September 17, 2009 10:09:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- It''s not too late for Golden Triangle residents to sign up for upcoming hunter education courses with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Classes are set to take place in Oktibbeha County Sept. 19, Oct. 10 and Nov. 7, at the Amy Tuck multi-purpose building at Oktibbeha County Lake.
In Lowndes County, courses are offered Oct. 24 and Dec. 5 at American Legion No. 69, 248 Chubby Drive in Columbus.
The next hunter safety courses in Clay County will take place Sept. 26 and Oct. 31 at West Point High School (North campus), 852 South Eshman Ave. in West Point.
Classes at each location will run from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Pre-registration is required.
Participants will learn everything from safe firearm handling and marksmanship to first aid, hunting laws and ethics. An emphasis also will be placed on safety, said Capt. Clark McMinn, conservation manager at the District 1 office of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
"Since we implemented mandatory hunter education, it appears the number of hunting accidents has declined," McMinn said. "Also, tree-stand accidents while hunting seem to be on the rise, so we''re making an effort to spend more time this year on tree-stand safety."
All persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1972, are required to a complete a hunter education course before purchasing a Mississippi hunting license.
Participants are only required to complete the course once and the certification is good for life, McMinn said.
Effective July 1, 2006, anyone 12 years of age and under 16 years of age must have a certificate of satisfactory completion of a hunter education course approved by the Department before hunting alone in this state. A child at least 12 years of age and under 16 may hunt without having the certificate of hunter education if the child is in the presence and under the direct supervision of a licensed or exempt hunter at least 21 years of age when hunting.
To protect the safety of the child, a conservation officer may require an unsupervised child to end the hunt and may unload the firearm. The officer also may take the firearm and take the child to an adult.
The hunter education courses are free of charge at locations around the state. Classes include 10 hours of instruction, including firing on a safe range. There are no age requirements for participation. However, only students 10 years of age and older will be certified and must pass a written test, and complete a firing exercise, to be certified as having completed the course.
"Our officers have spent a lot of time and a lot of energy on this stuff and they want to teach these classes to these kids," McMinn said.
To register for classes in Oktibbeha, Clay or Lowndes counties, contact the District 1 office at 662-840-5172. The Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks asks potential students to register at least five days before the scheduled class, but McMinn said he won''t turn people away.
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