AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is encouraging hunters in need of certification to enroll soon as hunter education courses are filling up fast.

“It would be much better to enroll early and avoid the rush right at the beginning of hunting seasons,” said Terry Erwin, Coordinator for Hunter Education at TPWD. “If you wait, you might find that getting into a course will be more difficult.”

Hunter education courses are conducted year-around all across the state of Texas by certified volunteers. Courses cost $15 and students have three options: take the classroom study portion on-line plus a one day field component, complete the at-home study packet plus a one day field course, or take the traditional two-day course that averages 14 hours of instruction at a location near home.

Due to all the rain, wildlife habitats are in excellent condition and wildlife biologists are predicting an abundance of game animals. Erwin is hoping the forecast for good hunting will spark more people to enter the field this fall.

“This means we must increase the number of courses we offer, which will enable those in need to become certified,” said Erwin. “Don’t wait, because the number of available courses begins to taper off as the hunting season grows closer.”

Anyone born after Sept. 1, 1971 is required to take the Hunter Education Training Course and the minimum age of certification is 12-years-old.

Hunters who are at least 17-years-old and have not completed the hunter education course can defer completion for one year. Hunters who opted for “deferral” last year must complete the hunter education course to hunt legally this year.

“The deferral is only available once. The license point-of-sale vendors are not allowed to sell a deferral once it has been purchased by an individual,” said Erwin. “The database keeps track of the sale, and will not allow a sale to occur with the same individual.”

More than 30,000 aspiring hunters become certified every year in Texas and since 1972, more than 713,000 Texans have completed the hunter education course, which is mandatory in all 50 states and 10 Canadian Provinces. Currently, hunter education courses are taught by 2,900 volunteers comprised of game wardens, professional educators, and volunteers at TPWD.

As a result of hunter education courses, hunting accident rates have steadily decreased since 1966 when 12 accidents per 100,000 hunters were reported and the last three years have seen the rate lowered to 2.9 accidents per 100,000 hunters.

“Hunting is safe and getting safer because of hunter education,” said Erwin. “Make sure you are part of those responsible individuals who wish to continue the heritage of hunting for generations to come."