Barriers to Entry

SayUncle notices that hunting is spendy.  I do not come from a hunting family, and have never possessed a hunting license.  Countertop has a standing offer on the table to take me out sometime, but I have to get all the proper licenses.   For me, because I am not old enough to be exempt from the hunters education requirement, it’s more difficult to get a hunting license than it was for me to get a license to carry a pistol.

Hunters education is a 10 hour course, broken up in three days.  After that, I have to pay a fair amount if I want to hunt out of state, a lesser amount, but still more than an LTC, to hunt instate.   A license to carry is one trip to the Sheriff’s office, an application, and a few weeks time to do the background check.  Now my club runs the hunters ed classes, but I have to find time, and despite what my prolific blogging might indicate, my free time is not all that remarkably abundant.

So I have yet to take Countertop up on his offer.  Hopefully one day I’ll find time.  Hunters have to change this system if they want their sport to survive.  License fees probably are a necessary evil, since they pay for the various state game commissions to manage the wildlife and hunting lands along the North American Model.  Hunters have been reluctant to allow wildlife conservation to be funded out of state treasuries, for fears state legislatures would use political considerations instead of science to manage wildlife populations and hunting.  This is as legitimate concern.  What hunters ought to push for is apprentice hunting programs, that let people like me go out into the field without taking hunters education, provided I am with an experienced hunter.  Think of it as a learners permit for hunting.  After some apprentice seasons, I could be eligible for a standard hunting license, and head afield on my own.  Virginia has already done this.  Other states need to follow suit.  I also think for those who possess apprentice licenses for a season, and who demonstrate they’ve taken animals, they ought to be exempt entirely from the hunters education requirement.

As long as hunters ed is the only pass to being eligible to hunt, hunting is doomed.

33 thoughts on “Barriers to Entry”

  1. First, I should add that Pennsylvania does have an apprentice program. Unfortunately, it’s for kids only.

    However, the issue of time for taking classes at your club isn’t the hurdle. It’s the fact that they were completely filled before you even had a chance to take them. When I went looking for upcoming classes for you in this area, most of the classes for the next several weeks were already fully booked. (I had the same issue when I was trying to take it in Virginia. Then I just took a full day off of work and attended a very long one day version of it out in Fairfax.) Strangely enough, there is demand out there for the classes. I just don’t know why that doesn’t translate well for the sport.

  2. Luckily I was able to take my hunters safety class in middle school as an elective class. It was actually quite fun as it involved firing a re-curve bow out back behind the school and a pellet gun in the basement range of the nearby high school. Ahhh good times.

  3. I have not been hunting in years but unless things have changed my state (South Carolina) does not require a hunter education course.

    1. Ben, if you plan to go hunting again, you might want to revisit the law. If you go look at your DNR’s page there’s a nice big graphic that says, “It’s the law!” It has the following text:

      All residents and non-residents born after June 30, 1979, must complete a hunter education course before a hunting license can be obtained.

      While you might be old enough that it doesn’t apply, it’s no longer safe to tell people that it is not a requirement. I do believe every state has some kind of requirement. It typically varies by the year born (mostly prior to some date in either the `60’s or `70’s) and species hunted.

      There is a movement afoot by the various species groups, NSSF, and to some degree NRA to promote apprentice programs, but those are kind of slow going at the moment. (We seem to have had quite a bit of success getting those through a few years ago, but I haven’t seen nearly as many stories about them in the last couple of years. Wisconsin was the last one, I believe, and that was just signed recently.) The big problem is that those are mostly written for kids. Some lawmakers have been very forward looking and made them applicable to adults. Unfortunately, I can’t recall for SC at the moment, and I don’t feel like pulling up the page again to check.

  4. I did a quick check for MD and there were a lot of places that give the course. Only tyhe PG county Trap and Skeet range course was full. I don’t know the average cost. I made one call and left a message. I live in MD and may take up an offer to hunt.

    I know a lot of land owners in AA county from years of riding their property and from the hunt clubs. I also know who allows deer hunting.

    It seems that most ranges have the courses available and most courses are 12-14 though only 10 hr is required.

    Since hunter safety course were instituted it seems that hunting accidents have been reduced nationwide.

    No facts on that but I have read that hunter accidents have been reduced and hunter safety courses are relatively recent.

  5. Looking at the multiple course listing they are all in Sept and Oct. So if you want to take a course you have to get it done now

    1. RAH, Your comments came through as I was typing the last one. I have to call on Tuesday now I’m concerned that they won’t honor my hunter ed from Virginia because I didn’t have a chance to buy a license down there before I came up here. Eek! I don’t think he’ll be able to take a Maryland course because of that.

