by Brian McCombie - Monday, October 18, 2021
The NRA has good news for Kansas hunters. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) announced it now accepts the free online NRA Hunter Education Course as a convenient alternative to its hunter education classroom requirement, effective Oct. 1. The NRA course provides a fun, safe, modern and free online education option to help new hunters in the Sunflower State become certified.
Kansas is the 12th state to accept the NRA Hunter Education Course, with North Carolina and Pennsylvania recently coming on board, too. Since the program launched in 2017, the NRA has provided nearly 75,000 students with online hunter education, gratis, helping to attract, recruit and support new hunters and shooters across the country and bolster America’s R3 movement to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
“While researching online course options for our Kansas resident hunters, our team was very critical of online delivery options and wanted a course that was comprehensive, interactive, inclusive and free,” Aaron Austin, KDWP’s Chief of Education, told NRAHLF.org. “The NRA Online Hunter Education course exceeded our expectations. It is entertaining and, being the most interactive online course available, our hunt for a course was over.” In noting the course’s benefits, Austin added, “Its engaging online activities have students applying what they learn to real-life-simulated situations, giving them practical knowledge that they can use while hunting.”
The NRA invested $3 million to create and develop the free course and welcomes Kansas as the latest state to make it available. “I am so happy to see Kansas added to the lineup of states that allow the NRA course to help certify their new hunters,” said Peter Churchbourne, a director with the NRA HLF and the course’s initial project manager. “Our course is a win-win for both the state agency and the residents of Kansas. We are prepared to work with any other state agency that would like to offer the best online hunter education course in the world that is also completely free to everyone.”
As this NRA Hunters Leadership Forum (HLF) website explains, the course is particularly important considering the number of Americans taking up hunting since the pandemic. For example, the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that in 2020, Iowa’s hunting license sales increased 20 percent from the previous year and Arkansas hunting license sales were the highest since 1938.
For more good news, like the other state wildlife agencies that offer the NRA course, the KDWP can use it to count toward matching conservation program funds under the federal Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act. As of 2019, the USFWS permits state agencies to claim a dollar value of the NRA’s free course as in-kind match dollars. Essentially, the free course counts the same as if a hunter education instructor teaches it in person for a fee, which typically ranges from $14 to $30 per student.
“This allows for the state using the course to receive P-R money based on the value of our free course so they can do other important work in hunter education, wildlife conservation or range development,” Churchbourne explained.
For background on how P-R funding works, revenues from federal excise taxes on firearms and ammunition are collected by the USFWS and are then appropriated the following year to state agencies based on a state’s size and number of license holders. In illustrating the win-win for state agencies and hunters, in 2020 NRAHLF.org reported how Oklahoma and Florida tapped $81,880 and $70,000, respectively, in matching P-R funds based on the number of hunters who took the NRA course.
In circling back to the importance of the course during COVID-19, as with other state agencies, the KDWP was forced to suspend all in-person events in 2020 due to the pandemic. This left Kansans without an option for hunter education certification for the first time in nearly 50 years.
“Amidst the pandemic, we saw many families escaping to the outdoors to find relief, and for some, hunting was not a legally-permitted outdoor activity,” explained Austin, because they couldn’t take hunter education. “Granted, most individuals 16 years and older could purchase an apprentice license to hunt under the supervision of an adult,” he added, “but the pandemic continued to cause issues with in-person classes, resulting in fewer classes and fewer certified, safe, knowledgeable and responsible hunters.”
Fortunately for aspiring hunters, the free online NRA Hunter Education Course came to the rescue. The NRA’s goal: to serve American hunters by making it available in all 50 states.
“Working with the NRA online education team has been an enjoyable experience,” Austin concluded. “It worked hard to help our agency launch this effort on relatively short notice and we really appreciate all the effort.”
Online access, free to everyone, a great tool to attract and recruit new hunters and the host state can even receive matching conservation monies when their citizens use the course. One must wonder: Why don’t more states accept the NRA Hunter Education Course?
About the Free Online NRA Hunter Education Course
In acknowledging the NRA’s commitment to American hunters, it is important to explain how it was the NRA that in 1949 created the first-ever hunter education program in the United States for the state of New York. Seventy-two years later, the free NRA Hunter Education Course offers a fresh and fully comprehensive approach to hunter education. The 15-chapter online sequence features attention-grabbing videos, eye-catching graphics and diagrams, interactive modules, audio recordings and dozens of action photos. All materials are presented in easy-to-access components that provide the best method for teaching future hunters lessons they will remember for the rest of their lives. For an added benefit, this instruction is available at students’ fingertips, whenever and wherever they have time to access it. The no-cost option removes the sometimes-prohibitive cost barrier of other online courses, encouraging new hunters to take the first step and making it easier for seasoned hunters to revisit the material. For more information on the free NRA course, click here.
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