Here in Vermont, hunting is a time-honored tradition that is often passed down from one generation to the next. It serves as a rite of passage for young people, it fosters a sense of camaraderie and it connects people back to the land.

On the flip side, however, hunting also can be a very dangerous sport. One mistake can turn a simple outing into a deadly tragedy.

That's why the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is holding a series of free seminars for new hunters. There are two reasons for the offering. For starters, first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers must successfully complete their respective course in order to purchase their first license. But there's another, more important reason -- it just makes common sense to take a basic safety course before going out anywhere with a dangerous weapon.

Vermont offers seminars in deer, bear, turkey and waterfowl hunting and hunting with a bow and arrow. The Hunter Education Course, for example, covers the essentials of firearm equipment; basic shooting skills; using stands, boats or ATVs; basic hunting skills, primitive hunting equipment and techniques; being a responsible and ethical hunter; preparation and survival skills; and understanding wildlife.

Courses are available year-round, but peak season is August through October. The courses are free and open to the public and no equipment is needed.


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Participants can take one of the many courses offered at various locations and dates throughout Vermont. Or, beginner hunters can take the course from home, using a workbook or online course followed by a hands-on field day.

To register to go www.vtfishandwildlife.com

With the fall hunting season just around the corner, now is the time to enroll first-time hunters in one of these courses. Hunting season in Vermont begins Sept. 1 with early season black bear. Bow and arrow deer season begins Oct. 4 and regular deer season begins Nov. 15. There's also a deer muzzleloader season that runs the second week of December. The October dates for the fall turkey season vary for bow and arrow and shotgun. Trapping season begins in October and runs through February or March, depending on the animal.

Hunting accidents have decreased more than 80 percent since hunter education began in Vermont in 1958, according to Fish & Wildlife website. In 2012, Vermont fielded 75,000 hunters but recorded no hunting accidents.

The year before, however, there was a fatal hunting accident right here in southern Vermont. A hunter in Readsboro accidentally shot and killed his friend while their hunting party was tracking a wounded deer through the woods. The man was so distraught by what he had done that he ended up taking his own life with his rifle.

Both men were long-time residents and experienced hunters, so perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea for even the most experienced hunters to take a refresher course on hunting safety.