About the Hunter Education courses

The MassWildlife Hunter Education Program offers courses in six disciplines including the Basic Hunter Education course which is required of first-time hunters to purchase their first hunting license.

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General information

Any person regardless of race, gender, citizenship, or handicap may participate in the Hunter Education Program's courses. Students 17 years of age or younger will need written permission from a parent or legal guardian to attend any courses offered by the Hunter Education Program. Students of all ages are welcome to take our courses, however, most students are 12 years of age or older as all materials and exams are written at a 6th grade reading level.

About 130 courses, each year, are offered across the state from January through October/early November. Courses are offered in different formats to try and meet the public’s needs.

Funding for the program is derived from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses, and from federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment. All courses are conducted free of charge.

Basic Hunter Education

Completion of a Basic Hunter Education course is mandatory, by state law, for adults who want to obtain their first ever hunting license. Learn more.

Basic Hunter Education was developed by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) and includes the safe handling and storage of hunting arms and ammunition, hunting laws and ethics, care and handling of game, and wildlife conservation. 

Massachusetts offers the Basic Hunter Education course in two formats: traditional and independent study. Both formats cover the same curriculum and students will take the same final exam. 

  • Traditional format: Students attend multiple sessions, as scheduled, for a total of 15-18 hours of classroom time.
  • Independent study format: Students attend 2 class sessions, as scheduled, and work independently to complete some of the essential coursework on their own. This format is ideal for students with tight schedules who learn well on their own. Learn more.

Massachusetts does not offer an "online-only" nor does it offer a "1-day" Basic Hunter Education course.

To find a Basic Hunter Education course, please view the listing at Mass.gov/HuntSafe.

Bowhunter Education

Bowhunter Education is not mandatory in Massachusetts and does not qualify a first time hunter for a Massachusetts hunting license.

The Bowhunter Education course was developed by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA) and National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF). Topics covered include the selection of equipment, bowhunting safety, ethics, and bowhunting laws. 

Click here to find a Bowhunter Education course.

Trapper Education

Trapper Education is mandatory in Massachusetts for those who wish to apply for a trap registration number. 

Trapper Education was developed by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and includes both classroom work and field training. Students receive instruction on best management practices for trapping furbearers, the proper use of traps, the identification of fur bearing animals and their habitats, trapping laws, ethical trapping behavior, and landowner relations.

Click here to find a Trapper Education course.

Map, Compass, and Survival

In a Map, Compass, and Survival course students receive instruction on the use of a compass and topographical map for land navigation, as well as wilderness survival. Courses are traditionally held once a month, on a Saturday, from April through October.

Click here to find a Map, Compass, & Survival course.

Waterfowl Identification and Hunting

Waterfowl Identification and Hunting courses teach the identification of waterfowl with an emphasis on ducks in flight. It includes fall and winter plumage and the size, shape, and flight characteristics of the birds, as well as hunting safely from boats and blinds. This type of course is typically offered biannually.

Click here to find a Waterfowl ID and Hunting course.

Click here to learn more about Hunting Migratory Game Birds in Massachusetts.

Black Powder (Muzzleloader) Education

The Black Powder (Muzzleloader) Education course is designed for both experienced and novice hunters who want to improve their skills. Students receive information on muzzleloading equipment, the safe handling of muzzleloaders and ammunition, and muzzleloader hunting laws. This type of course is typically offered annually, when resources allow.

Click here to find a Black Powder (Muzzleloader) Education course.



Program Office (508) 389–7820
Course Enrollment Line (508) 389-7830

Open M-F from 8 a.m.– 4 p.m.


MassWildlife Field Headquarters
1 Rabbit Hill Road
Westborough, MA 01581