If you were born after 1961, are 12 years or older, you must take a certified hunter education course before you can get a firearm or bowhunting license in North Dakota.
Understanding this, especially if you have your sights set on hunting in fall, now is not the time to drag your feet.
“In some of our communities, especially our smaller communities, there’s only one course a year, so if you need to meet that hunter education requirement, people need to be thinking about it now as the vast majority of our courses are from January through May,” said Brian Schaffer, North Dakota Game and Fish Department hunter education coordinator. “We’ve been working on providing more volunteer-led courses throughout the summer months, but calling the department in August to get certified before our hunting seasons beginning in early fall likely won’t work. And when that class disappears off the Game and Fish website, it means it’s full, so there needs to be some personal responsibility here.”
Individuals interested in taking a hunter education class in 2022 must click on the education link at the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website, gf.nd.gov. To register for a class, click on “enroll” next to the specific class, and follow the simple instructions. Personal information is required. Classes are listed by city and can also be sorted by start date. Classes will be added throughout the year as they become finalized.
Individuals interested in receiving a notice by email or SMS text message when each hunter education class is added, can click on the “subscribe to news and alerts” link found below the news section on the Game and Fish home page. Check the box labeled “hunter education” under the education program updates.
Again, state law requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1961, to pass a certified hunter education course to hunt in the state. Children must be turning 12 during the calendar year to take the home study course, and age 11 during the calendar year can take the traditional in-person class.
Hunter education got its start in North Dakota more than 40 years ago, and the program is approaching a significant signpost, especially when you consider the effort to certify thousands of students has long been led by giving volunteers.
“In the next couple of years, we’re going to hit 250,000 students that have successfully completed hunter education in North Dakota,” Schaffer said. “It’s a milestone that all of our volunteers, our agency and anyone who’s ever been part of hunter education should be proud of. It shows a collaborative effort to make North Dakota hunting safer and not just for hunters, but for the landowners and for the citizens of North Dakota who we’ve been teaching for over 40 years what we think is important for our hunters to know before they ever step foot in a field in North Dakota.”
Typically, about 5,000 students take and pass hunter education in North Dakota every year.
“The demographics of our hunter education courses have changed drastically over the last 10-20 years. Historically, our hunter education classes in the 1980s and1990s consisted of mostly our children, and most of them were male students,” Schaffer said. “That shifted quite a bit and now it’s almost a 50-to-50 ratio of male to female. And we’re also seeing a lot of young adults taking hunter education, people that didn’t grow up in a hunting family or for whatever reason, they didn’t take hunter ed as a child, we’re seeing more and more adults taking hunter education.”
What hasn’t changed is that the program leans heavily on the selfless individuals who teach the classes across North Dakota.
“We have roughly 700 volunteers who teach hunter education in a given year, and some of those people have been teaching for 30 and 40 years,” Schaffer said. “We also have people who are only a year or two into it. And so, if you have any interest in helping out, there’s a variety of ways we can get you involved in the hunter education program. It’s a way to give back to your community and give back to our hunting heritage here in North Dakota.”