Four changes to the state’s hunter education requirements will take effect this month, resulting in more opportunities for Oklahomans to try hunting while making hunting safer for the state’s youngest big game hunters.
Effective Aug. 26, anyone 31 years of age or older will be exempt from hunter education requirements. Additionally, hunters ages 8-30 will be able to purchase an apprentice-designated hunting license that allows them to go hunting without first completing a hunter education course, provided that they are accompanied by a licensed adult mentor who is at least 18 years old and hunter education certified (or exempt from license and hunter education requirements).
In previous years, hunters were not exempt from hunter education requirements until 36 years of age or older, apprentice-designated hunting licenses were only available to hunters at least 10 years old, and mentor hunters had to be at least 21 to accompany an apprentice hunter.
“These three changes should simplify the requirements for responsible adult hunters to get involved in hunting while making the apprentice-designated license available to youth who are ready to start hunting under a mentor at a younger age,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We also feel that 18-year-olds are adults and should be allowed to introduce their friends to the sport of hunting.”
In addition to making the apprentice-designated hunting license more accessible, one other change will require more supervision for young hunters. Effective Aug. 26, all hunters under the age of 10, whether hunter education certified or not, must be accompanied when hunting big game.
“Big game hunting is a safe and fun sport, and our state’s young hunters deserve to be introduced to the joys it offers,” Meek said. “But they also deserve to be mentored and guided so that they are equipped to be safe, responsible hunters in the future. This is a reasonable change, and we are confident it will result in safer hunting situations for our young big game hunters and will ensure they gain a true appreciation for conservation and the outdoors.”
Most Oklahomans who want to hunt big game must be hunter education certified in order to hunt alone, or must possess an apprentice-designated hunting license and remain within arms reach of a qualifying mentor hunter. Exemptions from hunter education certification as of Aug. 26 will include anyone 31 years of age or older, anyone honorably discharged from or currently on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and members of the National Guard.
Meek encourages new hunters to complete the Department’s hunter education course, and reminds hunters who plan to hunt in other states that completing a course may be required. The Wildlife Department’s hunter education class covers a variety of topics including firearms safety, wildlife identification, wildlife conservation and management, survival, archery, muzzleloading and hunter responsibility. It is available as a standard eight-hour course held in communities across the state, an Internet home study course and a workbook home study course. A full listing of course dates and locations can be found online at wildlifedepartment.com.