With the junior spring gobbler season set for April 23, and the general spring gobbler season opening on April 30, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe is reminding all first-time license buyers to make plans to attend a Hunter-Trapper Education (HTE) course now.
To register for a course, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), select "Education" in the menu bar in the banner, put the cursor on "Hunter Education," then click on "Class Schedule" and follow the instructions.
With the agency's recent transition to a new website format, course schedules continue to be added each day, said Keith A. Snyder, commission hunter-trapper education division chief.
"If you don't see a class being offered in your area, please continue to check the website daily, as more and more classes will be entered into the database," Snyder said.
With the support of thousands of volunteers, HTE courses are being held throughout the state. There is no fee for the basic HTE course. Pre-registration is required and online registration is available for all courses offered by the agency.
Taught by dedicated teams of trained volunteers, most HTE classes last at least 10 hours over two or more days, and participants must attend all instruction before taking the test at the end of the course. Youngsters must be at least 11 years old to receive HTE certification.
Successful completion of a basic Pennsylvania HTE class, or another state's equivalent course, is required by state law to obtain a first-time hunting or furtaker license, regardless of age.
Registrations also are being accepted for the independent study version of the basic HTE program, which is available for those 11 years of age or older. A fee of $1.59 may apply if applicants order a printed copy of the study manual, which also is available online free of charge.
In addition, registrations are being accepted for other educational programs offered by the Game Commission, including Successful Bowhunting, Successful Furtaking and Cable Restraint Certification.
The Successful Bowhunting course is a one-day voluntary training program for those seeking to expand their skills and knowledge of bowhunting. While voluntary in Pennsylvania, certification for this course may be required by other states. There is an $20 course fee, which covers the cost of the online study course required before attending the class.
Successful Furtaking is a one-day training program that provides extensive hands-on training to new and experienced furtakers. The course promotes Best Management Practices and is designed for any person seeking to learn more about furtaking and to improve his or her skills and success. The course includes the cable restraint certification that is required to participate in the cable restraint season for foxes and coyotes. This course also fulfills the requirement that all first-time furtaker license buyers pass a basic trapper education course. A $15 course fee is charged.
The Cable Restraint Certification course is required for those trappers seeking to participate in the annual trapping season in which cable restraints are used to capture coyotes and foxes. The course fee is $15, and students will get to keep various education materials and one legal cable restraint provided as part of the course.
During 2011, the agency will be launching a new program, Successful Turkey Hunting, which is designed to provide the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in both spring and fall seasons. It will give first-time hunters a huge step toward bagging a bird. Veterans will learn methods and techniques that will make them a better hunter, too. Students will receive a 140-page student guide and a diaphragm turkey call as part of the program. Look for most classes to be up and going before the fall season this year. In the future, classes will start in the spring and continue through the summer and early fall. A $15 fee is being charged to offset costs.
"We are planning to offer additional advanced courses in the future focusing on specific sporting arms and certain species-specific seasons, such as Successful Muzzleloading and Successful Wingshooting," Snyder said. "We will be working with interested groups of sportsmen specializing in each of the areas to develop curriculum and solid hands-on training that will emphasize methods and techniques."
In 1959, the Game Commission began offering a voluntary hunter safety program, and about 25,000 students participated in that program annually. Beginning in 1969, the General Assembly required all first-time hunting license buyers under the age of 16 to successfully complete a four-hour hunter education course. The course requirement was expanded to six hours in 1977. The program became mandatory for all first-time hunting license buyers regardless of age in 1982.
Finally, in 1986, the safety program was increased to 10 hours of class time and trapper training was included. The name of the program also was changed to Hunter-Trapper Education, and was required for all first-time furtaker license buyers, too.
Since 1959, more than 1.8 million students have been certified through this course.