  6. Turns out they have a special open season on snow geese which have been a lot of trouble. Longer hours and unplugged guns allowed

  7. Growing up in VA we took hunter’s safety in middle school. Unfortunately my family didn’t hunt, so I never got into it, but it came in the rotation with P.E. and Health, but it put you much closer to being able to hunt.

  8. I just bought my PA license online for the first time in over 15 years. It had a check box that asked me if I took the hunter education class. I said yes and it asked for no other verification to prove it.

    I have also heard rumors that if buy a license in person in PA and you are an adult they don’t ask to see a HTE card. The problem comes when you want to hunt outside of PA with states that are more strict and want to see a card. At least that’s what I have heard but given the experience I had online it would not surprise me.

  9. Sebastian, I don’t mean to sound like I’m picking on you (I’m not) but if you can’t find time to take the class, when are you going to find time to actually go hunting? (big smily goes here)

    I know what you mean though, because I’ve been meaning to take the bowhunting class here for two years, then I get busy, then I can’t find a class with room, etc etc

    I >did< go dove hunting this morning before work though… one bird was all I saw, one shot was all I got, and one bird is what I took home. It was worth it though.

    1. BillH, his problem is not time. It’s the scheduling, what is left of open classes, classes available in the area, and work. When I pushed him on what is truly getting in the way of taking two Thursday nights and Saturday, it’s more of a huge pain in the ass factor than anything. He would have to miss two nights of silhouette, plus a Saturday.

  10. Indiana has an apprentice program for adults. I believe you can take hunter ed online on the DNR website.

    1. This is one of the arguments I made to him. That the apprentice programs have gotten more liberal (i.e. more open) as more states pass them. Unfortunately for us, Pennsylvania was an early adopter.

  11. I checked the MD DNR site but the hunting regs are 68 pages

    The biggest problem I have is that all my shotguns are not suitable for steel shot. I would like to take Canada geese and Snow geese since that is a large enough bird to eat. I know that you have to as bacon when cooked. Most of my shotguns are skeet and trap configured and pre steel shot so the barrels could get damaged. I really don’t want my barrel damaged.

    I will have to check to see what guns I have that I could shoot steel through.

    The MD general license is not that expensive and last all season for all game.

    Deer, I know where they like to hang out but I don’t have a muzzle loader. I guess I could use pumpkin ball loads.

    Turkey I would like to get. I have run into batches of young turkey when riding in the spring so I know their numbers are up and where they generally live. Turkey has a spring season.

    I would like to hunt this season so I think I will get my hunter safety license for all the family. Then just arrange gun, license and place to hunt and maybe I may have Thanksgiving meal.

  12. Ohio has had an apprentice program for about 3-4 years and I do believe it is successful.

    A friend of mine once found a “Loophole” to remain legal before there was such a program (and he has since taken Hunter Ed I should mention). He wanted to try deer hunting in Ohio. The criteria for obtaining a license at that time (about 6-8 years ago) was that you had to have Hunter Ed, or have held a hunting license in another state. So, he goes online and buys a $15 non-resident 3day hunting license from Kentucky. Thereir requirement then was that you did not need Hunter Ed if you were born prior to 1976–he was born in ’73. A week later, he goes to buy his Ohio Hunting license. They asked for a prior license from another state or a Hun Ed certificate. He whips out his KY License and that was legal.

    Now, I don’t know your state laws and I really don’t condone skipping hunter ed but it was a “legal” way for him to apprentice. Like I said, he went on to take hunter ed and become a regular hunter.

    Now that we have the apprentice program, he would not have to search for such a “loophole” and I believe the apprentice programs will serve hunting well.

  13. [Sorry to make two comments in a row but they are really two different responses to your post].

    Hunting is like any other sport and is only as pricey as you want, or have to make it be.

    You can try golf. You don’t need expensive clubs and lessons just to try it. All you need is for someone to take them out with you. (For that matter, you could go by yourself). You can borrow clubs instead of buying them, or you can buy a cheap set at WalMart with the hope of upgrading later if you like the sport. You will need cart rental and greens fees of course. The fees at the course on the State Park are reasonable. If you have enough land, you don’t even need greens fees to whack some balls and learn how it is done.

