Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Hunter Education Program

Hunter and Trapper Safety and Responsibility

IMPORTANT COVID-19 UPDATE: Hunter Education Program staff are not in the office every day. For prompt service, email us (hunter@dec.ny.gov). Please do not call and leave a voicemail if you have access to email; this will help prevent delays in service.

Online Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education Courses

An ONLINE HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE is now available.

An ONLINE BOWHUNTER EDUCATION COURSE is now available.

The Hunter Education Program teaches future hunters and trappers how to be safe, responsible, and ethical. After successful completion of a hunter education course or a trapper education course, students will receive a certificate of qualification necessary for purchasing a first-time hunting or trapping license. Bowhunter education and waterfowl hunter education courses are also available.

Course Details

Choose a course below to review course content, requirements, study materials, and to find a course.

All in-person courses are free and taught by DEC-certified instructors. Online courses charge a fee. Although primarily offered for first-time hunters or trappers, anyone is welcome to attend a Hunter Education Program course, whether it is for a refresher, you have an interest in the topic, or you took the online course and want some more experience.

*New, in-person courses are added throughout the year, however most of the courses are taught between March and September.

*Do not wait until just before the hunting season to take a course. In-person courses fill quickly, so it is important to sign up early.

Hunter Education - Required for first-time hunters using firearms or archery equipment to pursue big game, small game, turkey, waterfowl, and migratory game birds.

Bowhunter Education - Required in addition to the Hunter Education course (above) when using a bow and arrow to pursue deer and bear only (not crossbow). If bowhunting for other wild game, this course is not required but recommended.

Trapper Education - Required for first-time trappers pursuing furbearers.

Waterfowl Hunter Education - Required to gain access to select State and Federal lands (Wildlife Refuges) open to waterfowl hunting.

Crossbow Hunting Qualification - Required for hunters using a crossbow to pursue big game, small game, turkey, or unprotected species.

Other State Certificates

New York State accepts Hunter Education Certificates from other states when purchasing a New York hunting license.

Certificate Requirements in Other States and Countries: To verify whether a New York State Hunter Education Certificate is accepted elsewhere, visit the International Hunter Education Association (leaves DEC website) to find certificate restrictions and requirements in all other states and countries. Many states and countries will require you to show your hunter education certificate and will not accept your hunting or trapping license as proof of a certificate.

Replace a Lost Certificate

Due to COVID, staff are not in the office every day. For fastest service, email us (hunter@dec.ny.gov). If you do not have email, call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332). Please supply your name, date of birth, type of course you took (hunter education, bowhunter education, trapper education, waterfowl hunter education), and when and where you took the course. Certificates dated earlier than 1980 cannot be found or replaced. If you need a certificate and yours cannot be found, you will need to retake the course.


Hunter Safety Basics

Watch clips about hunter safety and tree stand safety. Read more on hunter safety basics below. Check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

The 4 Rules of Firearm Safety

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger, and outside the trigger guard, until you are ready to shoot.
  • Always be sure of your target and what is in front of it and behind it. Once you pull the trigger, you cannot take back the bullet!

Hunter Orange and Pink

Photos of hunter in human vision and in deer vision
Human's vision compared to a deer's vision.
Deer cannot tell red or orange from green.

Any person hunting deer or bear with a firearm or a person who is accompanying someone hunting deer or bear with a firearm MUST wear a minimum of 250 square inches of solid fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink material worn above the waist and visible from all directions; OR a minimum of 250 square inches of patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink (the pattern must be at least 50% fluorescent orange or 50% fluorescent pink) worn above the waist and visible from all directions; OR a hat or cap with no less than 50% of the exterior consisting of solid fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink material visible from all directions.

All other hunters are not required by law to wear fluorescent orange while hunting in New York. However, DEC highly recommends ALL hunters wear a fluorescent orange hat, vest and/or coat while hunting small game or big game.

Deer and Other Game Animals Don't See Hunter Orange

  • Deer do not have red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes, and can't tell orange from green and brown.
  • Deer have different sensitivity to various wavelengths of light than humans. Deer see short wavelength colors such as blue (and even ultra-violet, which humans cannot see) brighter than humans do. However, deer are less sensitive to longer wavelengths such as orange and pink, so these colors look darker to deer.

Wearing Hunter Orange Saves Lives

a hunter in orange suit and one in dark suit in the woods
The two hunters in this picture (one wearing camo and the other
hunter orange) are invisible to deer if they don't move.
Who would you want to be if there were another
hunter nearby, and a deer between you?

Hunter orange, also known as fluorescent orange or blaze orange, should be worn to make a hunter more visible and prevent other hunters from mistaking them for an animal, or shooting in their direction.

Hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot. For example, during the past ten years, not one person who was wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York. On the contrary, big game hunters who were involved in firearm related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.

Hunting From Tree Stands

Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed, or killed falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting related injuries and fatalities in New York.

