Archery season for deer hunters begins Sept. 8. Before most eager hunters head for the woods, however, they’ll need to take a safety class.
According to Cpl. Jay Morgan, conservation ranger with Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, nearly all Georgia residents born after Jan. 1, 1961, are required to complete a hunter-education course before they can buy a resident hunting license.
“We started the hunter-safety program back in the mid-’70s,” said Morgan, who added that hunting accidents exceeded 100 each year when he joined DNR in 1983. “Now, we’re down to about 40 a year. When I talk about hunting accidents, I’m talking about any accident that occurs in the field, whether it involves a firearm or falling out of a tree stand.”
Melissa Cummings, DNR communications/outreach specialist, confirmed there were 36 hunting accidents last year. Four accidents were fatal; three of the fatal accidents involved tree stands.
Morgan is responsible for the hunter-safety program in Region VII, which includes all coastal counties. He said when a resident completes the course, it’s good for life and recognized in every other state and Canada.
Willie Inman — a certified state hunter-safety instructor with the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation, Pass & Permit Office — said local hunters wanting to make use of Fort Stewart’s real estate need the safety class, regardless of when they were born.
Inman said the majority of the class concentrates on safety with firearms and primitive weapons, including shotguns, rifles and black powder or muzzle-loaded rifles, as well as crossbows and long, recurve and compound bows.
He said the class even offers advice about the appropriate weapon for hunting some of Georgia’s big-game animals, including feral hogs. Morgan said a hunter won’t need the additional big-game license to hunt feral hogs. Inman recommends a large caliber rifle like a .30-30, .308 or .30-06 to hunt feral hogs.
Inman said the remainder of the class focuses on hunter ethics, wildlife conservation and hunting equipment, particularly orange reflective vests, hunting boots, hats and mosquito protection. There’s even information about climbing into and down from tree stands, he said.
Inman recommended taking the online class for $9.95 at www.beasafehunter.org, or getting a free copy of the CD from a sporting-goods store and registering for one of the organization’s free, two-hour review classes before taking the test. He said upcoming classes are offered at Fort Stewart’s Holbrook Pond Recreation, building 8325 at 6 p.m. Sept. 6 and 20. There also is a class offered at the Hinesville Walmart on Sept. 18. To register for one of these classes, go to www.gohuntgeorgia.com. To take either review class, register for the class online and bring test results from the online course or CD program with you when reporting to class, he said.
Morgan said landowners are not required to have the safety class. Those buying a three-day “apprentice” license also are not required to take the course. He said big-game hunters also are required to pick up a deer-harvest record, which they can get when they buy their license. Morgan said he’s always looking for volunteers to assist with the class. Seasoned hunters interested in earning a hunter-safety instructor certification can call 912-264-7237.