Hodges loves hunting for deer and turkeys with her family and boyfriend, and enjoys introducing new people to hunting and taking youth on their first hunting trips. However, that hasn’t always been the case for Hodges.
“Hunting teaches patience while fostering one of the closest relationships we can have with the natural world around us,” said University of Florida rising sophomore Hanna Hodges. “Hunting also contributes to conservation.”
As a young girl growing up in a family that enjoys the outdoors, Hodges spent many weekends fishing, boating, kayaking and hiking. But, she admits she was intimidated by some of the elements of hunting, and credits her father and the hunter safety class she took at age 10 for giving her knowledge and confidence to safely develop what became her greatest passion.
“My dad first introduced me to target shooting and hunting – he was a great coach,” Hodges said. “He actually introduced my mom and brothers, too – and now hunting is a family affair.”
Hodges’ father signed her up for a weeklong Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hunter safety camp at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center during the summer before her sixth-grade year.
“It was a great experience attending the hunter safety summer camp at Beau Turner,” Hodges said. “I made numerous friends there and loved it so much that I volunteered there for several years.”
Growing up in a hunting family and attending hunter safety camp had such an effect on Hodges that she is now majoring in wildlife ecology and conservation and hopes one day to work in a field that blends hunting and conservation. And for this summer, she is proud to announce she will be a hunt camp counselor at the place where it all got started for her – the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center.
For more information on the Center, which is east of Tallahassee, or to register your child for summer camp, go to BTYCC.org.
If you haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time to sign up. Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast.
People born after May 31, 1975, must complete the FWC’s hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone.
If you’re a youngster and already into hunting, I suggest you go ahead and take a hunter safety class before you turn 16. And you can purchase your very first hunting license that’s good until your 17th birthday.
Even if you were born before June 1, 1975, and are exempt from having to take the class, it’s still a good idea because you’ll learn so much. The FWC encourages beginning hunters to do so. Even the most experienced hunters will learn something new, which will help them become even better hunters or mentors.
If you’re new to our state, these classes will make you aware of Florida’s hunting laws. Or if you just relocated from another town, the classes are a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.
You can register for a hunter safety class by going to MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.
Florida Virtual School
Florida also offers a virtual school outdoor education course. This course, which combines hunting and boating safety, is free and open to Florida residents ages 12 to 18.
Participants will develop outdoor skills and learn about the benefits of physical activity while using proper safety procedures to experience a range of outdoor activities.
By meeting all the requirements of the Outdoor Education course, students will receive their Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card and be eligible to obtain a Florida Hunter Safety Certificate. They’ll also earn half a credit for high school, and meet public school requirements for taking an online course and a physical education course.
Registrations for these instructor-led courses are limited. Those who are interested can find out more at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.
Online training and skills day
A popular option for completing the hunter safety training is to take online training and a skills day. The online course is designed to help new hunters of all ages learn how to be safe and responsible hunters.
Before you begin the online training, you’ll need to register to attend a skills day. Skills days are led by a corps of volunteer hunter safety instructors who give you the opportunity to demonstrate the skills you learned in the online course. Skills day takes about five hours to complete and includes time on the shooting range.
During skills days, you get hands-on training and must demonstrate proper firearm and tree-stand safety.
In the last hour of the skills day, you’ll be given a standardized test of multiple-choice questions. You need to score 80 percent or higher to successfully complete the course.
The last steps
After you pass the test for either course, you’ll be given a temporary hunter safety card. You’ll receive a permanent card in the mail about four to six weeks after the class. Once the hunter safety requirement is met, you can purchase your first Florida hunting license and be ready for opening day.
Just a couple of things for parents to remember: The course is designed for youth ages 12 to 16. If your child is younger than 18 years old, you must fill out our parental release form and present it to the instructor at all courses. Also, if your child is younger than 16, you are required to accompany him or her to all classes.
Register to take a hunter safety class today, ’cause the 2018-19 hunting season will be here before we know it. Remember, safe hunting is no accident.