Onboard for Online

By Tony Legg | September 2, 2009
From Missouri Conservationist: Sep 2009

Hunter Education has a long and praised past in Missouri. The courses began in 1957 as voluntary safety programs in communities and were often held at local schools. In the 1980s, Hunter Education developed into a complete hunting education program. In addition to hunting and firearms safety, students learned about responsibility to other hunters, land, wildlife and landowners; landowner relations; wildlife management and habitats; conservation; survival and first aid; game care; shooting range safety; Missouri laws; and other related issues. However, until 2008, the only way to receive hunter education was to attend a minimum 10-hour, multi-day class in the community or at one of the few local schools that still offered the program.

Sometime around 2000, public requests began — and continued to grow — for an alternate way to receive Hunter Education Certification. Potential students told us that they didn’t want to spend days in a classroom, or have to travel, or take time away from family or work. The Conservation Department began looking at alternatives. One promising option was the Internet.

The Internet was already a proven education tool for the U.S. military, law enforcement, colleges, universities, industries and a host of other groups. In 2006, the Department started working with Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc., a leader in online education, and began piloting online hunter education training in select areas around the state.

Online Pilot

Students were recruited at various locations to take the online training and provide feedback. They reported on the amount of time the course took, problems they encountered, what they thought should be improved, and a host of other questions. The Department then went to its cadre of instructors and recruited staff and volunteers to organize and conduct a field day in association with the online training. These instructors were also asked to provide feedback and detailed information on their experiences and to make recommendations to improve the program.

Pilots were conducted in three different phases and many improvements were made along the way. At the end of 2007, all testing and piloting was completed.

The response to the online program was overwhelmingly positive. Students said they liked studying at their own pace and at their own convenience. They thought the hands-on field days were fun and that they brought all the online study together. Instructors were also impressed. Compared to traditional classes, where many students walk in as blank slates, these students were knowledgeable and well prepared, so the hands-on reviews and exercises went smoothly and were fun as well as educational. Instructors were so impressed with the techniques they learned and the experiences they had, that they planned to incorporate many of the techniques into their traditional classes as well. As a result, on July 1, 2008, the Conservation Department launched its online-supported Hunter Education training program.

Digital Launch

Launched in July, just months before Missouri’s major hunting seasons began—including dove, Cronk hunted deer with her boyfriend after completing her training. “On the afternoon of the second day we saw two small does make their way out of some trees in our direction,” says Cronk. “As they approached, I was able to line one up and made a good shot. It was a very exciting, rewarding and ultimately tasty experience.” waterfowl, and deer seasons—the program saw a good initial rush through November. Traffic slowed a bit in April, but we expect to see numbers increase again when we close in on fall hunting seasons. While the online program has drawn students of all ages, most so far have been older than 20 years of age, with many in their 30s and 40s. The main drive for these folks seems to be convenience; working adults with limited time are eager to use this alternate program. Currently, the number of individuals taking advantage of the program limits the number of field days and locations we can offer. However, as participants increase, we expect to add more dates and locations.

How it Works

Anyone can go to the Web site maintained for the Conservation Department by Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc., and study, review and research information—totally free. There you will find the same materials from the student Education course.

An added benefit of this program is that it provides additional education resources for all Missouri citizens. Parents, especially, can choose to research hunting, safety and other information to make an informed decision about whether hunting is an appropriate activity for their child, or to start reviewing hunting safety before formal training. It is also a great resource for students preparing to take a traditional classroom course. Current hunters can review and get information on changes and broader issues with hunting and firearms. School students, scouts and parents can research information for study, reports, projects, etc.

The online version is in a slightly different format that is more conducive to viewing online, with Flash animation, graphics to hold your attention and make it fun, and chapter reviews and practice tests. You can study at your own pace and wherever you’d like. All you need is access to the Internet; no special software is required. When a student is ready to complete the program and receive Hunter Education Certification, he or she must take and pass the Field Day Qualifier Test online and then attend a single Field Day (approximately 5 hours).

Before taking the Field Day Qualifier Test, you can take as many practice tests as you need for free. The Field Day Qualifier Test is made up of 75 questions chosen from a bank of about 2,500, so no two tests or retests are the same. To find out the results of your test you will be required to pay $15 by credit card. This charge goes directly to Kalkomey Enterprises to offset the costs of developing, maintaining, updating, data processing and providing customer service for online program. The Conservation Department receives no monies from the charge and still offers the free traditional Hunter Education classes for those not wishing to pay the fee.

After passing the Field Qualifier Test with at least an 80 percent and paying the fee, you will be asked to create your own personal account to register for your Field Day. This account will allow you to update and change your field registration. You have one year from the date you pass the online Field Day Qualifier Test to attend and pass a Field Day.

The Field Day is set up to test the application of Hunter Education skills not provided through the online portion of the course. It consists of approximately three hours of hands-on review and exercises of related tasks. Many of the skills reviewed relate to past hunting incidents or issues and need in-depth coverage to ensure comprehension. Students will then take a 50-question test on items from both the field day review and the online portion. The final test is 10 pass/fail practical application stations where the individual must explain and demonstrate proper application of a task. Students must achieve an 80 percent on each of these last two tests to be eligible for certification.

Benefits of Certification

Graduates of the online Hunter Education course receive the same certification as students who attend the traditional classroom course. They will receive a 120-day temporary certification certificate and Missouri Hunter Education graduate patch to take with them when they leave. All online and traditional students also receive (within 120 days): 1) A new hunter starter kit, which includes a DVD, hunting and safety literature, Hunter Journal with free entry card for a hunt of a lifetime and other gifts, plus additional items, and 2) A new Missouri Conservation Heritage Card that will have their Hunter Education number and information on it for faster hunting or fishing permit purchases and discounts at MDC Nature Shops or for online MDC Nature Shop orders.

So if you, or someone you know, is looking for an alternate way to get Hunter Education Certification for upcoming seasons that is convenient, fun and easy, or just looking for more information on hunting, wildlife and conservation and safety, visit MissouriConservation.org.

Also In This Issue

Missouri’s Natural Heritage Program tracks our rare plant and animal treasures and their habitats.
The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is perhaps the most recognized butterfly in Missouri, and rightly so. It is a beautiful creature with a fascinating life cycle.

This Issue's Staff

Editor In Chief - Ara Clark
Managing Editor - Nichole LeClair Terrill
Art Director - Cliff White
Writer/Editor - Tom Cwynar
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Jim Low
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Designer - Stephanie Thurber
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Circulation - Laura Scheuler