West Fargo

You may have heard the term “R3” associated with the future of hunting and fishing, not just in North Dakota, but across the country.

It stands for “Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation,” and represents a conscious effort to bring new people into the fishing and hunting world, get past participants to return, and hold their attention when they get there.

In North Dakota, hunter education plays a major role in that effort. In any given year, several hundred volunteers teach classes that will certify around 4,000 kids and adults. While the primary focus of these classes is firearms safety, the curriculum also includes content on wildlife management, ethics and other hunting information that better prepares students for enjoying their pursuits.

One of those pursuits is deer hunting, and most hunter education classes annually are held prior to early June so new hunters are certified so they can apply for a deer gun season license.

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And in 2020, that’s where the coronavirus comes in. Because of the COVID 19 pandemic, starting in mid-March dozens of classes involving a couple of thousand students were canceled. To provide an opportunity for those students to still qualify to apply for a deer license, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and hunter education instructors went to work and came up with an alternative online course for students who will turn at least age 12 on or before Dec. 31, 2020.

The online course is still available to students who were already enrolled in classes that were canceled, and also to qualifying students who were not previously enrolled in a class. For both pre-registered and new students, when the online hunter education course and an accompanying virtual field day are completed, a temporary hunter education number will be provided, which will allow lottery applications and license purchases in 2020.

Prospective students who had not previously registered, can sign up through the Game and Fish website, gf.nd.gov. After signing up for the class, the student will receive an email with further relevant information and instructions. The online portion of the class must be completed within two weeks of signup.

Each student will then have until Dec. 31, 2020 to attend one in-person class session, to take the official Game and Fish hunter education written and practical exams. If this is not completed by the end of the year, the temporary hunter education number will expire and the student will have to retake the course in the future.

Game and Fish will notify students when dates and locations are established for these final class sessions.

This new online hunter education alternative will be available until instructors are able to return to scheduling in-person classes. More information is available at the Game and Fish website, or by contacting the department’s Bismarck headquarters at (701) 328-6300, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.