Mailing Address:
Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Program
Master Hunter Section
600 Capitol Way North
Olympia, WA  98501-1091

Physical Address:
WDFW – Wildlife Program
Natural Resources Building
Fifth Floor
1111 Washington Street SE
Olympia, WA 9850

 

Master Hunter Orientation

Introduction
Congratulations on taking the important first step toward becoming a certified Master Hunter. The process is both challenging and rewarding. The challenges consist of the following requirements:

  • Extensive home study followed by a comprehensive written test;
  • Shooting proficiency witnessed and notarized;
  • Performance of 20 or more hours of wildlife conservation work;
  • Completion of a Crime Observation and Reporting Training (C.O.R.T.) session; and
  • Signed Code of Ethics

In addition, you must pass a criminal background check conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). This check is similar to those required of Hunter Education Instructors and teachers. This is the final step prior to certification. Thus, a candidate could complete all other requirements and then fail to certify if a significant Chapter 77.15 RCW related conviction is found on the candidate's record.

The rewards include the elevation of yourself, as a hunter, to the highest level of stewardship and conduct, the opportunity to assist the WDFW in various wildlife management programs including damage hunts (hunts arranged to eliminate animals causing damage to crops or habitat), association with others who have made the same commitment to the sport of hunting, and other avenues of service to enhance and perpetuate our sport.

The purpose of this document is to help orient and assist you in the challenge of becoming a Master Hunter. First is an explanation of the new Master Hunter Permit Program. It is critical for you to understand what a Master Hunter is and is not, and what the Master Hunter Permit Program is and is not.

Next, each of the major four requirements that you must complete is reviewed and advice provided.

The Master Hunter Permit Program
WDFW began the formal program of training and certification of Advanced Hunter Education (AHE) hunters in 1992. The purpose was then, and is now, to create a pool of highly qualified hunters to assist the WDFW in managing wildlife in problem situations. Since that time the program has been very successful, but not without a few highly visible problems.

The successes consist of thousands of animals removed humanely from damage situations. Millions of dollars in crop damage have been avoided. In almost all instances, Master Hunters have performed admirably both with respect to shot selection and landowner and public relations.

However, prior to 2008, some serious breaches of game laws and ethical behavior cast a cloud over the Program. WDFW therefore needed to take action to eliminate such behavior. The Program is too important to be compromised by a handful of unethical people.

Accordingly, in early 2007, acceptance of new applications was suspended while members of WDFW and the AHE Focus Group examined the Program and developed plans for improvement. This work was completed late in 2007 and the newly created Master Hunter Program was opened to new applicants for three months beginning in January 2008. As a result of this work, numerous changes to the Program were made to help ensure that the hunters who apply understand the standards and expectations they will have to meet.

First among these is our Code of Ethics:

Master Hunter Code of Ethics
As a Master Hunter, I am a steward of the future of hunting. I pledge to act in accordance with the highest ethical standards, and to display proper respect for game, landowners, other hunters and the public.

Stop reading now. How did you react to the Code of Ethics?
If your reaction was not positive in all respects, then this Program is not for you. But if you thought, “That’s me.” Then you’ve made a good decision by applying.

We also defined the Master Hunter:

Who is a Master Hunter?
There’s a lot of information embodied in these words: A Master Hunter is a person who possesses the desired combination of Ethics, Stewardship, Knowledge and Skill as applied to hunting and related activities.

Ethics:
Fair chase
Respect for laws
Respect for game
Respect for landowners
Respect for the public
Zero tolerance for violations
  Knowledge:
Law & Regulations
Game
Firearms
Hunting heritage
Safety
Habitat vs Human activity
Stewardship:
Conservation
Mentoring
Service
C.O.R.T. (Crime Obs & Rept Tng)
LNT (Leave no trace)
Education
  Skill:
Shooting
Hunting & tracking
Care of meat
Wilderness survival

Ethics
Let’s look at ethics. Respect for laws, game, landowners and the public should be clear. If you are going to wear our patch on your shoulder, then you are expected to set the proper example both by your attitude and by your conduct.

Zero tolerance is a requirement. What it means is that no deviation from strict obedience of fish and wildlife laws and regulations, laws related to your conduct in the field, and ethical behavior will be tolerated.

Effective October 16, 2009, certified Master Hunters renewing their permits must authorize the WDFW to conduct a criminal background check each time they renew. The criminal background check will go back five (5) years from the Master Hunter’s renewal anniversary date or back to the effective date of 2009 amendments to WAC 232-12-073-Master Hunter Permit Program (October 16, 2009), whichever period of time is shorter.

