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Waterfowl Hunter Education

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

waterfowl in flight

This course is required to get an access permit for select National Wildlife Refuges and state lands open to waterfowl hunting. While this course is not required for waterfowl hunting in general, it is recommended and of value to attend.

*This is a very challenging course that requires identification of ducks under field conditions.

*All Waterfowl Hunter Education courses require the completion of homework prior to attending the course.

*Waterfowl Hunter Education courses are added throughout the year. Most of the classes are taught between March and August.

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

Register for a NYS Waterfowl Hunter Education Course

You can register for 2021 in-person, instructor-led courses. However, due to COVID-19, the number of courses offered may be limited. Check back often as new courses may be added each week.

COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed in every in-person course.

All Waterfowl Hunter Education Courses require:

  1. The completion of homework prior to attending an in-person course. Proof of completed homework must be brought to the in-person course. The homework can take several hours to complete.
  2. Participation in an in-person or course that is a minimum of 3 hours in length.

Register for a Waterfowl Hunter Education Course (link leaves DEC's website). You must attend the entire in-person instruction portion of the course on the date(s) and at the location indicated on the course schedule listing.

Homework and Study Materials

Choose one of the following two ways to obtain the study materials and complete the required homework. Whichever option you choose to complete the homework, you must bring the completed homework with you to an in-person course.

*Requires a printer and Adobe Reader Free Software
Hard Copy
*Requires travel or time to mail
Print and complete the Waterfowl Education Homework Worksheet(PDF).

Refer to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ducks at a Distance: A Waterfowl Identification Guide (PDF)
Study the markings and characteristics of ducks to help you recognize birds on the wing while out in the field.

Refer to the Waterfowl Seasons and Information to become more familiar with hunting regulations.

You must bring the completed homework worksheet to your in-person course.

The Waterfowl Hunter Homework Worksheet, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ducks at a Distance, and the Waterfowl Seasons and Information can be picked up at most DEC Wildlife offices or may be available for pick up at other locations as specified in the instructions given when you register for a course.

Due to COVID, most DEC offices are closed to the public. Call the office if you need to pick up course materials. Find a DEC Wildlife Office near you.

You can also request a hard copy be mailed to you by calling

You must bring the completed homework worksheet to your in-person course.

General Course Details and Requirements

Course Topics Covered

  • Key features when identifying birds in the field
  • Waterfowl hunting rules and regulations
  • Waterfowl hunter's responsibilities and ethics
  • Waterfowl hunting safety
  • Waterfowling ballistics

Age Restrictions/Requirements


Course Length

Minimum of 3 hours.

Waterfowl Hunter Education Certificate

Students must complete required homework, attend all sessions of the course, demonstrate proper attitude and safety, and pass a final exam of 25 questions. After successful completion of the course, students will receive a Waterfowl Education Certificate of Qualification, which is required for accessing several National Wildlife Refuges and state lands open to waterfowl hunting.

Get more details on certificates: including how to replace a lost certificate and out of state certificate requirements.