The COVID-19 pandemic is changing so many parts of life in Montana this year – hunter and bowhunter education is no different. In response to social distancing requirements and restrictions on group gatherings, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is turning to online courses for all students this year only.
The online courses and mandatory field days have been available to adults for a tuition fee of $25 for hunter education and $30 for bowhunter education. The in-person courses have always been, and will remain, free. However, since the in-person options aren’t feasible under Phases 1 and 2 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky plan, FWP will cover the online tuition fees for all Montana residents until the state reaches Phase 3 of the plan and in-person hunter and bowhunter education courses are available once again.
The online courses will be available May 12 to Montana residents who are at least the age of 12 by Jan. 16, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of hunter and bowhunter education classes March 16. Around 1,000 students were certified prior to March 16, but there is currently a backlog of several thousand waiting to be certified.
The online courses, which are developed and administered by the outdoor education company Kalkomey, include text, videos and interactive scenarios to engage students. Students will need to pass a final test to qualify for a certificate.
“We wrestled with several options for providing hunter and bowhunter education courses this year,” said FWP Director Martha Williams. “Ultimately, given the difficulty many families in Montana are experiencing with this pandemic, we knew continuing to offer these educational opportunities and certifications for free was important.”
When the state moves to Phase 2, there may be additional options for hunter and bowhunter education.
In Phase 3 FWP will discontinue the online only option and again offer traditional in-person classroom courses.
“We value our hands-on classroom courses and field days all done with the dedication of our excellent volunteer instructors,” said Wayde Cooperider, outdoor skills and safety coordinator for FWP. “We feel that becoming a safe and ethical hunter requires not only knowledge, but also safe and ethical handling of firearms and archery equipment.”
In the absence of a requirement for a field course for the online courses in Phases 1 and 2, FWP encourages parents or hunting partners to work and practice safe firearm and archery equipment handling with new hunters and bowhunters. FWP has also added a new virtual field course component to the online curriculum for Hunter Education students.
To take the online hunter or bowhunter education course, students can register at http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/.
At this time, students aged 10 and 11 (under age 12 before Jan. 16, 2021) will not have an option for an online class. Those students can hunt as an apprentice this year and/or take a course when traditional classes are offered again in Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening. To learn how to sign up for the hunter apprentice program, go to: fwp.mt.gov/hunting/licenses/all/apprenticeHunter/default.html
If there are any questions, please call your local FWP office or 406-444-9947.