Hunter Education course descriptions

The MassWildlife 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-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. The active listing of all Basic Hunter Education courses being offered currently across the state of Massachusetts can be viewed online at Mass.gov/huntsafe 
    • 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. 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).
    • There is NO live firing in a Massachusetts Basic Hunter Education course.
    • Do NOT bring any firearms or ammunition with you to this course.
  • 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.

To view an active listing of all of the Basic Hunter Education courses being offered throughout Massachusetts, please visit 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.
  • 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.

Click here to see if there are any Trapper Education courses being offered by the MassWildlife Hunter Education Program.

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.
  • Equipment: Students are NOT required to bring any archery equipment.
  • When: Courses are offered in the spring, summer, and early fall, and include a minimum of 8 hours of instruction. You may need to travel a further 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.

Click here to see if there are any Bowhunter Education courses being offered by the MassWildlife Hunter Education Program.

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 further 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.

Click here to see if there are any Black Powder Education courses being offered by the MassWildlife Hunter Education Program.

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).

Click here to see if there are any Waterfowl I.D. & Hunting courses being offered by the MassWildlife Hunter Education Program.

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: Courses are only 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)

Click here to view the current offerings of the Map, Compass, & Survival course in Massachusetts.

Additional Resources for Map, Compass, and Survival

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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