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President’s Column | NRA Trains New Hunters—For Free

President’s Column | NRA Trains New Hunters—For Free

Photo credit: Michael Ives

This feature appears in the January '18 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.  

The NRA is now in its third century of advocating for hunters. In the decades following NRA’s founding in 1871, our organization widened its focus from firearm training to become a leading voice for hunters. Of the NRA’s five corporate objectives, one is to promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth and conservation, and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.  

The progression from firearm training to hunting quite naturally led to hunter safety training, a concept the NRA pioneered. In 1949, at the request of the state of New York, the NRA developed a program of firearm safety instruction specifically geared to new hunters. The NRA had the training experience, thousands of volunteer certified firearm instructors, and affiliated clubs in place to rapidly develop and launch a hunter safety training program. By 1952, there were 1,160 NRA-certified Hunter Safety Instructors in New York that had trained 19,611 first-time hunters. Instructors appointed by your association offered the course as a public service for free—a huge relief to New York game officials.

The success of the NRA-inspired hunter safety education continues, and our pastime has one of the lowest participant-injury rates among all types of sports.The result: Hunting accidents in New York involving firearms dropped dramatically from an annual average of 30 to several minor incidents. Hunters were safer than ever thanks to the NRA training. Other states took notice, and soon, volunteer NRA Hunter Safety Instructors in every state were training new hunters in the safe and responsible use of firearms in the field—by 1958, 30,247 NRA-certified Hunter Safety Instructors had trained 598,000 first-time hunters. 

The success of the NRA-inspired hunter safety education continues, and our pastime has one of the lowest participant-injury rates among all types of sports. It’s safer to hunt than to golf or play soccer. 

Today, access to state mandated hunter education by young people and millennials is an ever-increasing challenge for those who wish to qualify to purchase their first hunting license. But there is a solution to this growing barrier to future hunters. 

Today’s technology provides access as never before. And so we’re launching NRA Online Hunter Education (nrahe.org). New hunters can again receive cutting-edge firearm safety and fieldcraft training nationwide. And just as in 1949, that training is free

Developed over three years by the NRA Hunter Services Department in concert with leading instructional design firms, NRA Online Hunter Education uses updated tools and a fresh attitude to teach students to hunt safely with firearms and archery equipment. The curriculum is broken into four modules—Firearm Basics, Firearm Handling, Field Safety and Hunter Ethics—that cover the gamut from different firearm operating mechanisms and the primary rules of gun safety to field dressing game and navigating wild terrain. Each topic is presented via detailed but easy-to-grasp explanations, videos, audio and other interactive content.

New hunters can again receive cutting-edge firearm safety and fieldcraft training nationwide. And just as in 1949, that training is free.Easily accessed online, students learn at their own pace during times that fit their schedule. At the end of each module, they have a chance to review the material before being challenged to demonstrate what they learned. After completing all four modules, students must pass a final assessment test to receive a completion voucher. They can also register for a local in-the-field proficiency test, administered and required by some states in order to receive hunter education certification.

While some states already offer online training, NRA’s course provides two major benefits. First, it’s free; third-party vendors currently partnering with states to provide their own online curriculums charge nearly $30 per student. Second, there is no entity as experienced at educating new hunters on a national scale as your NRA—and the content available at nrahe.org shows it.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission immediately recognized the benefits of NRA Online Hunter Education and became the first state to certify the program as meeting its training requirements. New hunters in Florida can receive a hunting license by successfully completing the course and a “Skills Day.”

Other states have expressed interest in adopting NRA Online Hunter Education—the information presented therein can be tailored to meet any state’s requirements—and we expect others will soon follow. 

Log on to nrahe.org, even if you’re a veteran hunter, and experience the top-notch training only NRA can provide. Contact your state’s wildlife division and encourage them to accept the NRA Online Hunter Education where you live and hunt.