Recently, Michigan United Conservation Clubs has heard some myths related to our Michigan Hunter Education program and thought it was about time to knock ’em down.
By Shaun McKeon, MUCC Education Director
Over the last several months, MUCC staff has been hearing from numerous corners of the state about the Hunter Education program in Michigan. We have listened to various questions, rumors and concerns regarding the program.
Executive Director Amy Trotter and I sat down with DNR staff in charge of the Recreation Safety Programs (Bow, Trapper, Hunter, Marine, ORV and Snowmobile) to help shed some light on some of the things going on in the hunter education world.
To purchase a hunting license in Michigan, an individual born on or after January 1, 1960 must complete an approved hunter education course. There are a few exceptions for new and youth hunters, such as hunting on an apprentice or mentored youth license, but that exemption is only for two years. After that, they must take and pass the hunter education course.
Currently, there are three ways to complete the hunter education course in Michigan. Students can take the traditional classroom course, an online course with an in-person field day or a home study course with an in-person field day.
Myths we’ve heard:
Instructors must pass every student no matter what
The DNR is trying to eliminate volunteer instructors
DNR wants to get rid of in-person instruction and do online-only hunter safety.
The hunter safety requirement is a waste of time and people shouldn’t need to take the course
The traditional classroom course is what MUCC clubs have provided for decades and continue to provide to the public. This course consists of at least 10 hours of in-person instruction over at least two days. This 10-hour time frame includes the hours dedicated to the field day. Currently, the maximum price for an in-person course is $10. This allows clubs to cover supplies and ammo they may use during instruction. To find a traditional class, visit https://michigan.storefront.kalkomey.com/em/programs.
The online + field day course is a series of virtual lessons (videos, reading, interactive scenarios) that can be completed at the pace of an individual on their own time. A software company provides the online course in partnership with the Michigan DNR. The online course costs $28.95 and goes to the software provider. Once the student completes the online instruction, they will receive a certificate of completion. They must then bring this certificate to an in-person field day. The field day is where they will take the 50-question exam and get hands-on training in archery and firearms. The field day must be a minimum of four hours, and the host site can charge up to $10. To find out more about the online course click here.
The home study + field day course is a self-paced book lesson that the individual can complete at their own pace.
This course utilizes the same workbook as the traditional classroom course, but students can pick it up before a class and complete each section at their own pace. Once they have completed the quizzes/sections in the book, they can register for the field day. The field day is where they will take the 50-question exam and get hands-on training in archery and firearms.
The field day must be a minimum of four hours, and the host site can charge up to $10. To register for a field day https://michigan.storefront.kalkomey.com/em/programs.
During COVID-19, the DNR paused the traditional in-person courses and allowed people to purchase licenses after only completing the online portion of the course. This process was only in effect for a limited time during the pandemic, and the three methods above are once again the only acceptable options for taking the course.
No matter which version of the course the student takes, the student must pass with a score of 40/50 or 80%. The tests should all take place in person, either as part of the traditional classroom session or part of the field day. The online course has practice quizzes, but students do not take the official test until their field day. Students must pass the test with 80% correct and should demonstrate a safe and responsible manner when handling archery and firearms equipment during the field day. If the student scores below the required 80% or is unsafe while on the range, an instructor should not issue them a passing certificate.
As an instructor, you have probably noticed that in 2021 the DNR changed the platform to deliver hunter education information and sign-up registrations.
The new program is called Event Manager and is run by the company that provides the curriculum for hunter education in more than 25 states. Kalkomey, in partnership with the DNR, made this switch in August of 2021, and it is the platform where classes will be announced, registration can take place, and instructors can turn to order their educational materials and information from the DNR. While there have been some kinks and miscommunications in the rollout, the DNR is confident its instructors will find the new program a more useful platform in the long term. While this new platform will take some adjusting for instructors, it should help instructors and the department do a better job of recording information accurately. This new registration platform has eliminated the need for bubble sheets, which had an error completion rate of over 30% in previous years. It also allows students to register themselves for open classes, saving instructors time by not having to create their own registration systems.
When the Hunter Education program was audited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, error rates of 30% occurred in multiple areas, and the State of Michigan was put on probation. Changing over to the new digital platform is one way the DNR is working to bring that error rate down and keep the program in compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Although the course switched to online during the pandemic, the DNR has no plans to phase out in-person instruction or to replace its volunteer instructors with online-only education. The volunteers are the most valuable part of the program, and without the instructors, the DNR cannot run hunter safety effectively state-wide. Volunteers are the backbone of the program. Currently, there are about 2,100 instructors in the system. The DNR relies on the volunteer hours as part of the match requirement to help the state achieve the maximum amount of Pittman-Robertson funds from the federal excise taxes. The goal each year is to provide 17,000 match hours, and volunteer instructor time is the primary method the DNR uses to achieve these hours. Volunteers matter.
The Recreation Safety staff, alongside the hunter education county coordinators, will hold in-person training for instructors who would like to learn more about using Event Manager. County coordinators are meeting at the end of April, and training sessions will take place throughout the state during the summer months. If you are a current instructor, keep an eye on your email for dates/classes in your area.
The state is always looking to recruit new instructors. As demand continues to outpace class availability, the state needs instructors to teach the courses. To find out more information about becoming a volunteer instructor, visit https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/about/get-involved/volunteer-recreational-safety-instructor.