Students learning the importance of shot placement at one of the Hunter Education camps at Washington Ranch near Carlsbad.

Hunter education… why wait!

Firearms safety. Ethical shot placement. Respect for natural resources. These may be some concepts that come to mind when you think of hunter education.

In the 1940s, volunteer sportsmen and women who had the desire to raise ethical behaviors and actions by hunters while in the field established hunter education as a nationwide effort. This effort was to promote the self-respect of all hunters and change negative behaviors. The problems of firearms and hunting accidents, game law violations and disrespect of the natural resources were met head on by those who had the passion to pass on these positive standards. In just under 80 years, the result has been one of the most successful programs ever produced by conservation organizations and fish and wildlife agencies.

Above: Students learning the importance of shot placement at one of the Hunter Education camps at Washington Ranch near Carlsbad. Below: Hunter education instructors review the camp agenda and expectations at Camp Wehinahpay near Cloudcroft. Department photos by Ross Morgan.

Hunter education instructors review the camp agenda and expectations at Camp Wehinahpay near Cloudcroft.

Hunter education is intended to provide an educational opportunity that enables students to safely participate in hunting or the shooting sports. Its mission is to produce safe, ethical and responsible members of the community that will be tomorrow’s hunters.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish first provided hunter education in 1965 and in the early-1970s laws were formed to support safe and ethical hunting behaviors. New Mexico requires all hunters under 18 years of age to have a state-approved hunter education certificate before they can hunt with a firearm or apply for any firearms hunting licenses. The department encourages hunters of all ages to participate in hunter education. Hunter education programs are ran by each state’s fish and wildlife agency and over 650,000 students are certified annually, nationwide. Hunter education certificates are recognized in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico.

The department offers courses year-round, statewide. Students have options on how to earn their New Mexico hunter education certificate. Students of any age can register for a standard course that is typically taught over a weekend. Students age 10 and over may choose to take the more advanced field-day course option that is a more hands-on, six-hour course. Both of these courses are led by department certified hunter education instructors and staff.

Additionally, students age 11 and over have the option of gaining their certification completely online from one of the three online course providers. There is no in-person requirement. The department also hosts hunter education camps from spring through fall that provide the chance to earn a hunter education certificate in a camp-style setting. Camps provide the opportunity to shoot .22 rifles, bows, shotguns and on occasion, even fish!

It is important to remember that hunting is a privilege. Hunter education is a proactive way that successfully reduces poor hunting behavior and hunting-related incidents. If hunting is to survive for generations, hunters must act safely and responsibly towards themselves, other hunters, non-hunters, landowners and to the resource itself. This is everything that is taught throughout a hunter education course.

Why wait? Take a course today!

About Jennifer Morgan

Jennifer Morgan
Jennifer Morgan is the hunter education coordinator with the department.