The criminal background check requirement will apply to any certified Master Hunter with a renewal anniversary date of October 16, 2009, or later.

Effective July 26, 2009, accountability standards and criteria to determine suspensions were established by the State Legislature for certified Master Hunters. These criteria will be applied during criminal background checks and during the period of validity for Master Hunter permits.

  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is found to have committed an infraction under Chapter 77.15 RCW or WDFW rules, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for two years.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony under Chapter 77.15 RCW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement, while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a felony prohibiting the possession of firearms, unless firearm possession is reinstated, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter has a hunting or fishing license revoked or has hunting or fishing license privileges suspended in Washington or in another state, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter submits fraudulent information to WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter is cited, or charged by complaint, for an offense under Chapter 77.15 RCW; or for criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW may immediately suspend his/her permit until the offense has been adjudicated.
  • If a Master Hunter has his/her permit suspended for less than life, and the person wants to become a Master Hunter again, they must repeat the entire Master Hunter permit application process once the suspension period is over.

Master Hunter permit applicants must submit to a criminal background check, as well. Effective October 16, 2009, accountability standards and criteria were established by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for those applying for Master Hunter permits (new applicants). WDFW will deny entry into the Master Hunter Permit Program to those applicants who have:

  • Paid the required fine or been convicted within the last ten (10) years for a Chapter 77.15 RCW offense;
  • Paid the required fine or been convicted within the last ten (10) years of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement, while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW;
  • Prior felonies prohibiting the possession of firearms, unless firearm possession is reinstated; or
  • A current hunting or fishing license revocation or a current suspension of hunting or fishing license privileges in Washington or in another state.

Only Washington residents, as defined in RCW 77.08.010 (39), will be able to apply for a Master Hunter permit.

Stop reading again. Once again, if your reaction was positive, you’ve made the right decision by applying. If not, this Program is not for you, because unlawful and unethical behavior on your part will get you ejected from the Program and prosecuted, when appropriate. Master Hunters are held to a higher standard than the general hunting public. We must set examples for best behavior. The Program’s credibility depends on these examples, and swift action will be taken to remove a violator from the ranks of Master Hunters.

Stewardship
You must personally assume responsibility for the wildlife and its habitat in Washington State. That means that you will personally be involved in wildlife habitat conservation, you will leave every forest, field and stream that you visit better than you found it, and you will serve as a positive example for young people and the non-hunting public. You will seek out opportunities to assist less knowledgeable or less capable hunters. You may be or may become involved in Hunter Safety Education training. You will look for opportunities to “give back” to the system that gave you the opportunities that you enjoy.

There is also a requirement for you to complete C.O.R.T. Once again, stop reading. Did the word “crime” make you nervous? How about “reporting”? If so, you may not want to proceed. Master Hunters are expected to report suspected violations. Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officers need this support. Violators must be prosecuted.

Knowledge
Master Hunters may be called upon to kill and remove game animals that are damaging private property. Safety is always the most important consideration. We must have a thorough knowledge of firearms and their use. And we need to be familiar with the game and its habits. Often Master Hunters are used to control depredating game in sensitive settings visible to the general public. You must know how to conduct yourself accordingly.

We must follow all laws and regulations. Being selected to remove a game animal causing damage does not relieve the Master Hunter from any laws and regulations.

As Master Hunters, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to present a positive image to the public. Understanding the heritage of sport hunting, and the role of hunting in game management, and the importance of habitat to game populations is vital in assuring the public that regulated hunting can have a positive effect on game populations, and that by far the greatest threat to game populations is loss of habitat.

Skill
Master Hunters must be skilled marksmen, not just on the range, but in the field. We must be able to exercise extreme care in shot selection and shot placement.

We must have the skill to find an animal if it is wounded and deal with it once it is down. We must be able to efficiently recover the meat and dispose of the remainder of the animal properly.

We also must be able to take care of ourselves in the field, especially under adverse conditions. We cannot expect that damage control will only be needed in pleasant weather.

The Requirements for Becoming a Master Hunter
There are four major requirements to be completed in order to become a certified Master Hunter. In this section they are described, and guidance is provided to assist you in using this material and meeting the other requirements. Keep in mind that you will have only nine (9) months to complete all the requirements, so plan your time accordingly. Keep copies of all forms and information submitted.

