About the Hunter Education courses

The MassWildlife Hunter Education Program offers 6 types of courses including the mandatory Basic Hunter Education course.

All courses are FREE of charge and open to the public.

Basic Hunter Education

Completion of a Basic Hunter Education course is mandatory, by state law, for anyone 18 years of age or older who wants to obtain their first-ever hunting license. A government-issued Basic Hunter Education certificate of completion from any jurisdiction is accepted to meet this requirement.

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction in the safe handling and storage of hunting arms and ammunition, hunting laws and ethics, care and handling of game, and wildlife conservation.
  • Length: Courses typically include 12-18 hours of instruction (this can vary). Currently, students can attend either a traditional course with multiple in-class sessions or a 2-day independent study course.  
    • There is NO online-only option available in Massachusetts.
    • There are NO 1-day-only Basic Hunter Education courses offered in Massachusetts.
  • When: The majority of the courses are offered before hunting season begins (January through October). Courses fill quickly! Do not wait until the fall hunting season to try and find a course - you may be too late. 
  • Where: Statewide with 100-130 courses offered each year.
  • Certificate: Upon successful completion, graduates will receive a Certificate of Completion recognized in all U.S. states, Canada, and Mexico.
  • Study guide: Those who want to refresh their hunting and firearm safety knowledge or study for an upcoming course have access to a free, comprehensive, self-study online resource at huntercourse.com.
  • Find a course: To find a Basic Hunter Education course, visit the course listing at Mass.gov/HuntSafe.

Trapper Education

The Trapper Education course is mandatory in Massachusetts for Problem Animal Control (PAC) agents and first-time trappers who wish to apply for a trap registration number.

  • Topics covered: Using both classroom work and field training, students receive instruction on best management practices for trapping furbearers, the proper use of traps, furbearer identification, trapping laws, ethics, and landowner relations. This course typically includes 10 hours of instruction divided into 2 sessions.
  • When: Courses are offered about 3-5 times a year in the spring and fall.
  • Where: The facilities used varies each year. You may need to travel a longer distance in order to attend this course.
  • Certificate: Upon successful completion, graduates receive a Trapper Education Certification of Completion, which is required to apply for a Massachusetts trap registration number, and a Bailey & Hancock training certificate.
  • Find a course: To find a Trapper Education course, visit the course listing by clicking here.

Bowhunter Education

This course is not required for bowhunting in Massachusetts and does not qualify a person to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license.

However, a Massachusetts Bowhunter Education Certificate is accepted in other states and provinces that mandate the completion of a bowhunter education course.

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction on bowhunting methods, the selection of equipment, bowhunting safety, ethics, and handling of game. This course typically includes 8 hours of instruction.
  • When: Courses are offered 15-25 times a year typically in the spring, summer, and early fall.
  • Where: The facilities used varies each year. You may need to travel a longer distance in order to attend this course.
  • Certificate: Upon successful completion, graduates receive a Certification of Completion, which is accepted in other jurisdictions (U.S., Mexico, & Canada) that mandate the successful completion a bowhunter course.
  • Find a course: To find a Bowhunter Education course, visit the course listing by clicking here.

Black Powder Education

This course is not required for hunting with a muzzleloader in Massachusetts and does not qualify a person to purchase a Massachusetts hunting or sporting license.

The Black Powder Hunter Education course is designed for both experienced and novice hunters who want to improve their skills and learn more. 

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction on the selection of hunting equipment, state laws, the safe handling of muzzleloaders, and powder storage. Courses are typically 10 hours long and include classroom and field instruction.
  • When: This course is offered intermittently.
  • Where: The facilities used varies. You may need to travel a longer distance in order to attend this course.
  • Certificate: Upon successful completion, graduates receive a Certification of Completion, which is accepted in other jurisdictions (US, Mexico, & Canada) that mandate the successful completion a black powder course.

Waterfowl Identification and Hunting

The Waterfowl ID & Hunting Education course is not required for waterfowl hunting in Massachusetts. It is designed for both experienced and novice hunters who want to improve their skills and learn more.

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction on the identification of migratory waterfowl, with an emphasis on ducks in flight. It includes fall and winter plumage and the size, shape, and flight characteristics of birds, as well as hunting safely from boats and blinds. Courses are typically 8 hours long.
  • When: Courses are typically offered 1 or 2 times each year.
  • Where: Courses are typically offered in the towns of Carver (Plymouth County) & Hadley (Hampshire County).

Map, Compass, and Survival

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction on the use of a compass and topographical map for land navigation. Students will be outdoors part of the day (rain or shine)! All students must come prepared. Please bring a lunch, snacks, water, and a whistle to class. Students must be dressed for outdoor activities (i.e. sunglasses, long pants, hiking shoes/boots, insect/tick repellent, rain gear, and bright-colored outer clothing).
  • When: Courses are offered once a month, on a Saturday, from April through October.
  • Length: Courses are typically 10 hours long and include classroom and field instruction.
  • Where: Courses are only offered in the towns of Westminster (Worcester County) and Pittsfield (Berkshire County).  

Who teaches these courses and why are they free?

The core of the MassWildlife Hunter Education Program is it's dedicated team of volunteer instructors. Many of the courses offered across the state are taught by certified instructors who work in teams to conduct courses, secure teaching locations, and help pass on the traditions, ethics, and excitement of hunting to beginners of all ages.

If you are interested in joining our team of volunteers,visit our page: Become a Masswildlife Hunter Education Volunteer Instructor.

Funding for Hunter Education is derived from the sale of hunting and sporting licenses as well as federal excise taxes on firearms and archery equipment. This funding is what keeps our courses free to all students.

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