SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — August brings great anticipation for sportsmen in West Virginia. The heat of summer has exhausted the opportunities for effective fishing for the time being and attention for many has already started to turn to the upcoming hunting season.

Hunters will spend hours practicing with their bow, scouting hunting territory, working on food plots, posting trail cameras, or any number of other preseason activities. The one thing many will forget, until the very last minute, is getting themselves or their kids into a certified hunter education course.

“That’s typical every year,” laughed Lt. Ed Goodson who heads up hunter education for the West Virginia Natural Resources Police. “Those classes run from August all the way up into November and December, but folks seem to wait until two nights before rifle season and then start looking. But they’re available now.”

He suggested getting into to a class now while the atmosphere is relaxed and there isn’t a rush to get it done. Hunter education is required for anyone born after January 1, 1975. Goodson said the number of hunters who are grandfathered into the law is starting to become fewer and fewer each year. A growing number of hunters have either taken the class or their children now need to take it.

“Parents will bring their kids and ask if they can sit in,” Goodson said. “I asked if they are going to take the course. If you have to sit here anyway, why not take it together. Going out hunting as a family, it starts in hunker education class. It means a lot to a kid to see Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa taking that course with them.”

Hunter education classes started in the 1960’s when state wildlife agencies were faced with an alarming number of accidental shootings. The course originally was set up to cut down on those shooting incidents, and several chapters are still dedicated to firearm safety, but the course has evolved with the times.

“The shooter on victim incident is almost a thing of the past for us now. In 2017 we had a total of 17 incidents and there was only one that involved a shooting,” said Goodson. “But our biggest problem is those tree stands. We are changing the course to spend more time on tree stand safety.”

The course is comprehensive. Participants will leave with knowledge about wildlife biology, game management, wilderness survival, proper care of meat, first aid, ATV safety, and more information along with regulations and rules regarding safety in the field.

“You’re going to learn something,” said Goodson. “There’s tons of information, if you don’t learn something, something went terribly wrong.”

You can find a class near you by clicking here.

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