Home study and the written test
If you apply, you will receive a packet of study materials. Some of the material may be written and some may be on electronic media. Everything in this packet matters. You will have to answer questions on a written test on this information.

A suggested approach to dealing with the packet is to quickly scan all of the material and then examine the Study Guide you were provided. This should help orient you to the nature of the information provided and the kinds of questions you will be answering.

It is necessary for you to study all of the material. The written test will include questions from all of the material of the packet. Pay particular attention to the Washington Hunter Education Student Manual. Take the time to read all of the material, but don’t take so much time that you forget what you’ve already read. This is hard work for most people. It takes time and commitment. You need to set aside enough time to get it done. Many applicants do not pass the written test the first time. Those who fail usually say, “I should have studied everything”, or “I didn’t take it seriously enough”, or “I thought I already knew enough to pass”.

It is your responsibility to make arrangements to take the written test from the appropriate WDFW Regional Office or from a certified Master Hunter or Hunter Education Instructor that has agreed to proctor the examination. You will have two attempts to pass the test.

Shooting
Master Hunters may be called upon to make challenging shots. Furthermore, Master Hunters should be able to make a clean kill every time they take a shot. Accordingly, you must demonstrate a high level of shooting proficiency. You may qualify with your choice of any of seven legal hunting implements: rifle, handgun, shotgun shooting shot, muzzleloader, shotgun shooting slugs, crossbow, or bow. You may qualify with more than one legal hunting implement; some Master Hunters have qualified with all of them. However in order to be certified, currently, you need only qualify with one.

It is expected that Master Hunters will be proficient with any legal hunting implement prior to its use during any Master Hunter season.

Qualification consists of meeting minimum requirements for that legal hunting implement. Minimum requirements are included in the package. Any unrelated adult may serve as a witness for the Master Hunter shooting qualifications. Your report of shooting must be notarized. Misrepresentation of shooting proficiency will exclude you from the Master Hunter Permit Program for life.

Skeet and trap shooters must shoot clay targets at an official skeet or trap range. A pamphlet listing ranges in Washington State is included in the study packet.

All hunting equipment used to qualify must meet legal requirements for general hunting seasons. For rifles and handguns the minimum caliber that can be used for qualification is .24.

Conservation
The relationship between human activity, animal habitat and animal populations is now well understood by biologists and conservationists. However the general public does not appreciate that the principle cause of decline of wildlife populations is loss of habitat.

As a Master Hunter, you are a Steward of the Sport of Hunting. Every interface with the public and with landowners and other hunters is an opportunity to enhance the image of hunters as conservationists. One of the best ways to do this is to roll up your sleeves and improve the habitat for wildlife. Applicants must complete 20 or more hours of volunteer wildlife conservation work.

You do not need to obtain advance approval from the Master Hunter Permit Program Coordinator if your proposed project fits into the guidelines and examples for wildlife conservation volunteer activities posted on the Master Hunter web site, OR you have obtained the support and guidance from WDFW personnel in your local area. You need only submit a signed Master Hunter Proof of Service form reflecting the total required volunteer hours in order to be certified.

If however, you are either unable to find a suitable wildlife conservation project and wish to undertake a fish related activity, or you have a restrictive medical condition and are seeking a project type exception, you must obtain pre-approval from the Master Hunter Permit Program Coordinator.

A list of acceptable volunteer project categories and some specific tasks can be found on the WDFW Master Hunter website http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/masterhunter.

Wildlife Conservation organizations, private landowners, and public landowners that have partnerships with the WDFW to accomplish mutually beneficial wildlife conservation work are also good sources of volunteer projects for Master Hunter permit applicants.

Conducting Hunter Education classes also can earn hours for certification or re-certification under certain circumstances.

Master Hunter volunteers working on WDFW projects or on behalf of the WDFW as part of a private land or public land partnership must comply with WDFW Volunteer Policies and Procedures. Requirements include formal registration as a volunteer; submittal of monthly time sheets during each month volunteer work is performed; and completion of appropriate safety training. It will be the responsibility of the WDFW supervisor of Master Hunter volunteer projects to provide needed training and to provide necessary forms and paperwork that will be required. For more information, you can contact the WDFW Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteers@dfw.wa.gov. It is your responsibility to locate a project and obtain necessary approval.

A one-time credit for three(3) hours of volunteer conservation work is given for attending a C.O.R.T. session.

C.O.R.T.
We demand adherence to law, regulation and ethical behavior. We now have a zero tolerance policy. We also expect Master Hunters to help enforce this policy. C.O.R.T. is a program designed to train hunters and other people in the principles of identifying violations and gathering information necessary to prosecute the violators.