In 2020, DEC investigated 13 tree stand incidents. One of the incidents was fatal. All 13 incidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or the harness was not attached to the stand or the tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands, full-body harnesses, and lifelines will help to prevent these injuries and fatalities.

Tree Stand Safety Tips

  • Read the manufacturer's instructions and warnings before you use your tree stand and check your stands (including straps and chains) every season. Replace any worn or missing parts.
  • Use a full-body harness with a lifeline and stay connected from the time you leave the ground to the time you get back down.
  • Be aware of suspension trauma. Be sure the harness has a foot strap to relieve harness leg pressure.
  • Use a "lifeline" or safety rope that is secured at the base of the tree or stand and to the tree just above your head when sitting in the stand. Attach the tether from your full-body harness to the lifeline using a carabiner and prusik knot, which easily slides up and down the lifeline, keeping you connected at all times.
    a hunter on a tree stand putting on safety straps
    Hunter using safety straps
  • Once you are safely in your stand, and your tether is attached to the tree, raise your equipment into your stand. Always use a haul line, such as a strong rope, to raise and lower your unloaded gun or cocked crossbow or bow with quiver up the stand. Do not tie the haul line around the trigger or trigger guard on a firearm. Raise a firearm with the muzzle pointing down.
  • Let a reliable person know where you will be hunting and when you will return. A map showing your stand location makes it easier for others to find you if you do not return on time.
  • Carry emergency equipment, such as a knife, cell phone, flashlight, and whistle in your pockets at all times (not in your pack hanging in the tree).

Fitness For Hunters

Hunting is a physical sport. Every hunting season is marred by hunters who suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking while carrying gear, spotting, and shooting at a deer and dragging a carcass can cause more stress than the heart can handle. That's especially true if you are not physically active, smoke, have high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, or other health problems. It is a good idea to start building up your endurance before hunting season. But you don't have to train like a marathon runner. Any activity that gets you moving around, even if it's just 30 minutes each day, can start strengthening your heart and lungs so you can have a safe hunting season.


Hunter Safety Statistics

DEC documented 22 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) during the 2020-2021 hunting season, three of which were fatalities. While there were more hunting-related shooting incidents this year than last year, the number of incidents this season continued the downward trend in HRSIs observed over the past 20 years.

Nine of the 22 HRSIs that occurred last year were two-party firearm incidents, and 13 were self-inflicted. The three fatalities were all self-inflicted, and all three hunters were experienced. All of the incidents could have been prevented if hunting safety rules had been followed.

Further examination of the nine two-party firearm incidents reveals that seven victims involved were not wearing hunter orange, reinforcing the importance of wearing hunter orange or pink when afield, and identifying the target and beyond, two of the major principles of DEC's hunter safety courses. For more information on HRSIs, see the report below.

The hunting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) continues to fall over time. Since the 1960s, the number of hunters in New York has declined about 20 percent, while the incident rate has declined almost 80 percent. The current five-year average is 2.0 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.

Hunter Safety Tips

While hunting is safer than ever, DEC encourages hunters to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. Many, if not all of these incidents could have been prevented if the people involved had followed the primary rules of hunter safety:

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
  • Control the muzzle, keep it pointed in a safe direction.
  • Identify your target and what lies beyond.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
  • Wear hunter orange.

Reports

Appreciation goes out to the DEC Environmental Conservation Officers who conduct professional investigations of each hunting-related shooting incident and hunting-related tree stand incident.

You can view and print the 2020reports by clicking the links below.

2020 Hunting-Related Shooting Incidents (PDF)

2020 Tree Stand-Related Incidents (PDF)


Teaching in the Hunter Education Program

Hunter Education Program instructors who volunteer their time to teach others about the safety, responsibility, and ethics of hunting and trapping help to keep these valued traditions alive today. This page offers information for prospective instructors.

Become an Instructor

Complete a Hunter Education Program Instructor Application (PDF) to join other volunteer hunter and trapper educators. Your participation helps teach and continue the American heritage of responsible and safe hunting and trapping. If you submit your application electronically you should receive a confirmation email reply within 48 hours. If you do not receive a confirmation please call to confirm that we received your application.

Qualifications

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be of good moral character
  • Pass an initial background history check and continue to pass random background history checks
  • Have good communication skills
  • Hunting experience preferred, but not required

Requirements

  • Completion of instructor training and apprenticeship
  • Teach at least one course per year
  • Attend a refresher course every two years

Pistol Permit

Generally, a hunter education course does not qualify you to obtain a pistol permit in New York State. Please check with your county clerk's office or county sheriff's office for more information regarding pistol permits.

Equal Opportunity

Courses are available to all individuals without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. Complaints of discrimination should be sent to the Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary, Washington, D.C. 20240.


More about Hunter Education Program:

  • Important Links
  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8966.
  • Contact for this Page
  • NYSDEC
    Hunter Education Program
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4800

    1-888-HUNT-ED2
    (1-888-486-8332)
    518-402-8966
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions