Allison Fontecchio works with her six-year-old son Brig on his shooting skills Thursday, Aug. 12, 2021. Brig has been shooting for three years.
LOGAN — For young people interested in trying hunting for the first time this fall or winter, a hunter education class or participating in the Trial Hunting Program Division of Wildlife Resource courses are taking place this month. It isn’t too late; but don’t put it off because classes fill up quickly.
Steve Basset, the manager of the Cache Valley Public Shooting Range, said they are seeing an increased interest in classes after COVID.
“We’ve been closed for about two years, and now that we are open we are seeing more people interested in hunting because of the pandemic,” he said. “I think people just want to be outdoors.”
Basset started teaching hunter education classes when he was 18 years-old, and 30 years later he is still doing it.
Six-year-old Brig Fontecchio was out on the gun range Thursday afternoon. His mother Allison said he has been shooting since he was three-years old.
July and August are a busy time for DNR hunter education instructors because it is right before the fall general-season big game hunts. January and February are the most popular months for hunter education courses because teenagers with their hunter education card can apply for the big game hunt drawing.
In order to hunt in Utah, everyone born after Dec. 31, 1965 must complete a state-offered hunter education class or participate in the Trial Hunting Program. Here’s what you need to know to enroll in either:
Young people wanting to take hunter education class have two options. The first option is the traditional in-person class led by an instructor. The second option is taking an online course followed by an in-person field day. Both options include a final written test and the “field day” with hands-on skills demonstration and a live-fire shooting exercise at the end.
The online course will teach you about firearm safety, hunter responsibility and ethics. It can be taken at your own pace. There are a few options for online courses. They range in price from $13 to $29, and you can find links to the approved courses at the bottom of the Utah Hunter Education webpage.
“If you have a young child who’s taking the course, you can help them understand what they’re learning by sitting by their side and going through the course material with them,” RaLynne Takeda, hunter education program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said. “Your child can also take the course at his or her own speed, and they can go back and review the material as often as they like.”
The instructor provides additional details about the field day after registration for the online hunter education course. Once the candidate finishes the online portion of the course, they will need to print a proof-of-completion document. Then, they can buy a hunter education registration certificate online. The certificate cost $10 and is required before you can do the field day.
Utah’s Trial Hunting Program is another way to get in the field this fall. The program gives you a chance to try hunting with an experienced hunter and see if it is something you’d like to pursue. You are not required to take hunter education to participate in this program.
Candidates must be at least 12 years old to join the program. They must be accompanied by a licensed hunter who is 21 or older. To participate, they must complete a brief online orientation course, which can be found on the DWR website. They also need to buy a hunting license and the permit for the species you’d like to hunt. In this program, you are eligible to obtain the following licenses and permits:
- Combination or hunting licenses (good for hunting all small game, including upland game and waterfowl)
- General-season deer and elk permits
- Permits to hunt bear, cougar, sage-grouse, sandhill crane, sharp-tailed grouse, swan and turkey
“Both of these are great ways to get started in hunting, a sport that not only allows you to get fresh, locally sourced meat, but also gives you a unique opportunity to get outdoors and make memories with your family,” Takeda said. “Hunting is also an important tool in managing healthy wildlife populations.”