    Of course, the more you get into golf, the more you can spend. Forget the local 9 hole, now you want to try golf at Myrtle Beach or Vegas, maybe some country club you have heard of. Your fees just got more expensive and now you have travel. Those cheap Wal-Mart clubs won’t due either, you need a lot more money.

    Now, try hunting instead of golf. Find a buddy to take you out–really cheap if you have an apprentice program. Try the local State Park. All you need there is a basic license and maybe a tag/permit depending on local law. If you have enough land, you probably don’t need any licenses or tags. Borrow a gun or get a cheap single-barrel at Walmart.

    Of course, some day you may really like it and now you need a high-end rifles and optics. The local forest is boring so maybe you’ll try a Colorado Elk hunt or fly up to Alaska. Now we’re getting spendy.

  14. If you want to apprentice in Indiana, I can get you out on some primo land.

    As far as not requiring proof of education when you buy your license, yes that’s true. But when you buy a gun, you don’t have to prove your not disqualified. You simply certify that you are.

    If something happens though, and they look into it, your screwd. Big time.

    With hunting, its even worse. Cause while you can technically order the license without showing your certificate, in many (though not all) states, if you get stopped by a game warden, they ask to see your license AND your hunter safety card.

    I actually took the course in Virginia some years ago. I hunted for years without taking it. But got tired of the risk.

    I had much the same issue as Sebestian has described, it was tough to find the time. Here, living in the beltway, I had to drive out to centerville on a weeknight for a 6pm class. That required me to leave my office at 3pm to beat rush hour traffic. And required me to be free that night and 2 days the following weekend.

    And to find a course that wasn’t full. I don’t envy sebastians difficulties, though in some states (not sure about PA, but MD does) you can get a 3 day license to hunt birds without taking the course).

  15. Sebastian,

    If you plan to hunt in MD the out of state license is very expensive.

    That seems to do with the spendy meme.

    1. Yes, we’re aware. I mentioned earlier that time is a factor to the degree that most within a reasonable are full already.

  16. Actually RAH, I think the MD out of state license is pretty reasonable. Or at least, hunter unfriendly Virginia is pretty expensive (Yes, you read that right – when it comes to shooting things with guns, my experience is that anti Gun Maryland is leaps and bounds better than pro gun Virginia)

    I did a post about it a couple of years ago.

    This year I opted to just get the non resident Maryland license.

    I’ll end up with short term South Dakota, Mississippi, Indiana, Georgia and North Carolina licenses too. Was supposed to hunt Oklahoma, but work plans changed. Might also get a Tennessee license.

  17. DNR in Md is very pro hunter. All the activity to prevent MD going more antigun is from the rural counties and the hunters.

    We have no limit on age to hunt and the youngest bear hunter was a MD child. i believe.

    1. And MD has a rapidly expanding Sunday hunting option. I don’t know if the trend has continued, but for every year they expanded Sunday hunting to more Sundays or more counties after the official end of the ban. I know that went on for at least 5 years or so.

  18. Bitter,

    Sunday hunting expanded significantly this year.

    RAH, $130 for a non resident – which allows you to take everything – pretty average but considering it allows you to take everything I see it as a huge value. My actual MD license, complete with non resident muzzleloader and state and fed waterfowl stamps was $180.

    By comparison, my SD non resident 7 day pheasant license will cost $125 or so. In Iowa, its almost $500 for a deer tag for a non resident (one reason I don’t hunt deer there even though I have some of the best land in the state available to me)

  19. Well not being a hunter I was not aware of comparable prices. I thought the resident license decently priced and the fact there is an extra geese season this years without plugs is enticing.

    Personally I rather get a bigger bird since I am a practical person and think a goose is worth it to cook.

    I have had dove and quail and I like quail better but they are not as numerous as geese. MD wants 2 million geese killed this year.

    I think that would help my food bills this year.

  20. I completely agree that an apprentice system would greatly improve accessability to the sport. In Georgia, season licenses may be purchased once an individual has taken a hunter safety course and passed a written test. Sensibly, the course may be taken online but the test still requires a physical appearance during the last day of the in-situ course.

    Unfortunately, these courses are required to be canceled if fewer than ten individuals show up the first day [didn’t take the course online]. Consequently, this course is never guaranteed to take place [in the mathematical sense], and several wasted trips resulted.

    Luckily, GA’s DNR also sells weekend passes that don’t education. That’s almost always a good option but a little silly.

  21. Most places that I know of the exemption for military service isn’t to hunter ed, but rather active duty members of the military are exempt from license fees, or treated as resident hunters.

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