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Online hunting education offered to entice Md. youth

July 08, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

A new hunting education course will allow first-time hunters to complete Maryland Hunter Education requirements online.

Some local hunters say the online course, which is a substitute for spending time in a classroom, could entice younger hunters to be certified.

Maryland began offering the Internet-based course July 1 for those 14 years old and older. Traditional classes will continue to be available for those needing to complete the Maryland Hunter Education requirements.

"We want young hunters coming on board," said Sgt. Ken Turner, spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police. "We want to make sure they learn the correct way to go out there and hunt. But you're never too old to learn."

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Turner said the online course is another tool being used to promote safe hunting.

The classroom and online courses include instruction in hunter responsibility, firearms and ammunition, firearm handling and safety, marksmanship and shooting fundamentals, principles of wildlife management, bow hunting, muzzleloader hunting, safety and first aid, water safety and Maryland legal requirements, according to the Department of Natural Resources Web site (www.dnr.state.md.us/nrp/education).

After taking the course, students must pass a written test, which is followed by a Maryland Hunter Education Field Day for additional hands-on training.

Between 7,500 and 8,000 people each year receive certification to hunt in Maryland, said Vic Maccallum, hunter education coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.

He said other states have offered online courses in the past, and state officials hope it "draws interest" to hunting. Receiving certification typically costs $6, but the online course will cost an additional $15, Maccallum said.

"We're trying to make it as easy as possible for hunters in Maryland to get that education," Turner said of one of the reasons for offering the online option.

Tom Forman, vice president of the Washington County chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America and archery director, said the online course likely will interest younger hunters.

"It would probably attract more kids if they could sit in front of a computer and do it instead of in a classroom," Forman said.

Western Maryland, however, might not have the audience for the new option, Forman said, noting that not everyone is "literate with computers."

Robert Walton of Maugansville said he is not familiar with the online course, but he said he was glad to hear that hunters will still be required to receive hands-on training. Walton is secretary of the North American Rod and Gun Club in Hagerstown.

"I could teach you to drive over the Internet, but you'd never be able to do it without getting behind the wheel," Walton said. "When it comes to field training, you must go outside with a gun."

For details or to enroll in the online Maryland Hunter Education course, go to www.hunter-ed.com/md.

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