Hunter Safety Course in Montana

Many may not realize, but hunting is huge here in Bozeman, Montana. I was studying to get my hunting licenses in Sweden, after I enjoyed my first moose hunt in 2010.

So with my move to Montana, I knew I would want to hunt here too.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to do anything to be able to hunt except live in Montana for 6th months. Since I was born before 1986, I didn’t need any hunting course or any training!

However, I am all for being safe, so I decided to take the Hunter Safety Course.  Which, by the way, is 100% free. Paid for by extra taxes on ammo and firearms. Right on!

The course was taking place at a middle school in Belgrade, Montana. We headed to the cafeteria, and I was surprised how many children were present!

Hunting course day 1

We watched a video on hunter safety that was pretty hilarious. Basically it was kids not being safe, and a kid got shot. Don’t do that children!

We received a lot of free reading material as well about safety, which was geared towards children. But not necessarily unhelpful!

Montana Hunter Manual

Afterwards we headed to the classroom. Again, I was surprised how many children were present! Apparently, you can start hunting at 12, and many of the children in the course were 11 years old!

Our instructors, George and Bonnie,  had 50 years of hunting experience each. And the nice thing was that they completely volunteered their time to teach us about hunting. They didn’t get paid for any of the hours they worked with us. Pretty impressive.

Montana Hunter instructor

Child showing gun part

Just a note, the guns in the classroom were not real guns. They were all decommissioned guns for the course.

While me and my brother were snickering in the back during the video because of how childish it was, we were quickly out of our elements when it came to gun education.

And the 11 year olds were way more knowledgeable about the fire arms.

So what exactly did we go over the 5 days in the classroom?

  • The four rules of firearm safety: Always treat every firearm as loaded, always point the muzzle in a safe direction, always know your target and beyond, and always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
  • Parts of a firearm
  • General hunting rules and regulations (and that you should read the regs for the hunting year!)
  • How to be a safe hunter
  • Where to shoot an animal for a quick kill. How to gut it.
  • How to avoid bears and be on the look out for animals that may smell a fresh kill
  • What to do if you get lost and how to avoid hypothermia

We also went over how to hold a gun and how to prove it before passing it off, which is what Bonnie is doing here.

Proving a firearm

It was very interesting to see the young children holding the firearms, especially when the firearm is bigger than them!

child with gun in Montana

We also went over the four shooting positions: prone, sitting, kneeling, standing.  Here is a young boy in the kneeling position, taking aim.

Kneeling position firearm

On Wednesday a game warden came in to discuss some of the regulations with us. She was very informative and I learned a lot of rules I didn’t know. Like the fact it is illegal to shoot from a road!

Game Warden Montana

On Friday we took the written test. There were about 80 questions we needed to answer, multiple choice, true and false, and we had to write out the four hunting rules. I got a 96%. Yes, I missed a few questions!

Saturday was the big day though. It was the field day, where we went through different stations learning about hunting. We had to dress in hunters orange (by law) and carry around an unloaded weapon to show we knew how to handle it safely.

Hunting field Day Montana

The first station was about where to shoot, tracking a shot animal (following the blood), and then learning to tag it. This station was with the best instructors ever (our instructors), George and Bonnie.

George and tagging

The next station was about the animals we would hunt. There were a lot of furs to show us the difference and how they look.

Animal furs Montana

The instructor here went over the difference between grizzlies and black bears, and a bit about which animals we could shoot, what needed tags, and what was edible or not.  Well, all of it is edible, just not all of the meat may taste good!

Bears in Montana

The bear paws were very interesting as well. Grizzlies have huge claws which aren’t good for climbing, unlike the black bears.  You can also drive a straight line through a black bears print, unlike a grizzlies, which is more curved.

Black bear vs grizzly paws

We also went over animal horns and antlers, etc. It was all very interesting!

Animal skulls

The next station, which I have no pictures for, was the shooting station. Yep, we got to shoot .22 rifles, in all 4 positions. My favorite? The sitting position!

Afterwards, we moved on to the truck/rancher station. This was very interesting.

First, we learned how to load a gun into a truck safely. Making sure the muzzle was always pointed in a safe direction (aka, not at somebody).  The rancher station was the best though.

How it works in Montana is that state land anybody can hunt on. Private land, you have to ask permission. So there was an instructor being a grumpy old rancher whose land we want to hunt on.

It was great to watch the kids try to ask him to hunt, and him giving them a hard time. The main points? Be kind, be persistent, and explain to him you are helping manage animals. Oh, and being adorable never hurts!

The very last station was the one I was most nervous about. Shot gun station! Now I’ve never shot a shotgun before, and we were aiming at clay pigeons flying through the air!

Shot gun station Montana

As the children went before me and missed every single clay pigeon, I was feeling more confident that if I missed, I wouldn’t look like a complete fool. But, I must have had some beginners luck because I got my first two clay pigeons out of the three, woot!

And guess what. I passed the course!

Hilary the hunter

Now, apparently hunting is a big controversial here in Montana.

So a small disclaimer.

I don’t like hurting animals. But I do like meat. And I respect animals enough to let them roam free.  I use all the meat, I don’t hunt for sport, I think it is only fair to hunt if I do eat meat, it is extremely organic, and it is a part of the circle of life.

I’m a big tree hug-er, and I like to hunt.


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