1979 - A Safe Start: Educating Hunters

The federal government created a stable source of funding for the state hunter education programs with the 1972 passage of the Dingell-Hart Amendment to the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act.  The Pittman-Robertson law imposed an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition for distribution to the states for wildlife restoration. The amendment allocated a percentage of these funds to state hunter education programs.

Teaching firearm safety to young and older hunters is one of the key parts of hunter education in Idaho, and it has cut the number of fatal as well as nonfatal accidents dramatically. Since hunter education became mandatory in 1979, the average number of nonfatal hunting related accidents has dropped from 29.9 to 5.6 annually. The average number of fatalities has dropped from 8.9 to 1.7 annually. 

Idaho Fish and Game emphasizes proper gun handling and firearm safety as part of hunter education. Students are taught to be aware of where their muzzle is pointing, and they are taught to load their weapon only when at the site of their hunt and unload it immediately after shooting – before returning to their vehicle. 

But Idaho’s hunter education programs are about more than just gun safety. Other topics include basic hunting and survival skills, wildlife identification, hunting rules, sportsmanship and ethics, wildlife management and conservation. Studies from several states have shown that graduates from approved courses are more successful and show higher knowledge than non-graduates, and they have a greater awareness of ethics and safety.

According to state law, hunter education must be provided by volunteer instructors. Anyone who has attended, or whose child has attended a hunter education class has met one of the nearly 1,000 volunteer instructors that are the backbone of Idaho’s hunter and bowhunter education programs. 

In 2013, these volunteers donated 15,500 hours of their time to help first-time hunters acquire the knowledge and skills to become safe, responsible hunters. Most instructors are lifelong hunters who believe in the importance of giving something back to their sport.