|Do you need to take an outdoor safety course to obtain your license for firearms, archery, crossbow or trapping? Now’s the time to start thinking about taking the necessary courses required to obtain a hunting, trapping or ATV operator’s license so you’ll be ready to go this fall.
Maine law requires completion of an approved course in order to obtain an adult license unless you have already done so or have previously held an adult license.
Hunters and trappers in Maine must attend training courses specific to the license type they wish to purchase. By state law, anyone planning to buy a basic hunting license, archery license, crossbow license, or trapping license must complete the respective education course. Individuals may purchase any of these licenses by showing a certificate of completion from an appropriate course, or a previously issued license (from any state) of the same type.
If you have not participated in Maine’s outdoor sports in some time or are unfamiliar with Maine’s sporting regulations or traditions, or would simply like to refresh your knowledge of safe and responsible hunting techniques, taking a hunter education course is a great idea
Each year, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provides more than 350 courses on hunting with firearms, bow and arrow and trapping. The courses are attended by roughly 7,500 students and taught by over 800 volunteer instructors trained by the department personnel.
Don't wait until hunting or trapping season opens to take a course. Most courses are offered in late summer and early fall prior to the start of hunting seasons. Courses are also offered in spring. There are no costs for materials or instruction, although some courses may charge a nominal fee to cover the use of facilities and minor instructional expenses. All students must provide a survival kit, with most of the contents available around the home.
Courses will include 6 to 12 hours of instruction depending on the subject. Sponsors include school districts, sports clubs, civic groups and others. Courses listed as “Home Study” require attendance at scheduled sessions as well as study at home.
Volunteer instructors schedule each course. Some are completed in a weekend while others may continue over several evenings, plus a Saturday or Sunday.
Students must be at least 10 years of age to attend a class for firearms, archery or trapping. Students under age 10 may attend a recreational vehicle course. A person under age 16 must attend the ATV training course with that person's parent or guardian.
Many folks think that these courses are too simple or are not necessary for someone who has even a basic knowledge of hunting or fishing, but that is not the case. It’s true enough that what is taught in these courses revolves heavily around “common sense,” but we all know how that goes seems as if no one else has any!
I took my Hunter Safety Course in 1960 from Mr. Walter Johnson, who was dressed to the nines in hunting boots and pants, an upland jacket covered with gun manufacturers’ patches and a hat that had obviously spent more than a few hours in the briars. He was a fountain of information, jokes and knowledge; an experienced hunter who had already forgotten more about the sport that I would ever learn.
You’d think a gawky 10-year-old with thick glasses (and a thicker skull) wouldn’t have taken much home from that course, but several things Mr. Johnson said have stayed with me all these years.
The first thing he ever said to us was, “Don’t ever point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot! I guarantee that some day, somewhere, you are going to see or have a gun go off by mistake and someone is going to be hurt or killed because of it.”
Some years later I was in a hunting camp up north when one of the sports, deep into his second drink, dropped a loaded rifle on the camp floor. The gun went off, the bullet blasted through the kitchen table and sent shrapnel and splinters into the man sitting across from him. The guy didn’t die, fortunately, but the event sure livened up the evening for everyone.
Another thing Mr. Johnson told me was that no gun’s safety catch was truly “safe,” and again, it was years later that I heard that one loud and clear literally!
I was hunting in Milo with an old Remington rifle that, just a few months before, had been recalled for a faulty trigger assembly. But, since I’d had the gun since the mid-1960s and had never had a problem with it, I ignored the recall notice.
Well, sure enough, as I was about to enter the woods I loaded the rifle, closed the bolt and flipped the safety on and off to be sure and the gun discharged not 6 inches from my boot! Let me tell you, a .308 Winchester blast at 6 a.m. is a definite wake-up call! Fortunately, I’d kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction (into the ground) and no damage was done, but I knew then and there that the rifle wasn’t safe and had to be repaired.
Mr. Johnson left the class with one final caution: “Treat every gun as if it were loaded. You or someone you know is going to be hurt or killed because they handled a gun they thought was unloaded.”
Yup, that happened, too, and the result was tragic. A friend thought he had unloaded his own shotgun (but hadn’t), picked it up to cross a fence (which he shouldn’t have) and blew the front part of his left foot off when the gun became tangled in the fence and discharged.
What’s a good way to keep up with the latest trends in outdoor safety? Attend a course each year with a child. I find a neighbor with a 10-year-old who has nothing better to do and we take the course together. I get a free refresher course (and a chance to kibitz with the instructors) and the kid gets to enter the outdoor world the right way with a hunter safety education that will stay with him for a lifetime.
Pre-registration is required. To enroll in a course, contact the MDIFW Recreational Safety Division office at (207) 287-5220. Sign up now the Maine hunting and trapping seasons are right around the corner!