Hunter Education course descriptions

MassWildlife's Hunter Education Program offers 6 courses that provide instruction in outdoor activities related to hunting, trapping, and firearm use.

Cost: All courses offered by the Hunter Education Program are FREE of charge.

Age Requirements: All Hunter Education courses are taught at a 6th Grade Reading Level. Therefore, students under the age of 12 may have difficulty passing a Hunter Education course. Please call the Hunter Education Program for further guidance. 

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 hunting license.

  • 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 15 hours of instruction (this can vary). Currently, students can attend either a traditional course with multiple in-class sessions or 2-day independent study course. There is NO online-only option available in Massachusetts. 
  • When: The majority of the courses are offered before hunting season begins (January through early October). Courses fill quickly! Do not wait until the last minute to enroll in a course. 
  • Where: Statewide with 90-120 courses offered each year.
  • Certificate: Upon successful completion, graduates will receive a Certificate of Completion recognized in all U.S. states, Canada, and Mexico. Successful completion of this course also fulfills the requirements to apply through your local police department for a License to Carry Firearms (LTC) or Firearms Identification Card (FID). IMPORTANT: There is NO live firing in a Massachusetts Basic Hunter Education course.
  • Study guide: Those who want to refresh their hunting and firearm safety knowledge have access to a free, comprehensive, self-study online resource.

Additional Resources for Basic Hunter Education

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.
  • When: Courses are offered about 3-5 times a year (early spring and fall) and typically include 10 hours of instruction over 2 days. 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 required to apply for a Massachusetts trap registration number.

Additional Resources for Trapper Education

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. 
  • When: Courses are offered in spring, summer, and fall, and include a minimum of 8 hours of instruction. 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.

Additional Resources for Bowhunter Education

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. 
  • Length: Courses are 10 hours long with classroom and field instruction. 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.

Additional Resources for Black Powder Education

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. 
  • When: Courses are 8 hours in length and are held in a classroom.  
  • Where: Courses are held in Carver (Plymouth County) & Hadley (Hampshire County).

Additional Resources for Waterfowl Identification and Hunting

Map, Compass, and Survival

  • Topics covered: Students receive instruction on the use of a compass and topographical map for land navigation.
  • When: Courses are offered once a month from April through October and are 10 hours long with classroom and field instruction.
  • Where: Historically courses have been offered in the towns of Westminster (Worcester County) and Pittsfield (Berkshire County). 
  • 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)

Additional Resources for Map, Compass, and Survival

View the active course schedules

The 6 courses offered by the Hunter Education Program are all free of charge and each active course listing can be accessed by following the links below:

  1. Basic Hunter Education - required for all first-time hunters 18 years of age and older 
  2. Trapper Education - required to apply for a MA Trap Registration number
  3. Bowhunter Education - not required in Massachusetts
  4. Black Powder Hunter Education - not required in Massachusetts
  5. Waterfowl ID & Hunting Education - not required in Massachusetts
  6. Map, Compass, & Survival - offered in the towns of Westminster and/or Pittsfield, this course is not required in Massachusetts

MassWildlife offers additional courses, workshops, and training that may be of interest to students. To see what MassWildlife offers, please visit www.mass.gov/masswildlife and www.mass.gov/outdoor-skills-classes

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