offers ample opportunities for people to legally hunt in Missouri through youth exemptions, our apprentice hunter education authorization, and online hunter education.”

Exemptions to Missouri’s hunter education requirements are:

-Hunters born before Jan. 1, 1967

-Hunters age 15 or younger who will be hunting with an adult mentor age 18 years or older who is certified in hunter education.

-Hunters with a disability exemption from MDC

-Hunters age 16 or older who have purchased an apprentice hunter authorization and will be hunting with a properly permitted adult mentor age 18 or older

-Hunters who are landowners hunting on land they own.

-Hunters who can prove completion of an approved hunter education course in another state

More information about hunter education opportunities in southwest Missouri can be obtained by calling MDC’s Southwest Regional Office at 417-895-6880 or going to mdc.mo.gov.