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Hunter Education Courses Filling Up, Deferral an Option
AUSTIN, Texas — Despite offering 4,400 hunter education courses throughout the year, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department understands there are some who will still wait until the last minute before hunting season to get certified. This fall, those procrastinators need not panic.
"There are still more than 150 structured courses scheduled across the state between now and Nov. 4, the last day before the opening of deer season," said Terry Erwin, hunter education coordinator for TPWD. "And there are over 55 home-study courses available, but all of these courses are subject to change as they fill up daily. It may be tough getting into a course before deer season."
That's where TPWD's hunter education deferral option can help. The deferral option, which was introduced last year, allows people 17 years of age or older, a one-time only extension to complete the state's hunter education requirements. The individual must purchase a hunting license and then may purchase the "Deferral Option # 166, and must be accompanied by someone 17 years old or older who is also licensed to hunt in Texas. The accompanying individual must have completed hunter education or be exempt from the requirements (born before Sept. 2, 1971). The extension is good until Aug. 31 of the current license year, by which time the person with the deferred option needs to complete a hunter education course.
This option will not be available to those who have ever received a conviction or deferred adjudication for lack of hunter education certification. They still must take the course before going afield.
"We had more than 10,000 hunters take advantage of the option last year," said Erwin. "Data indicates the majority of those who get the option are new or relatively new to hunting and this gives them an opportunity to try it out with a mentoring hunter before making the commitment to take hunter education. It's not an alternative to taking the course, you still have to get certified if you want to hunt in subsequent years."
More than 250 individuals have already taken the hunter education course prior to the end of the last license year, however those not taking advantage will not receive the $5 discount. Purchases this year have already exceeded 900 during the first two weeks licenses were on sale.
The deferred option costs $10 and may be offered one-time only. The new hunter also receives a $5 discount off the price of a hunter education course, which costs $10, but only if the course is taken prior to the end of the current license year. The option is surrendered at the time the course is taken and replaced with a hunter education "temporary card" until the actual certification card arrives from Austin.
The deferred option will also be available to out-of-state hunters, as well as those in the military who are stationed in Texas or who are home on leave. However, the deferral is only good in Texas, and will not be honored outside the state.
"People who are off in college out of state are helped by this program," said Erwin. "I talked to one mom who was concerned her son would not have time to take the course when he came home from college during the holidays and wouldn't be able to go hunting with his dad. She got the deferred option as insurance."
According to TPWD game warden records, the most common citation written is for hunter education certification violations.
Texas certifies more than 33,000 hunters annually through 4,400 hunter education courses offered across the state, with at least one offered in each of the 254 counties. Hunter Education courses are a minimum of 10 hours of classroom and hands-on activities. The classroom portion can alternatively be taken through home study or online, followed by a hands-on, outdoor session taught by volunteer instructors.
"Although we offer the course throughout the year, there are times during the holidays when only a select number of courses may be available and that's typically the time of year when most people have an opportunity to go hunting," said Erwin. "This deferred option will give folks time and convenience to enroll at a later date and still take advantage of an opportunity to go hunting."
During the last four decades, hunting-related accidents have declined by more than half and the credit goes to mandatory hunter education.
For more information about hunter education and the new deferred option, call TPWD toll free (800) 792-1112 or visit the Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/).
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