Before heading to the woods this fall, Mississippi hunters should investigate the legal seasons, education and license requirements governing hunting in the state.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks offers convenient, year-round opportunities to help sportsmen of all ages meet the hunter education requirement. The options are a full-day class, an on-line class with a face-to-face component, or a weeklong youth summer camp at Mississippi State University.

“Our agency offers free face-to-face hunter safety education courses throughout the state,” said Captain Jerry Carter, statewide administrator of the hunter education program. “For a fee, there are approved online courses, but students are still required to complete three hours of face-to-face instruction, a written test and a firing exercise. During the in-person session, students will demonstrate safety, gun handling and discharging the weapon in a safe manner.”

Hunters who opt to take the internet-based course must get their certificate of completion notarized. Then they need to call their nearest MDWFP regional office to arrange a date and time to fulfill the requirements for certification.

“People can call to set up a time to complete the course any time of year, or the hunter education coordinator can sign up students in a scheduled class,” Carter said. “We want to help people comply with the law and be good sportsmen and responsible hunters.”

Young outdoors enthusiasts have an additional opportunity to complete both the hunter safety and boater safety course requirements at the annual intergenerational conservation camp sponsored by MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources.

John Guyton, Extension associate professor, said the camp allows participants a variety of opportunities to experience hunter ethics, safety and conservation in action.

“We structure the camp so they get a lot of reinforcement and a lot more hands-on training than in a classroom,” he said. “We constantly review safety rules and all the elements they need to know, including first aid and proper use of a firearm.”

Guyton, an award-winning environmental educator and certified hunter and boater safety instructor, said he uses a box full of materials to reinforce what he teaches.

“Last summer, I took a piece of fat lighter pine, passed it around and let the campers feel and smell it. It will burn in the rain and fog, and that made it useful to riverboat pilots. It’s also valuable to people who spend time in the woods. It’s easy to find in Southern forests, and if someone is lost and they’re cold, they can light a fire.

“Kids love the interactive experience. Hunters have to know this information to pass a written exam. Why not make it a lasting experience?” he said.

By law, anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1972, is required to complete a hunter safety education course before purchasing a license. Children between 12 and 15 years old must complete the course before hunting alone. Before purchasing a license, hunters must show proof they have passed a hunter safety course. If purchasing a license online, a hunter education number must be entered as proof of certification.

Information about hunter education classes, schedules and online courses can be found at http://www.mdwfp.com.