Big Game Hunting photo

How hard should hunter education tests be? I took hunter ed as an adult and scored 100 on the test, which I should have, given that it’s designed to be passed by 12 year olds. I have read that about 10 percent fail the first time they take the test.

I had occasion to think about that last week, when I was in Copenhagen* visiting my son, who is spending a semester abroad. I stopped in at a hunting store – quite a few Danes hunt, not just the rich ones – and talked to the owner for a while. Almost everyone in Copenhagen speaks English as well or better than I do, and he told me that about half the people who take the hunting test fail it the first time. Besides the written test, there is also a mandatory shooting proficiency test for hunters using rifles. You shoot prone, and can use a bipod, shooting sticks, backpack or foam pad as a rest. To pass, you have to put five of six shots into eight inches at 100 meters. It’s not hard, but you still have to know what you’re doing with a rifle to pass it.

Hunting remains a very safe activity in the U.S., although sometimes I wonder how much of that has to do with mandatory blaze orange laws and how much has to do with hunter education. And, there are still idiots out there. The man who almost shot me at close range in the grouse woods years ago casually asked after he pulled the trigger “Did I pepper you?” a question which demonstrates complete ignorance of how shotguns work at the range of 20 yards. I’d have looked like that poor lawyer Dick Cheney shot in the face or probably worse, since I was standing 10 yards closer to the gun.

Our hunter ed courses are designed as a starting point, with the assumption that you take them when you’re young, and that you will be mentored for a few years before you start hunting on your own. Those who take the course as adults don’t get the benefit of that mentoring. They can go right out and start hunting. Discussion question: should there be a different and more difficult class and test for adults to get a hunting license?

*It’s a wonderful place to visit, especially if you like beer and rye bread.