OLYMPIA — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is revamping the 16-year-old Advanced Hunter Education (AHE) program to better address emerging issues facing the hunting community.
The voluntary education program, which provides hunters with enhanced skills and expanded hunting opportunities, will be re-designed over the course of this year.
While the revisions are under way, the AHE program will take no new enrollees. Applications will again be accepted early next year.
“The hunting environment has changed since the AHE program was initiated nearly two decades ago, and the program needs to change as well,” said Chief Bruce Bjork, head of the WDFW Enforcement program that manages hunter education.
“While the program offers hunters increased proficiency and the privilege of participating in special hunts, it also must serve the needs of the larger hunting community and be self-supporting,” he said.
The program could be refocused to train enrollees to act as “hunt masters” and “gate masters” who help manage orderly hunts and thus encourage private land owners to grant hunters access to their lands, Bjork said.
“As access to private lands becomes more limited WDFW will be pursuing every approach possible to address this crucial need,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, Ph.D. “Increasing access will require increased participation by volunteers who help ensure ethical and orderly hunter conduct.”
Additional changes to the AHE program could include revisions in course requirements, enhanced hunter ethics training and funding changes.
Proposed AHE program revisions are scheduled to be discussed during the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s April 7 meeting at the Ellensburg Inn and Conference Center,1700 Canyon Road in Ellensburg.
In addition, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes, said Mik Mikitik, WDFW’s hunter education coordinator. Details of the proposal will be made public later this spring, including notice on the Advanced Hunter Education section of the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/enf/huntered/ahe.htm.
Changes in the AHE program will not affect WDFW’s Basic Hunter Education program. Washington hunters born after Jan. 1, 1972 are required to complete Basic Hunter Education in order to purchase a valid hunting license.
Unlike the Basic Hunter Education program, AHE is voluntary and the AHE course is not required for purchase of a hunting license. Since its inception in 1991, some 2,300 hunters have completed the AHE program and 1,400 are currently active in the program. The program typically receives approximately 1,000 applicants annually, with about 25 percent of enrollees successfully completing the course, Mikitik said.