The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department recently approved the new online HuntSAFE program, an online education program that be used as in place of attending in-person classroom instruction for the state's hunter safety certification course.
After students pass the online test, they will then be required to participate on an in-person HuntSAFE field day. The day lasts for four to six hours and includes a written final exam.
"After passing the online portion of the course, students are equipped and eligible to participate in the required, in-person HuntSAFE field day. Overall, the HuntSAFE course does a quality job of teaching the information and skills to students, to ensure that they will be safe, legal and responsible in the field," said Jason Kool, GFP program specialist.
Videos are also available online that present safety information to viewers, including topics such as the transportation of firearms, the importance of blaze orange clothing and how to properly match ammunition.
The course features interactive animations and learning modules. Progress is automatically saved, allowing users to work at their own pace, from a home computer, smartphone, tablet, e-reader or Internet TV.
While education in the state is considered useful for all hunters, South Dakota law requires any hunter under the age of 16 to complete a hunter education course. Students must be at least 11 years old.
The online portion of the course will cost students $15, although the classroom alternative is free.
A similar online program has been created by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for first-time hunting license buyers in Pennsylvania, who will not be required to complete their hunter education entirely online.
The full course can be completed in about six to eight hours and is available for students age 16 and over.
"In recent years we've upped the number of traditional, classroom courses we offer and have offered many more courses at peak times in the fall when more people are thinking about hunting and hunter education, and record numbers of new hunters have become certified as a result. But demand still exists, and some folks simply can't make the time to attend a traditional classroom course," said Andy Hueser, a hunter-education specialist for the commission.
The curriculum for the online course is the same as that taught in the traditional classroom course, covering topics such as tree-stand safety, lawful trapping of furbearing animals and firearms safety, among others.
The online course is 11 units long and requires students to spend a certain amount of time on each page to ensure they are not simply skimming the information. A quiz must be passed at the end of each unit in order to move on to the next. A final exam is completed at the end.
Those who pass the test can print out a certification card that can be instantly used to purchase a hunting license.