MISSOULA - Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) hunter education classes are returning to in-person instruction following a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The class — which is required for all Montanans that apply for a hunting license for the first time — covers firearm safety, responsible land use, and fair-chase practices.
Volunteer instructor Chad Bauer said teaching online was challenging.
“I highly encourage people to go through the classroom rather than just going online,” Bauer said. “I teach this class because I want to pass this on to the next generation, the 10-15 yr old students we have are the next generation of hunters.”
The free online course is still available to use, but getting a certificate requires a day of field testing.
FWP spokesperson Vivica Crowser said attending a class in person is a rite of passage for many Montana hunters.
“You get a chance in a lot of our courses to get out in the field and practice things like crossing a fence,” Crowser said. “Things like that are so hard to get an appreciation for when you’re doing that online.”
The training courses are hosted at FWP regional headquarters throughout Montana several times a year leading up to the hunting season. Crowser said every outdoor enthusiast could learn something from the class.
“It’s great information to have even if you never get in the field or even if it’s a few years down the road,” Crowser said. “That firearm safety is really important no matter who you are.”
Bauer has volunteered for the Missoula branch for 19 years. He said the course is a big reason why Montana’s hunting culture is so strong.
“The big points for us in the course are teaching them how to be respectful, responsible, safe, and ethical,” Bauer said. “It's not just around the firearms, it's about with the other people and in the woods because Montana has a lot to offer.”
Hunter education is not the only program to return to in-person instruction. FWP’s Montana WILD center in Helena has restarted its field trips and opened the exhibit hall.
For more information on classes and how to sign up, go to: https://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter-education