First-time PA hunters, trappers need training

First-time hunters and trappers need to go through some safety training before the Pennsylvania Game Commission will approve their licenses.

“The training is designed to produce safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved participants,” according to the commission’s website.

The cost of the course is $19.50.

“It’s starts with basic firearms nomenclature, understanding what a firearm is and how it works,” Wildlife Conservation Officer David Donachy said.

The instructor will talk about the different actions — bolt, lever, and pump, for example — and safety concerns related to specialty hunting — muzzleloader and archery.

“We go into the laws and regulations of transport of firearms, safe storage,” Donachy said. “We talk about shot placement, how to have a quick, clean kill.”

The classes are not strictly lectures.

“They get to participate in decision-making now that they know what the firearms are capable of,” he said.

“We demonstrate or have students participate in shoot-don’t shoot situations through the use of videos or laser guns,” Donachy said. “With each scenario, we discuss, ‘Was this the right choice?'”

Some of that is related to “shot placement, how to have a quick, clean kill,” Donachy said. Being aware of the surroundings is also part of that discussion.

One of the issues that is addressed regarding safety doesn’t have anything to do with firearms.

“We talk about tree stand safety. We’re trying to expand the awareness of tree stands, proper use and fall-restraint systems,” Donachy said. “The popularity of tree stands in the last 20 years or so has gotten us to the point where there are more people being injured through the use of tree stands than being injured by firearms-related incidents.”

The topics include:

¯ responsible hunting behavior;

¯ basic firearm knowledge and safe handling;

¯ wildlife conservation and management;

¯ outdoor safety and survival;

¯ basic and advanced hunting techniques;

¯ trapping and furtaking basics;

¯ basic shooting and safe hunting skills; and

¯ expanding your hunting opportunities.

“Then we wrap up with a discussion of ethics,” Donachy said. “Why do you hunt? What do you hope to accomplish? Choosing hunting partners. If you have someone who doesn’t handle firearms in a responsible way it’s ok to walk away from them.”

Donachy posed another ethics example. It is not illegal for a duck hunter to shoot ducks while they are on the water. “For a first-time hunter that may be ok,” he said. “What I try to emphasize to the students is, that’s all right as long as you’re within the written laws.”

But, he would encourage that hunter “the second time, wait for the bird to fly. It’s more of a challenge.”

A six-hour class is required for all first-time hunters in Pennsylvania.

There is also an eight-hour course that satisfies the requirements and focuses more on hands-on work. “We call it a skills course,” Donachy said.

Prospective hunters ages 11 and up are eligible. While most of the students in the classes are young people, the class is not particularly geared for them.

There is an online option for those ages 16 and over.

There is a certification exam at the end of the class.

There are recommended independent study opportunities online and in print. “Today’s Hunter and Trapper in Pennsylvania” is the game commission’s official student guide. It can be found at

For youngsters attending the course, a parent or other adult is encouraged to stay. “A lot of the adults that bring a son, daughter, grandson… will tell us after class, ‘I’d forgotten some of that,'” Donachy said. “They also get to hear what their kids heard.”

The game commission works with students who have special learning needs. “We want to make sure they understand it,” he said.

There are several hunter and trapper safety classes in Warren County in the coming months:

¯ Saturday, April 1, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kalbfus Rod and Gun Club, Clarendon;

¯ Saturday, April 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brokenstraw Fish and Game Club, Youngsville;

¯ Saturday, May 20, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Sheffield Rod and Gun Club;

¯ Saturday, July 8, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Brokenstraw Fish and Game Club;

¯ Saturday, Aug. 12, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sheffield Rod and Gun Club; and

¯ Saturday, Sept. 16, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kalbfus Rod and Gun Club;

All registration for the classes is handled through the game commission’s website

Donachy, or some other game commission agent, may well be at each training. “I like to be there for the entire class,” he said. “It’s proven very beneficial.”

But the game commission usually does not provide the instruction. “For the most part it’s volunteer sportsmen who are certified through the game commission as hunter educators,” he said. “I have a really good core of instructors with a lot of experience.”