C.O.R.T. sessions are conducted throughout Washington State. There is currently no charge, and the training generally is conducted in a single session. Applicants are responsible for locating a session and attending. Proof of completion is a copy of the Certificate issued after the session. Sessions can be located using a link on the Master Hunter website, or in the Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet. Credit for three hours of volunteer conservation work is given for attending a C.O.R.T. session.

Re-certification Requirements
Initial certification lasts for 5 years. Before the completion of that period, if you wish to continue to be a Master Hunter, you must re-certify. Recertification extends your Master Hunter status for another 5 years. You may re-certify every 5 years for as long as you wish. You must provide at least 40 hours of approved volunteer wildlife conservation work over the entire 5 years of each period of certification. We consider an average of 8 hours of service per year to be a very modest requirement. Proof of Service forms should not be submitted until you have completed at least 40 hours of volunteer work. Re-certification forms are to be submitted no sooner than 6 months prior to your certification anniversary. Again, keep copies of all forms submitted.

If you have never attended a C.O.RT. session, it is required that you do so before you can be re-certified. However, you only need to attend a C.O.R.T. session once.

As with your initial project work, you do not need to obtain advance approval from the Master Hunter Permit Program Coordinator if your proposed re-certification project work fits into the guidelines and examples for wildlife conservation volunteer activities, OR you have obtained the support and guidance from WDFW personnel in your local area. Locating and completing the activity is your responsibility.

Effective October 16, 2009, certified Master Hunters renewing their permits must authorize the WDFW to conduct a criminal background check each time they renew. The criminal background check will go back five (5) years from the Master Hunter’s renewal anniversary date or back to the effective date of 2009 amendments to WAC 232-12-073-Master Hunter Permit Program (October 16, 2009), whichever period of time is shorter.

The criminal background check requirement will apply to any certified Master Hunter with a renewal anniversary date of October 16, 2009, or later.

Effective July 26, 2009, accountability standards and criteria to determine suspensions were established by the State Legislature for certified Master Hunters. These criteria will be applied during criminal background checks and during the period of validity for Master Hunter permits.

  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is found to have committed an infraction under Chapter 77.15 RCW or WDFW rules, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for two years.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony under Chapter 77.15 RCW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement, while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter pays the required fine or is convicted of a felony prohibiting the possession of firearms, unless firearm possession is reinstated, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter has a hunting or fishing license revoked or has hunting or fishing license privileges suspended in Washington or in another state, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter submits fraudulent information to WDFW, WDFW shall suspend his/her Master Hunter permit for life.
  • If a Master Hunter is cited, or charged by complaint, for an offense under Chapter 77.15 RCW; or for criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy, or making a false statement to law enforcement while hunting, fishing, or engaging in any activity regulated by WDFW, WDFW may immediately suspend his/her permit until the offense has been adjudicated.
  • If a Master Hunter has his/her permit suspended for less than life, and the person wants to become a Master Hunter again, they must repeat the entire Master Hunter permit application process once the suspension period is over.

Other requirements may be added in the future. The purpose of re-certification requirements is to ensure that Master Hunters remain committed to the principles and Mission of the Program, that they remain involved with projects that benefit wildlife, and that they continue to provide service to the heritage of hunting.

Success and Failure
As of December 2013, 14,591 people have applied throughout the history of the Program. Only 3,000 of them successfully completed the requirements and were certified. Some who were certified later dropped out or elected not to re-certify. As of December 2013, there were 1,815 certified Master Hunters. Why have so many applicants failed, and why have some dropped out?

Most applicants who fail to complete the requirements either don’t commit the time or don’t take the requirements seriously. It’s tough. It takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of initiative on your part. You have to decide that this is for you and you have to make the commitment to do the work. Nine months seems like plenty of time. It is, if you stay with it until it’s done. But if you start and stop a few times you’ll be out of time before you know it.

Master Hunters who drop out usually do so because they had the wrong impression about the Program. Many thought it was a special opportunity to kill a trophy animal, or a chance for special hunts that the regular hunters didn’t get. That’s not what it is. We’re a game management tool operating in a fishbowl in full view of the public. We perform a service and we represent the hunting sport.

If all of this sounds like you, then get to work, make a schedule, set aside time to work every week, and join us. If not, stop now and don’t waste your time.

Prepared by the Master Hunter Advisory Group of Washington
Revised December 2013