Monday, January 01, 2007

It's About Time Massachusetts!

Course on weapon safety needed for hunting license

Come Jan.1, Massachusetts will join 49 other states in requiring new hunters to pass a basic course covering the safe handling of weapons and some of the ground rules for the sport before issuing them a license.

The requirement is part of a new law passed this year. Any adult who plans to purchase a hunting or sporting license (the combined hunting and fishing license) must show either one of the following documents: a government-issued certificate from any state, Canada, or Mexico, showing that they have passed a basic hunter education course; or a previous hunting or sporting license from any state, Canada or Mexico. A state-issued firearms identification card or license to carry handguns will no longer be acceptable for purchasing a hunting license.

All minors (those aged 15-17) seeking a license must produce: a basic hunter-education certificate and a letter of consent allowing the minor to hunt from a parent or guardian; or, a consent letter which additionally says that the minor will be accompanied at all times by a licensed adult while hunting.

The good news is that there are about 300 volunteer instructors geared up and ready to teach the required courses. The average instructor has about 10 years of experience with the state’s hunter-education program and most have extensive hunting and survival skills. The state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife has come up with several very flexible formats for the 15-16 hour course; some are available weekday evenings, others on weekends, and a few combine a weekday evening with weekend days. The courses are held throughout the state.

“We really want people to push for the winter-spring courses,” said Susan Langlois, administrator of the hunter-education course for MassWildlife.

“The earlier they take the course, the easier it is for them to meet all of the requirements before hunting.”

New hunters, Langlois said, often don’t recognize the need for a long time line before actually getting out in the field.

“By completing a course early in the year, new hunters have time to apply for firearms licenses, practice newly acquired skills and scout potential hunting locations,” Langlois said.

The state courses are free, as the program costs are financed by the state license purchases of other sportsmen and women and funds that come to the state from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment.

The course schedule is listed on the Web at For further information, call the hunter-education program at: (978) 632-7648.